Seven men and women who fought tirelessly for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the 1967 referendum have been celebrated with Order of Australia honours.
The recipients are Ms Dulcie Gladys Flower, Mrs Ruth Hennings, Mrs Kathleen Mary Mills, Mr Alfred Neal, Mrs Pamela Joy Pedersen, Dr Albert Barrie Pittock and Ms Diana Rosemary Travis.
Each of them played a significant role in ensuring the identity, culture, history and citizenship of Indigenous Australians was recognised in 1967.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion met with campaigners during the 50th anniversary events held in 2017 – an occasion that reinforced the importance of their work.
“The impact of the 1967 referendum still reverberates today,” Minister Scullion said. “There are moments in life so significant – their effects so powerful – they are felt for generations to come.
“Saturday, 27 May 1967 is one of them. On that day, our nation became one. Australians of all backgrounds came together and embraced one another. We saw the best of humanity on that day.
“We owe so much to the individuals who helped make it happen – some of whom have been recognised today and who I offer my sincere congratulations to.
“The outcome on that famous day was testament to their hard work and dedication in the fight for Indigenous rights. We remain indebted to them and will continue to honour them.”
The 1967 referendum was a watershed moment in the relationship between the Australian Government and Indigenous Australians. The ‘yes’ vote by 90.77 per cent of Australians expanded the Commonwealth’s power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and enable them to be counted in the official population.
Its 50th anniversary in 2017 coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Mabo Decision. The Government invested $1.76 million in celebrations for the two events – $193,000 of which was spent on restoring the resting place of Eddie Koiki Mabo on Mer Island in the Torres Strait.
Community Development Program participants and Mer Island locals completed the work.
In 2017, the Government also announced $138 million in funding for the 1967 Referendum 50th Anniversary Indigenous Education Package.
“This funding is providing critical support for over 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students,” Minister Scullion said. “It is an investment in Australia’s future leaders.
“The package is balanced and designed to support a large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as well as ensure maximum leverage in terms of philanthropic contributions.”