Gough Whitlam and the mandate of 1967
The Coalition Government thought that its policy philosophy had been endorsed in the 1967 referendum, but it was soon confronted with a different interpretation of the 'Yes' vote.
The Australian Labor Party, in Opposition since 1949, was quick to see the growing popularity of the 'land rights' cause. Gough Whitlam, who became Leader of the Opposition in 1967, saw that public opinion was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the government's insistence that Indigenous Australians be treated as if they were no different from other Australians. In August 1968, Whitlam accused the government of betraying the referendum's mandate 'to promote health, training, employment and land rights for Aboriginals.' Land rights had not been an issue in the referendum campaign, but public sympathy for the Gurindji made it politically possible to speak as if it had.
Keywords: 1967 referendum, activism, Australian Labor Party, land rights, Whitlam, Gough, 1967-1968
Still: Gough Whitlam. Reproduced with permission of National Australian Archive.
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor
© Commonwealth of Australia