Release date: 24 May 2017
Prior to the historic 1967 federal referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not have the same rights as other Australians under the constitution: the federal government could make special laws in relation to any Australians other than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who were instead subject to the varying and often highly discriminatory laws of state governments.
On 27 May 1967, Australians voted in a federal referendum involving two questions. The first related to the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The second question, the one for which the referendum is remembered, concerned changes to the constitution that would empower the federal government to make legislation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the same way it could for all other Australians, and would include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the census. The aspiration was for all Australians to be treated equally under the constitution.
By 1967, the mood to rid the constitution of discrimination was growing, including within parliament. In fact, a “no” campaign was never even formulated. The vote was decisive, with 90.77 per cent of Australians voting “yes”. In the wake of the vote, the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act 1967 (Cth) received assent on 10 August 1967.
On 27 May 2017, it will be 50 years since the historic “yes” vote took place. This stamp commemorates this important event.
Learn more about the referendum.
“Yes” – $1
The stamp design seeks to capture the unifying impact and acknowledgement the 1967 referendum had on the narrative of Australia’s identity. Contemporary dot art elements and curved lines form a simple yet powerful symbol of two fingerprints merging to form one.
The dotted print represents the fundamental place Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and culture have in this story. Inspired by the iconic referendum-campaign font, “yes” boldly sits over the fingerprint, symbolising our strength in unity and what has been thus far achieved.
The stamp was designed by Rachael Sarra, a Goreng Goreng woman and senior designer at Gilimbaa, an Indigenous design agency based in Brisbane. In the language of the Wakka Wakka people of Central Queensland, Gilimbaa means “today”, and represents the aim of the Gilimbaa team to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and community at the forefront of creative innovation and design.