On 27 May 1967, an overwhelming 90% of Australians voted ‘Yes’, making that Referendum a high water mark for the determination of ordinary Australians to seek positive change.

Fifty years later in 2017, community members came together on a sunny Sunday at the NCIE in Redfern to remember the Referendum, and the campaigners who made it happen, through stories, film, a timeline display, and music.

The afternoon kicked off with an engaging and entertaining conversation between NCIE CEO Kirstie Parker and Campaigner Shirley Peisley.

Aunty Shirley spoke widely about her involvement in the campaign but stressed that the journey was as important as the result.

Photo: NCIE CEO in conversation with Shirley Peisley.

“Some people say it was a symbolic result but there’s no doubting the importance of the effects of the long campaign, it really brought people together, we learned so much and it changed the way we went forward,” Aunty Shirley said.

“It was also a women-run campaign, we were right there at the forefront and that was unusual for the time. Women all over the country worked hard in all aspects of the campaign.”

Frances Peters-Little presented her 2007 documentary, VOTE YES for Aborigines and took questions from the audience.

Photo: Director and Historian Frances Peters Little talks with Kirstie Parker after the film screening.

“It’s too easy for some people to say, look at this referendum nothing really changed, but it’s important to look beyond the result”, Frances said.

“The result and the campaign itself opened a number of avenues for Aboriginal people to progress, to give them a new sense of hope, opportunity and freedom.”

The 1967 inspired afternoon tea, curated by Aunty Beryl Van Oploo, provided a perfect backdrop for yarns, catch ups, and talk about the referendum and the timeline displays. Corned beef and pickles, curried egg, and devon and tomato sauce sandwiches were on the menu, along with jam tarts and ginger nut biscuits, vol-au-vents, and Aunty Beryl’s famous lemon myrtle biscuits!

Radical Son provided a soulful end to the event performing classics like Took the Children Away and A Change is Gonna Come along with some new songs as the sun set, marking the close of a marvelous day!

Thanks to everyone who came to the event. We are aiming to set up the info display again during NAIDOC Week so stay tuned for details.

Photo: (L-R) Radical Son/David Leha, Frances Peters-Little, Kirstie Parker, Shirley Peisley & Kate Cam.