2019 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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Native Title Act proclaimed

Native title is a term used to express that Indigenous Australians are entitled to land which had been given to white occupiers. Legislation requires Aboriginal people to prove that they had a continuous ownership with the land they can claim under the act (which often proved difficult).

This act was a response to the Mabo High Court decision. Native title can co-exist with non-Indigenous proprietary rights and in some cases different indigenous groups can exercise their native title over the same land.

The Act was extensively amended in 1998 following another High Court decision about native title (Wik, 1996), which confirmed that native title rights and interests may exist over land which is or has been subject to a pastoral lease.

The Act establishes the National Native Title Tribunal and governs how native title is dealt with across Australia.

Read more about Native Title.


Invasion Day (Australia Day)

261972Tent Embassy established in front of Parliament House, Canberra


51972Tent Embassy Petition to Parliament
81972Woodward Land Rights Inquiry established
121965The Freedom Ride bus leaves Sydney for country NSW.
132008National Apology Day: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008.


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

Harmony Day

232005Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) abolished


11897Resistance leader Jandamarra killed in WA
51997“Bringing Them Home” Stolen Generations Report
151991Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission Report


11946Pilbara Aboriginal Stockmen’s strike, WA
31990ATSIC established
81997Wik ‘10-Point-Plan’ announced

National Sorry Day

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.

Fact 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” [1].


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.

~272018Reconciliation Day public holiday (ACT), held the first Monday on or after 27 May.
282000250,000 people walk for reconciliation in Sydney
291992Torres Strait Islander flag launched
301980Tiwi receive title to Tiwi Islands


31992 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.
4200050,000 people walk for reconciliation in Brisbane
101838Myall Creek Massacre, NSW, and Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony
111988Barunga Statement presented to Prime Minister Hawke
212007PM John Howard declares the Northern Territory intervention


11871Missionaries 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.
21971Evonne Goolangong Cawley wins Wimbledon
~5  NAIDOC Week is in the first 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.
81998Discriminatory Native Title amendments passed

Aboriginal Flag first flown

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.

After a period of public consultation, in July 1995 both flags were proclaimed a ‘Flag of Australia’ by the Australian government.

23200025,000 walk for reconciliation in Hobart



National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day (NAICD) officially started by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) in 1988.

The day aims to focus on themes related to Aboriginal children like poverty, education access and pride in culture, and recognises their strengths 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 SNAICC chair Murial Blamblett [2].

See aboriginalchildrensday.com.au and www.snaicc.org.au for more information.


International Day of Indigenous Peoples

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.

9 August marks the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, held in Geneva in 1982. The International Day was established by the General Assembly in December 1994.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people 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. [3]

141963Bark Petition from Yirrkala to Parliament
161975Return of land to Gurindji, NT
16-301928Conniston Massacre, NT
181978Tiwi Land Council established
241966Gurindji walk-off, Wave Hill Station, NT


11998Sea of Hands, Uluru
1stWed.Indigenous Literacy Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in September.
21991Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation established
252000Cathy Freeman’s Olympic Gold Medal
281983John Pat dies in police custody. Each year, Aboriginal people remember his and other cases on John Pat Day with memorial services or protest marches.


NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout on the first weekend in October (varying venues).
121997First Sea of Hands, Canberra
261985Uluru returned to traditional owners
281834Battle of Pinjarra, WA
301975Racial Discrimination Act takes effect


261986Pope John Paul II addresses Aboriginal people in Alice Springs


22000350,000 walk for reconciliation in Melbourne and Perth
42000Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Final Report
161976Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act passed
101948Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
231996High Court Wik Native Title decision


View article sources (4)

[1] '10 Years of National Sorry Day', Koori Mail 423 p.14; and www.ndhr.ca
[2] 'Indigenous kids day celebration', NIT 159 7/8/2008 p.13
[3] 'International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 9 August', United Nations, www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday, retrieved 9/8/2017

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2019, 2019 Aboriginal calendar of significant events, <https://creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/aboriginal-calendar>, retrieved 26 February 2020

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