Review Blog

May 10 2017

Say yes: a story of friendship, fairness and a vote for hope by Jennifer Castles

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Ill. by Paul Seden. Allen & Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760294670
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Voting. Referendum. Australian history. Aboriginal history. The story of the 1967 referendum which gave Aboriginal people the right to be included in the census as well as the right to a federal government making laws on their behalf is given in this non fiction story told through the eyes of two friends. It seems a sorry thing that Aboriginal people were not included in such basic rights prior to 1967 and will, I imagine, shock many readers.
An event that occurred fifty years ago is revisited here with the question of how much things have changed for Aboriginal people. Two young girls sit together on a hot summer's day but when they decide to go to the swimming pool, one is not welcome. They go to the pictures but again, one is not welcome. When her grandmother is ill, and the family tries to board a train to go and see her, they are told they are not allowed to leave their state. Basic things but the law of the time restricted what Aboriginal people were allowed to do.
As a consequence, two women in particular stood up and demanded that the law be changed. Jessie Street and Faith Bandler were at the forefront of the referendum debate, asking for change to occur. An overwhelming number of Australians (90.77%) voted yes to the question put to them, and as a consequence, Aboriginal people are included in the census and laws made by the federal government apply to them as citizens of Australia.
In this simply told tale, it is salutary to see that such laws existed, that Aboriginal people were not seen as Australian citizens, and so to ponder the question about how far things have changed.
Fran Knight

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