The 27 May 1967 national Referendum was a turning point in Queensland’s political landscape, though not in the manner ordinarily conceived. Some 88% of the Queensland population heeded calls from a diverse coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous activist groups to ‘vote yes for aboriginal rights’ through making two small alterations to the Australian Constitution. This call for rights was particularly pertinent in Queensland – a state whose harsh protection regime and frequent dispossession of ‘native’ inhabitants in favour of mining or pastoral interests prompted comparisons with the American south, if not the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
While the Referendum is memorialised as a moment in time when Australia's Indigenous peoples at last achieved full citizenship, the victory built on a long campaign which had already won most of these rights. The vote also reveals division in the Queensland landscape. A strong rural-urban dichotomy and racialist overtones challenges the liberal myth of near-universal support. The victory also saw changing perceptions of government authorities by Indigenous activists, and consequential shifts towards more militant modes of protest such as ‘Black Power’.