“Being a working man, I felt automatically that I should support the Labor Party, primarily because they were supposed to be for the working class.” Neville Bonner.
I have just watched an excellent interview with Neville Bonner by Robin Hughes in 1992 on a show on NITV called Australian Biography. (See some footage from it above on this video from the Museum of Australian Democracy.)
Neville had attended 2 or 3 Liberal Party branch meetings prior to the 1967 referendum. The National Archives notes about this referendum:
“The second question was to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. This fact sheet addresses the second question.
The sections of the Constitution under scrutiny were:
51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:-
…(xxvi) The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is necessary to make special laws.
127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.
The removal of the words ‘… other than the aboriginal people in any State…‘ in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127 were considered by many to be representative of the prevailing movement for political change within Indigenous affairs. As a result of the political climate, this referendum saw the highest YES vote ever recorded in a Federal referendum, with 90.77 per cent voting for change.”
Neville was asked to hand out how to vote cards and agreed because all partys were in accord with the “Yes” for change vote regarding the Aboriginal people.
After a full day at around 4pm a ” A Big Flash Car” pulled up.
“What in the hell are you doing handing out those cards, we do more for Aborigines than they do!” There was no Labor person handing out How to vote cards or anyone else, except Neville Bonner.
“Who the hell are you anyway”
“I’m Bill Hayden, the member for Oxley”
“Well look Mr Hayden, I’d look silly handing out Labor How to Vote cards when I’m a member of the Liberal Party”
“..and were you a member of the Liberal Party?”
“No but I was the next day.”
Born in the Tweed and raised on the banks of the Richmond in Lismore he received only one year of formal education. His first attempt to attend school ended after only a few hours when the white parents of the class pulled their children out.
Neville Bonner was a Queensland Senator in two Australian Governments, serving for 10 years. He was a strong believer in changing things from within the system. He was an Inspirational Man.
Don’t make assumptions.
Keep an open mind, don’t judge.