Fiftieth anniversary of Aboriginal referendum looms but Aunty Isabel Reid says there is still a long way to go

LOOKING FORWARD: Wiradjuri elder Aunty Isabel Reid is hopeful she'll see constitutional recognition of Australia's first inhabitants, as the nation nears the 50th anniversary of voting rights for Indigenous people.
LOOKING FORWARD: Wiradjuri elder Aunty Isabel Reid is hopeful she'll see constitutional recognition of Australia's first inhabitants, as the nation nears the 50th anniversary of voting rights for Indigenous people.

It’s been almost 50 years since Aboriginal people were given the right to vote in a landmark referendum, but there is still a long way to go, according to a Wagga elder.

The fight for constitutional recognition continues to this day and Wiradjuri elder Aunty Isabel Reid hopes she’ll see it in her lifetime.

“We’ve come a long way,” Aunty Isabel said. 

“But there are still a lot of people who don’t really understand where we’re coming from, they’re still in the dark. The only way to really know is to walk in our shoes but they can’t, so we go out and tell our stories and make them think.”

Over the years, Aunty Isabel has seen many changes in the way Australia treats its first people. As a child she was taken from her family to the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls' Training Home, where she became a member of the Stolen Generations.

As a 34-year-old, she was given the right to vote in 1967 thanks to a campaign that resulted in a landmark referendum. And while the Mabo land rights decision and Kevin Rudd’s “sorry” speech were signs of reconciliation, there was still something missing.

“We can only go forward and when we have Sorry Day and Naidoc Day it would be good to not just focus on the negative but have the positive too and move forward together,” Aunty Isabel said.

Australian voted to give Aboriginal people the right to vote on May 27, 1967.

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