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The 1967 Referendum in the spotlight


Zoe Satherley
21 May 2007
Everyone is welcome to come and join the Referendum Talking Circle at Southern Cross University this Thursday, May 24.

The Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee and the University’s Thinking Diversity – Beyond Tolerance project are hosting the half-day symposium at the Lismore campus and they invite students, staff and the general public to come and explore issues and questions about the 1967 Referendum.

Next Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the Referendum, in which Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of including Aboriginal people in the census and removing a discriminatory clause in the constitution, which stated that the Federal Government could make laws for all people except Aborigines.

The Talking Circle presents an exciting opportunity for everyone to share, listen and engage, and will be held from 2pm to 5pm at the Campus Central Auditorium.

Guest speakers from the local Indigenous community will provide individual reflections and perspectives on the Referendum to stimulate discussion. The free event is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to participate (children are welcome).

“Lately, you may have heard a lot of references to ‘the Referendum’, but what referendum are we actually talking about? What was decided, how did it affect Australia and why is that still important 40 years later? These are some of the questions we want to discuss,” says Soenke Biermann, Thinking Diversity – Beyond Tolerance project coordinator.

If you want to broaden your understanding of the Referendum and what it did or didn’t change, you can also pick up a copy of 'The 1967 Referendum: Reflections and Perspectives. A Critical Reader.'

This edited collection of articles, stories, poems, photos and artwork by Southern Cross University students and staff, will be available free of charge for the whole week and can be picked up on campus at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, the University library and the Student Representative Council (SRC) in the plaza.

While on campus, visitors may also wish to browse through posters, newspaper articles and other historic documents from the time, on display in the Referendum Exhibition at the University library. The exhibition is open all week.

“In tandem with initiatives such as the Critical Reader and the Referendum Exhibition, the Referendum Talking Circle invites the whole community to rejoin the circle and reactivate the discussion about our past, our present and our future together,” says Soenke Biermann.

“Forty years after the Referendum, 15 years after Mabo and 10 years after the Bringing Them Home report, it’s time to come together and work for change.”

The event is also an important step in the lead-up to the Walk for Reconciliation on Saturday, May 26, in Lismore. The march will commence at 9am at Spinks Park and finish at Heritage Park with activities and celebrations. Everyone is welcome to attend and show their support for reconciliation.

For any questions, queries or comments, please email Soenke Biermann at

Photo: The Tweed Gold Coast campus ‘panel’ for the Three Campus Canvas, being displayed at the Referendum Talking Circle, was delivered today by Tweed Gold Coast students. Photo shows (from left): Marcelle Townsend-Cross, Bilyana Blomeley, Soenke Bierrman, Joshua Cavanagh, Katrina Cooch and Sherrie Collins.