Fact sheet

Fact Check: Were Indigenous Australians classified under a flora and fauna act until the 1967 referendum?

Indigenous constitutional recognition
A regularly repeated claim in public debate is that Indigenous Australians were covered by a flora and fauna act, which did not classify them as human beings, and that this only changed when the constitution was amended following the 1967 referendum. On TV Indigenous actor Shareena Clanton claimed her mother was not "considered a human being until the referendum came through from the flora and fauna act in 1967." RMIT ABC Fact Check found her claim is a myth. Aboriginal people in Australia have never been covered by a flora and fauna act, either under federal or state law. But despite several attempts by various people to set the record straight, the myth continues to circulate, perhaps because, as one academic told Fact Check, it "embodies elements of a deeper truth about discrimination". several factors have given rise to the notion that a flora and fauna act once existed.Such factors include the existence at one time or another of government departments and historical reports with titles that bring together the words "flora", "fauna" and "Aboriginal". Also, a widespread and energetic campaign for a yes vote in the 1967 referendum played a crucial role in setting the conditions for the myth to emerge.
Verdict: Myth
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