School of History Seminar Week 6: Picturing Democracy: Telling the Story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Electoral Education

You can have your say’ poster card, 1979 AIATSIS call number: Rpf HOW

In 1961 the Menzies’s government extended the commonwealth electoral franchise to all adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While some Indigenous Australians had been eligible to vote prior to this, many found themselves in the position of casting a vote for the first time. In light of this situation the Commonwealth Electoral Office embarked on a program to provide electoral education to those who had previously been disenfranchised.

This paper explores the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander electoral education and participation programmes from their inception in the 1960s until the turn of the century. It will focus on published material culture, such as pamphlets, posters and visual aids, to understand the manner in which Indigenous electoral education and participation has been conceptualised over this period. These items are drawn from the extensive collections of Indigenous related electoral material held at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

This paper will also use this case study to discuss the role of historians working outside the traditional academic milieu of universities. It will examine some of the complexities of ‘doing’ history in a cultural institution and of presenting it on a virtual platform.

Dr Blake Singley is a curator of collections at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and a Program Visitor in the School of History at the Australian National University. His current research interests focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander popular culture and traditional Indigenous foodways. He has published on the history of Australian cookbooks, drought relief and charity organisations.


Date & time

Wed 24 Aug 2016, 4.15–5.30pm


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

Event series


School of History


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