2021 Aboriginal calendar of significant events

When you look at significant events for Aboriginal people you'll notice that these document their fight for rights, land and recognition. It is also a history of sadness, loss and denial.

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1 January 1993

Native title denotes Aboriginal people's entitlement to land which has been stolen from them. Legislation requires Aboriginal people to prove that they had a continuous ownership with the land that they claim (which often proved difficult). Read more about native title.

26 January

Invasion Day (Australia Day)

26 January 1972

Tent Embassy established in front of Parliament House, Canberra.


13 February 2008

National Apology Day: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008.


18 March

On National Close the Gap Day, first organised in 2006, organisations come together to improve the health of Aboriginal people. Held on the third Thursday of March, Close the Gap day is an opportunity for organisations and community to hold events and raise awareness of the Aboriginal health crisis.

21 March

Harmony Day started in 1999 and celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. See www.harmony.gov.au.

It is also the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

23 March 2005

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) abolished. It was established on 3 May 1990.


5 April 1997

Bringing Them HomeStolen Generations report released.

15 April 1991

Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission report released.


1 May 1946

Pilbara Aboriginal Stockmen’s strike in Western Australia.

26 May 1998

National Sorry Day is a day to remember the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. A chance for all Australians to recognise the pain thousands of Aboriginal people went through. The children affected are now known as the Stolen Generations.

The first ‘Sorry Day’ in 1998 was marked by hundreds of activities around the country. The Australian federal government does not take part in ‘Sorry Day’, saying people who removed Aboriginal children thought they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past. Over 1 million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books speak a different language.


Since 2003 Aboriginal Canadians celebrate their National Day of Healing and Reconciliation (NDHR) also on May 26. Canadians chose the same day “to honour the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal Australians as well as the children who attended Indian Residential Schools in Canada”.

27 May 1967

The anniversary of the 1967 Referendum recognises the 97% ‘yes’ vote in the Referendum of 1967. It changed the constitution to allow Aboriginal people to be counted in the census and to enable the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people.

The day also marks the start of the annual National Reconciliation Week. Since 2018, Reconciliation Day is a public holiday in the ACT, held on the first Monday on or after 27 May.

29 March 1992

Torres Strait Islander flag launched.


3 June 1992

Mabo Day celebrates the 1992 High Court decision that ruled in favour of Eddie Koiki Mabo and other claimants that their people had occupied the island of Mer in the Torres Strait prior to the arrival of the British. This historic decision effectively recognised the existence of Native Title rights and rejected the concept of terra nullius, which claimed Australia was a land belonging to no-one prior to British occupation.

The day also marks the end of National Reconciliation Week.

10 June 1838

Myall Creek Massacre, NSW, and Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony.

11 June 1988

Barunga Statement presented to Prime Minister Hawke.

21 June 2007

PM John Howard declares the Northern Territory intervention.


1 July 1871

Missionaries of the London Missionary Society arrive in the Torres Strait at Erub Island, introducing Christianity to the region. The Coming of the Light festival marks this important day for Torres Strait Islanders, who are mainly of Christian faith. They celebrate the day with cultural and religious activities.

1st week of July

NAIDOC Week is in the first full week of July and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal people. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islander Observance Committee’, which was responsible for organising national activities for NAIDOC Week. The acronym has now become the name for the week itself.

12 July 1971

The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas and first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, South Australia, on National Aborigines Day, 12 July 1971.

The Torres Strait Islander Flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok in 1992 as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders.


4 August 1988

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (Children's Day) officially started in 1988 and is now the largest day to celebrate Aboriginal children. Authorities recorded the 4th August as the birthday of many children they took away from their parents. Today the day focuses on Aboriginal children's themes like poverty, education access and celebrates their strengths, pride and culture. "We want [Aboriginal kids] to flourish, achieve their greatest potential and enjoy the same quality of life as all other Australian children," says the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) chair Murial Blamblett. See aboriginalchildrensday.com.au.
(World Children's Day is celebrated on 20 November, marking the anniversary of the United Nation's Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.)

9 August 1994

First declared by the United Nations in 1994, the International Day of Indigenous Peoples aims to strengthen international awareness and cooperation for solutions to the problems faced by Aboriginal people in areas such as human rights, development, the environment, education and health. The day marks the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, held in Geneva in 1982.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries around the world. They make up less than 5% of the world’s population, but account for 15% of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

14 August 1963

Bark Petition from Yirrkala to Parliament.

16–30 August 1928

Conniston Massacre, Northern Territory.

24 August 1966

Gurindji walk-off, Wave Hill Station, NT.


1 September 1998

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) displays a Sea of Hands at Uluru, NT.

1st Wednesday

Indigenous Literacy Day is an opportunity to fundraise and advocate for remote communities to have equal access to literacy resources. Many remote families own fewer than five books, and live nine hours from the nearest public library.

25 September 2000

Cathy Freeman wins two Olympic Gold Medals.

28 September 1983

Aboriginal youth John Pat dies in police custody. Each year, Aboriginal people remember his and other cases on John Pat Day with memorial services or protest marches.


1st weekend

NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout (at varying venues).

26 October 1985

Uluru is returned to traditional owners.

28 October 1834

Battle of Pinjarra, WA.

30 October 1975

Racial Discrimination Act takes effect.


26 November 1986

Pope John Paul II addresses Aboriginal people in Alice Springs.


10 December 1948

Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

16 December 1976

Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act passed.


View article sources (5)

[1] '10 Years of National Sorry Day', Koori Mail 423 p.14; and www.ndhr.ca
[2] 'Celebrating our children', Koori Mail 726 p.16, 20/5/2020
[3] 'Indigenous kids day celebration', NIT 159 7/8/2008 p.13
[4] 'International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 9 August', United Nations, www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday, retrieved 9/8/2017
[5] 'Anita Heiss on Indigenous Literacy Day and the value of self-representation', Copyright Agency 9/2020

Cite this page

Korff, J 2021, 2021 Aboriginal calendar of significant events, <https://creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/aboriginal-calendar>, retrieved 3 December 2021

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