Were they that bad? #4 – 1967 Referendum – Part 1 (Sect 51 xxvi)

Australians Together -The 1967 Referendum

As you can see from the sample above, the INCLUSION of specific Aboriginal provisions in the original constitution has been sold as a negative, with all manner of accusations and probable anti-aboriginal motivations levelled at them.

Not even those paid to populate the Australian Parliament House website can manage to specify why they may have been included. Perhaps it suits their purposes to allow conspiracies to propagate in the vacuum.

The 1967 Referendum – aph.gov.au

What surprises me about this is that there is no mystery behind why Sect 51.xxvi was included in the Constitution, and nor should there be. We have a full written transcript of all the debates and discussions undertaken by the drafters of the Constitution between 1890 and 1898 (Records of the Australasian Federal Conventions of the 1890s).

From the records, it is clear that the drafters wished to protect Australian society from “any practices from taking place which are abhorrent to the ideas of humanity and justice of the community” which might arrive with foreign cultures.

Note: ‘foreign cultures’…not indigenous cultures!

The below is an extract from one of the few aboriginal sites that have got it right in regards to why Section 51 existed as it did, without automatically playing the racism card.

Section 51 meant that the federal government could make laws for anyone in Australia – except its Aboriginal population. Originally this clause was worded that way to enable parliament to make laws discriminating against racial groups like the Kanakas in Queensland. The words ‘other than the aboriginal race in any State’ were intended to exempt Aboriginal people from discrimination.

The 1965 prime minister Robert Menzies argued passionately against changing this section and held that if the phrase was removed the parliament could set up “a separate body of industrial, social, criminal and other laws relating exclusively to Aborigines”. The inclusion of the words were thought to be “a fundamental safeguard against discriminatory Commonwealth legislation directed against [Aboriginal people]”. 

But as it stood the Commonwealth also had no power to make laws for the benefit of Aboriginal people.

Creative Spirits – Australian 1967 Referendum


Note this: “But as it stood the Commonwealth also had no power to make laws [SPECIFICALLY/SOLELY] for the benefit of Aboriginal people.

The debates clearly show that they were concerned about the characteristics of other racial groups (besides the Kanakas). The Afghans and Chinese, for example.

Debates – THURSDAY, 27TH JANUARY, 1898

It’s interesting to note that the clause was also originally drafted to protect both Aboriginals and Maoris (when New Zealand’s inclusion in the Federation was being considered). That the Maoris had a treaty, and that they were placed within the same exclusionary clause, lends further weight to the non-discriminatory nature of it.

Debates – FRIDAY, 8 APRIL, 1891

Bottom line:

Racist? Yes (although some might say understandable in the context of the period).

Discriminatory against Aboriginals? No, quite the opposite. That is, unless your aim is affirmative action/positive discrimination, and I dare say the founders didn’t have that notion at the forefront of their minds.

20 thoughts on “Were they that bad? #4 – 1967 Referendum – Part 1 (Sect 51 xxvi)”

  1. I’m also looking forward to your wise words on Section 127 – there’s as much bullshit talked about that as anything else..


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  2. Mater, I’ve been reading the convention discussions you linked to.

    On the subject of whether to insert into the preamble the phrase

    ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God,’

    the discussions were riveting. What worried some of the delegates (Higgins and Douglas, for example) was whether any form of words expressing belief in a deity would bring about the ability of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to religion, which it was argued was the province of the states. What struck me about this discussion was the time and care taken over this point and which in subsequent High Court deliberations of free movement seems, on the face of it to this untutored mind, wholly ignored.

    If the framers were given to involved and wide ranging discussions regarding the preamble and what some saw as a risk of the Commonwealth taking powers from the states on matters religious, what this suggests, nay, I would argue, shows, is that what was actually included in the body of the document -as written in plain English – should have been accepted by the HC as it was written.


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  3. Did moving aboriginal affairs from state to federal authority actually improve matters?

    Don’t know, but soon afterwards, possession of a University degree became essential to progress through the public service, and men who had spent years working in outback communities, spoke several dialects fluently, and had a good knowledge of customs and cultures, found themselves eased aside in favor of those with said Uni degree.


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  4. What do you suppose is the reason behind the rush to get the Voice into the constitution?

    Is it to provide a win for the current players?

    If they wait 20 or 30 years, they will get it easily as the education system is preparing our young for government intervention and management.

    Will anyone in 20 to 30 years, who is skeptical, be able to argue the facts?.

    Will skepticism then be treated as extremist, in the parlance of the current Vic government?

    It could be a grave mistake on the Voice lobby’s part to force all the arguments into the open and be available to future scholars.

    Will it get through a referendum this time, doubtful I reckon. It will create a problem and most people can see that it’s a really stupid thing to do.


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  5. Very welcome, Bespoke.
    I’m just interested in the truth, as should everyone be if we are going to continue to function as a nation.

    Other than living in another era, our forefathers were not so terribly different to us. If it ever seems otherwise, it’s an indication to dig further. There is often more to the story.


