The Rise of Aboriginal Rights and Demise of the Assimilation Policy began when the Aborigines became dissatisfied with the goings on in their country. Public sentiment for a change in national policy toward Aboriginal people grew in the postwar period, led by a number of small Christian and left-wing groups and a small but growing number of Aboriginal activists. In the 1960s the federal government began an effort to repeal discriminatory laws. A 1960 law made it possible for Aboriginal people to collect welfare benefits, and in 1962 Aboriginal people won the right to vote in federal elections. One of the greatest successes of the Aboriginal rights movement came in 1967, when a national referendum was held to determine whether Aboriginal people should be counted in the national census and whether the federal government should have the power to make laws covering Aboriginal people. The referendum was approved by more than 90 percent of the electorate, demonstrating that most white Australians supported the right of Aboriginal people to live as equal citizens.
The victory of the Australian Labor Party in the 1972 federal elections, after 23 years of conservative rule, led to a transformation in government relations with Aboriginal groups. With the new government came the end of the assimilation policy and, for the first time, recognition that Aboriginal people had the right to retain their own culture and to determine their own affairs. The government’s first step toward this goal of Aboriginal self-determination was to greatly increase the funding and programs aimed at improving the socioeconomic status of Aboriginal people. In 1973 the government established a separate Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This agency sponsored or promoted programs dealing with Aboriginal housing, education, health, land ownership, business, and legal and administrative reform. A national consultative committee of Aboriginal people was established to allow formal Aboriginal input into the policymaking process, and many more Aboriginal people were involved in the government bureaucracies administering Aboriginal affairs. In 1990 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was replaced by an independent government body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, with a board of commissioners elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Rise of Aboriginal Rights lead to the Demise of the Assimilation Policy and however achieved a lot by bringing the Aborigines to an equal stance with others.