history timeline


coming of the light


1 July - Coming of the Light 1871.
This is a particular day of significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians. It marks the day the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait. The missionaries landed at Erub Island on 1 July 1871. Religious and cultural ceremonies are held by Torres Strait Islander Christians across the Torres Strait and on the mainland to commemorate this day.

senator neville bonner

1922 - 1999

The Gurindji people walk off Wave Hill and Newcastle Waters cattle stations, beginning the successful seven-year struggle to obtain title to their land. This is later seen by Indigenous Australians elsewhere as the birth of the land rights movement.

first Naidoc period.

1940 - 1955

1940 – 1955
NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contribution of Indigenous Australians in various fields. 2017 is Our Languages Matter. 1940 – 1955. From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and was known as Aborigines Day. In1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.

bark petitions


1963 bark petitions.
The Yirrkala bark petitions (age of time) are historic Australian documents that were the first traditional documents prepared by Indigenous Australians that were recognised by the Australian Parliament, and are thus the first documentary recognition of Indigenous people in Australian law.

freedom rides


1965 freedom rides.
July 1965 - March 1967: As a result of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Workers' Case the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission grants equal wages to Indigenous pastoral workers. The cattle industry reacts by phasing out Indigenous labour and driving Indigenous communities progressively off their properties which are their traditional lands. Indigenous Australians were excluded from the operation of the Northern Territory Cattle Station Worker's Award. Their rates of pay and conditions were regulated by an Ordinance. Under the award, the resulting rates of pay were well below those paid to non- Indigenous stockmen. These full-award wages flowed on to Aboriginal people employed in government settlements, forestry projects, the armed services and police force. In the same year the Commonwealth introduces a policy of integration, which 'allows' for the expression of Aboriginality. In NSW, in the same year, the Freedom Rides are organised by Charles Perkins, Rev. Ted Noffs and Jim Spigelian through the country areas of north-western NSW to draw public attention to the discriminatory practices of local governments and to end segregation.

reconciliation week

1967 - 1992

27 May–3 June - Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation Week was initiated in 1996 to provide a special focus for nationwide activities. The week is a time to reflect on achievements so far and the things which must still be done to achieve reconciliation. National Reconciliation Week offers people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation, to hear about the cultures and histories of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in our communities. The Week is timed to coincide with two significant dates in Australia’s history, which provide strong symbols of our hopes and aims for reconciliation: 27 May and 3 June.



1967 Referendum.
The Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act (Cwlth) referendum is passed. This Act confers the power on the Commonwealth to make special laws for Aboriginal people (though it was ten years before this happened in an effective way), and entitled Indigenous Australians to be included on the census and in electoral calculation. The 1967 Referendum did not give Indigenous Australians the vote. In 1967 over 90% of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminatedagainst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government the powerto make laws on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 27 May 1967

tent embassy


1972 tent embassy
Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up outside Parliament House in Canberra to demonstrate for Indigenous rights. Labour Government of Gough Whitlam adopts self-determination as official government policy in Indigenous affairs. This is the first time in Australia's colonial history that government policy coincides with Indigenous Australians aspirations White Australia Policy officially disbanded. In the same year, in NSW, government regulations were amended so that Indigenous students could no longer be barred from NSW state schools because of their race.



1992 Mabo
The High Court of Australia rules in the Mabo case that native title exists over particular kinds of land - unalienated Crown land, national parks and reserves - and overturns the doctrine of terra nullius recognising that Indigenous peoples are the original occupants of this land and possessed a complex system of land tenure that has always existed in this country. This case of Mabo and Others v the State of Queensland is not legislation but High Court interpreting what the law is.
Prime Minister Keating's Redfern Park speech at the launch of the International Year of the World's Indigenous People acknowledges past wrongs.