Looking back I realise that all actions often have unintended consequences.The momentum of the 1967 referendum was lost as the Vietnam War shifted the focus of activism away from Aboriginal issues. Citizenship did not bring about equity in education, employment, health or housing. It opened the door to years of chronic alcohol abuse and cultural disintegration. Aboriginal affairs has been reduced to a number of celebratory milestones while Aboriginal communities slip further behind. John Howard was able to use the 1967 referendum to legislate against Aboriginal people in the Hindmarsh Bridge Act in 1997.
The activities of Student Action For Aborigines in 1965 and 1966 used Aboriginal communities in rural NSW as a platform to fight a national campaign without taking on board the consequences for those communities. My work in Aboriginal education, ironically in Aboriginal drug education, took me across rural NSW where I learnt of the often subtle and ongoing discrimination that Aboriginal individuals and communities suffered after supporting us during our visits.
When I got on that bus in 1965 I don’t think I realised the cultural implications of reciprocity that I was entering into. Somewhat wiser; and eternally grateful to those Aboriginal people who have guided, enlightened and taught me that I’m just one of the mob; I will not be memorialised, appropriated or mythologised.