2023 Aboriginal calendar of significant events

When you look at significant events for First Nations people you'll notice that they 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 First Nations people's entitlement to land which has been stolen from them. Legislation requires them 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

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 First Nations 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

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In Australia, since 1999, the day is known as Harmony Day, celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity (see www.harmony.gov.au).

23 March

In 2005 the Australian government abolished the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). It was established on 3 May 1990.


5 April

The Bringing Them HomeStolen Generations report was released in 1997.

15 April

The Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission released its report in 1991.


1 May

Pilbara Aboriginal Stockmen’s strike in 1946 in Western Australia.

26 May

National Sorry Day is a day to remember the removal of First Nations children from their families. A chance for all Australians to recognise the pain thousands of First Nations 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 First Nations children thought they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past. More than one million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books speak a different language.


Since 2003 First Nations 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 First Nations Australians as well as the children who attended Indian Residential Schools in Canada”.

27 May

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

Torres Strait Islander flag was first launched in 1992. It was designed by the late Bernard Namok in 1992 as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders.


3 June

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

On this day in 1838 the Myall Creek Massacre occurred in NSW, and every year a Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony is held in its memory.

11 June

First Nations people presented the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Hawke in 1988.

21 June

Prime minister John Howard declares the Northern Territory intervention in 2007.


1 July

Missionaries of the London Missionary Society arrive in the Torres Strait at Erub Island in 1871, 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

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.


4 August

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (Children's Day) officially started in 1988 and is now the largest day to celebrate First Nations children. Authorities recorded the 4th August as the birthday of many children they took away from their parents. Today the day focuses on First Nations children's themes like poverty, education access and celebrates their strengths, pride and culture. "We want [First Nations 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

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 First Nations 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

First Nations people present the Bark Petition from Yirrkala to Parliament in 1963.

16–30 August

The Conniston Massacre occurs in the Northern Territory in 1928.

24 August

First Nations people organise a Gurindji walk-off from Wave Hill Station, NT in 1966.


1 September

In 1998 ally group 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

Cathy Freeman wins two gold medals at the 2000 Olympic Games.

28 September

First Nations youth John Pat dies in police custody in 1983. Each year, First Nations 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

Uluru is returned to traditional owners in 1985.

28 October

The Battle of Pinjarra happens in 1834 in Western Australia.

30 October

The Racial Discrimination Act takes effect in 1975.


26 November

Pope John Paul II addresses First Nations people in Alice Springs in 1986.


10 December

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

16 December

Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act passed in 1976.


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 2023, 2023 Aboriginal calendar of significant events, <https://creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/aboriginal-calendar>, retrieved 20 July 2024

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