Explain why the 1967 referendum and the Native Title Act were important for Aboriginal people.

Essay by 12_12_1993 September 2009

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The 1967 referendum and the Native title act were both major turning points for both Aboriginal Australians and white Australians. They showed that Australia was trying to progress as a united nation, instead of a nation based on inequality, unjustness and different rights and freedoms.

In 1967, the Australian Government, under Prime Minister Harold Holt, held a referendum to decide the faith of the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. The question that was put to the citizens of Australia was should Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders be counted in the national census?The referendum of 1967 has raised many issues involving individuals and the government. For the individual, racism was slowly disappearing along with the White Australian Policy. It was seen as the beginning of a new contract for the aboriginal people and they assumed by changing the constitution, that all the discrimination would simply disappear. But this was not the case; the rules of the aboriginals were still left to individual states and territories to decide.

Also, the government was still reluctant to acknowledge the aboriginals.

However, there were some good things that come out from it. The thing that the aboriginal gained was additional money to fund for the improvement of their housing, health and education. Also the council of aboriginal affairs was established as a product of this referendum.

Aboriginals pushed for the event by: From 1937 till 1967, the Aboriginals Progressive association had been campaigning for aboriginal citizenship and assimilation. In 1966 the wave hill strike took place. The Gurindji people who worked as labour on the Vestey station in the Northern Territory went on strike. They sent up their own community and demanded that their lands be returned to them, this was the start of the push for land rights. In January 1966 Sir Harold Holt succeeded Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister. As Prime Minister of Australia he signed the United Nations International Accord for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This meant that he was compelled to redress the ‘White Australia’ policy.

All in all, the referendum was a very important time for the aboriginals showing that we wanted to rewrite all our wrongs. However, although the Referendum was a success there were very few changes that affected the aboriginal’s way of living with most of them not coming into effect until many years later.

The Native title act went through many areas to be pushed for including: Protests by the aboriginal community were supported by many non-Aboriginal Australians. The aboriginal tent embassy was set up as a symbolic protest for the land rights movement on Australia day 1972. In 1938 on Australia Day, some Aborigines held a Day of Mourning to mourn the loss of their land and their rights.

On December 22, 1993 the federal government passed the Native title bill. This bill took 18 months to get passed in the senate. The prime minister at the time was Prime Minister Paul Keating. The judgement that was made in the case of Mabo vs. Queensland (1992) led to the Native Title Act 1993.

The High Court was now legally recognizing that the Indigenous people of Australia and their traditional link with the land and the fact that Australia was not terra nullius but in fact that the land had been taken from them. The Act, passed on 21 December 1993, was the Commonwealth government's response to the landmark decision, but it was not a smooth transition from judgement to legislation.

Some Australians were very worried that they might lose their suburban land however there was no source for this found in the report and bill created using the Mabo decision, which provided limited opportunities for small numbers of indigenous peoples to claim the ongoing existence of native title.

This decision was very important for the Aboriginal people of Australia as it gave them a chance to prove their connection to the land and then claim on it. The decision also stated that any land on which was Aboriginal that contained anything valuable for Australia’s economic advantage was still allowed to be dug up. However, a certain amount of commission had to be paid.

Many people in Australia remain confused about whether the land they ‘own’ can be re-claimed by the local Aboriginal group and, in response to the Wik decision, the laws were, once again, tightened making it harder for Aborigines to claim land.

To conclude both the 1967 referendum and the Native title act had their advantages and disadvantages for Aboriginal people.

Bibliography"Land & Sea Rights : Native Title : The Native Title Act." Northern Land Council. 10 Sep. 2009 .

• "Native title - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 3 Sep. 2009