A special artwork on the Reconciliation Place is dedicated to three remarkable women activists who had a significant role in the passage of the 1967 Referendum, which was one of the first milestones for equal rights for Australian Indigenous people, Lady Jessie Street, Faith Bandler, and Evelyn Scott.
As part of the 1967 referendum, voters were asked whether Indigenous Australians should be included in official population counts for constitutional purposes and whether the Federal Government should have the power to make special laws for Indigenous Australians in states.
Following the campaign, which included several massive petitions and hundreds of public meetings, on May 27, 1967, 90.77% of the voters replied Yes, the most successful referendum in Australian history.
The Women Artwork consists of three cast bronze slivers, each reviewing the biographies and roles in the 1967 Referendum of Lady Jessie Street, Faith Bandler, and Dr. Evelyn Scott. The convex side of each silver and the pavement are inscribed with words and quotes related to their values.
Facing the silvers is a circular seat that contains an audio device that broadcasts personal reflections by Faith Bandler, Dr. Evelyn Scott, and Sir Laurence Street.
The artists Belinda Smith and Rob Tindal designed the artwork, Jennifer Marchant designed the graphics, and the patterning was done by Jenuarrie, Thanakupi (Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher), and Violet Petyarre.
Lady Jessie Street (1889-1970) was an Australian suffragette, feminist, and Indigenous Australian rights activist. Jessie founded the United Association of Women in Australia in 1929. She attended women’s conferences worldwide, worked with women’s groups in different countries, and was Australia’s first female delegate to the founding of the United Nations in 1945. She ran twice for office and was narrowly defeated each time. Jessie was active in the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement (FCAA)and the initiator and master minder of the 1967 Referendum.
Faith Bandler (1918-2015) was a leading campaigner for the rights of Indigenous Australians and South Sea Islanders. Her father was one of the indigenous children who was kidnapped to work on a plantation. Faith began her activism in 1945, campaigning for equal pay for indigenous workers after being paid less than white workers in the Australian Women’s Land Army. In 1956, Faith co-established the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship. Later on, she became the general secretary of FCAA and led the successful campaign for a constitutional referendum to remove discriminatory provisions from the Constitution of Australia.
Evelyn Scott (1935-2017) was an Indigenous social activist and educator. She was actively involved with the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League in the 1960s and was one of the campaign leaders in the 1967 referendum. It was the first of many achievements in a life of activism for equal rights for Australian Indigenous people.
Reconciliation Place is located in Canberra’s National Triangle, an area that celebrates the shared history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Next to the Women’s Artwork is the stone that commemorates Ruby Florence Hammond.
A short walk leads to the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage Commemorative Fountain & Suffrage Walk and the Ladies Rose Garden.
Defining Moments: 1967 referendum
In 1967 Australia voted to remove the provisions of the constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal people. See this defining moment in Australia’s history brought to life, told by historian David Hunt. Narrated by Charmaine Armstrong. More: https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments
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Defining Moments: 1967 referendumIn 1967 Australia voted to remove the provisions of the constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal people. See this defining moment in Australia’s history brought to life, told by historian David Hunt. Narrated by Charmaine Armstrong. More: https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments
This post is also available in: Español