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  6. Mater, sorry, off topic again.

    But I watched the Mwff Warhurst – who do you think you are – the other week. What struck me was that she discovered how strong, resourceful and determined one of her pioneer great x? grandmothers was. I know it rang all the “feminist bells” for myff, but with all that spin it still couldn’t trample the “pioneer story” of struggle, survival and achievement.

    We need more stories about our past – both group and individual – before we can overcome the concerted debasement of the great story that is the history of Australia.


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  7. You should send a link to Parrothead in NSW.

    If you send an email with the subject line “Easy Virtue” he is sure to open it. Not because he is prurient – that would still need him to acknowledge another person – but because he will immediately read it as meaning ostentatious acts of symbolic virtue that don’t in fact cost him personally anything.

    Like having the Aboriginal flag flying as equal to the Australian flag on top of what is certainly the most iconic structure in Sydney – the Harbour Bridge. I heard they were ripped off on the price for the flag – which is kind of appropriate inasmuch as the flag cost Parrothead nothing personally, and The Industry has gouged the taxpayers again.

    Once open he will likely only get a few words in before his instinct to escape facts before the email is whisked into the recycling bin – I mean the whole computer and a real recycling bin (the computer now being infected with facts is too dangerous).

    But it is to be hoped that, maybe, that like Monty Python’s killer joke where a translator accidentally saw two words of the joke and spent several weeks in hospital, just maybe a few true words might have a good effect.

    Or send him to the hospital.

    Both good outcomes.


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  8. We need more stories about our past – both group and individual – before we can overcome the concerted debasement of the great story that is the history of Australia.

    Our forefathers landed on a completely undeveloped and extremely inhospitable continent, and within 200 years, turned it into a modern, democratic, first world country.

    No history is without its foibles, but that is to be celebrated (in my opinion).

    How many much older nations are still languishing?


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  9. What do you suppose is the reason behind the rush to get the Voice into the constitution?

    Enshrined in the Constitution, and can only be removed by another referendum?


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  10. “I’m just interested in the truth, as should everyone be if we are going to continue to function as a nation.”

    +1,000

    And it is also important to point out that we are all children of God and all equal in His eyes, regardless of race. Should we not attempt to also apply this non-discrimination in our everyday lives as well as we can? To be sure,we are none of us perfect, but this seems to me like such a simple thing – to give everyone equality of opportunity, to treat each person as an individual, and to show each person the respect that we would like to have them show us.

    Having grown up in the Cabramatta area in the 1960’s and 70’s, I had friends from every inhabited continent on the planet, and in my view it was only parental indoctrination of long held hatreds that kept any two groups at each others throats – whether it be Serbs vs Croats, muslims vs christians and so on and so on, it was always the case in my experience that the hatreds were passed down the generations and it was only the forced “mingling” at schools and such that helped in any way.

    As per previous thread, we MUST fight hard against the insidious “equity” rubbish – this is designed to divide us, not unite us. Equality can unite us, and give us the only known successful way to run a society, long term – one based on merit, and not ever race, colour, creed, religion, sex, sexual preference etc etc.


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  11. I’m just interested in the truth, as should everyone be if we are going to continue to function as a nation.

    This and developing dialogue that neither infantilize or aliates indigenous people is the only way forward, Mater.


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  12. Heres another blatant bit of misrepresentation from their ABCcess.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-07-19/goldfields-elder-stolen-generations-protecting-country/101218706
    Brian remembers how, in the eyes of the law, he was not born an Australian citizen and that prevented him from marrying or buying property.

    “I applied for citizenship rights, and I got it in Boulder … It was presented to me in the court [around 1960],” he says.

    “That’s how ironic it is … here I am, an Aboriginal, applying to become a citizen in my own land.

    Because there was a separation between people who were considered tribal, and maintaining a itinerant lifestyle etc, and those who were signaling they were part of the regular community with the rights and responsibilities it entailed.

    Its beyond black armband and just deliberate spinning the worst possible lies they can from whatever material they have to hand.


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  13. Because there was a separation between people who were considered tribal, and maintaining a itinerant lifestyle etc, and those who were signaling they were part of the regular community with the rights and responsibilities it entailed.

    Correct.

    The government was trying to find a way of allowing traditional culture to survive whilst catering to others. Read the wrong way, it can look bad.

    I could do 30 posts on the various ways the race baiters are causing trouble and denigrating one groups history to elevate another.

    I don’t intend to write 30. I’m limiting it to six.

    After that, the message should be clear to everyone. Perfectly magnanimous historical measures are actually being twisted to give the impression of malevolence.

    The message is clear. Dig into it, and try to anticipate why things REALLY might have been done…120+ years ago.

    As an aside, we all only became ‘Citizens’ in 1949. British Subjects up until then. All Diggers (including indigenous) to that point are noted as British Subjects on their enlistment forms.


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  14. Brian remembers how, in the eyes of the law, he was not born an Australian citizen and that prevented him from marrying or buying property.

    More stories my Nanna told me…


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