On May 27 1967, non- Indigenous Australians voted in a very important referendum that asked if they approved changes to two sections of the Australian constitution that related to Aboriginal Australians. Up until this time, Aboriginal Australians were not counted in the Census like all the other people living in Australia and the Federal Government laws that provided important services to the Australian people such as hospitals, schools and housing did not include providing those same services to Aboriginal Australians.
‘Say Yes’ is an excellent easy to follow introduction to the background of the 1967 referendum. The story uses the experiences of two young girls, who are best friends, one white and the other Aboriginal. Their greatest joy is sharing things with each other but that is repeatedly denied when Mandy’s Indigenous background prevents her from swimming in the town pool, or attending the same school or even sitting together at the movies. We learn that Mandy’s mother is prevented from travelling to see her sick mother without special permission from the Government.
Interwoven with the story are archival photographs of people who supported change, newspaper clippings, a Vote Yes flyer, the actual Voting form and a page citing the relevant sections of the Constitution being voted on. Some historical details of rules and policies related to the treatment of Aboriginal Australians are included at the end of the book.
Many Australians are unaware of our history, of how the law has treated our First Nations people. In this book we see the discrimination, the racism and the lack of human rights that Australian law imposed on Australia’s Indigenous peoples. It would make an excellent starting point for any lesson or discussion concerning Australian’s treatment of its First Nations people both then and now.
And the vote - it was overwhelmingly 90% YES!