On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, Uniting Church’s Rev. Dr Chris Budden renewed the call for a treaty with Australia’s First Peoples.
The Referendum recognized Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as Australian citizens. The 90% ‘yes’ vote was an overwhelming support for Australia’s First Peoples to be brought into the Commonwealth.
“It was a proud moment for the many strong Aboriginal leaders who pushed this campaign, and the people who supported them,” said Interim National Coordinator of the Uniting Aboriginal and islander Christian Congress, Rev. Dr Budden.
Aboriginal rights and former rugby league player, Sol Bellear, told the Guardian the referendum meant it was officially acknowledged that Indigenous people existed in Australia.
“Before 1967, we weren’t counted in the census or anything as people. Dogs and cats and pigs and sheep were counted in Australia before Aboriginal people,” said Mr Bellear.
Despite this win 50 years ago, both Rev Budden and Mr Bellear stated that there is still a long way to go for equality and acknowledgement of rights for Australia’s First Peoples.
Earlier this year the annual ‘Closing the Gap’ report was released with dismal statistics. Child mortality, education, incarceration and suicide rates were just some of the targets that are not on track to close the gap.
“There is still a need to deal with racism, high imprisonment rates, poor health, continuing dispossession, and proper ways to recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain sovereign peoples who have never given up their place in this land,” said Rev. Dr. Budden.
Rev. Budden said moving forward it is time to fully recognize sovereignty and that means it is time for a treaty.
“And to do that will need the same good will and commitment from people of the church as was shown in 1967,” he said.
Unlike Canada and New Zealand, Australia is the only country in the Commonwealth that has not established a treaty with the nation’s Indigenous people.