SIGNIFICANT DATES

Learn about some of the significant dates and events in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

JANUARY


26 January
Survival Day/ Invasion Day


26 January marks the arrival of the First Fleet landing in 1788. It has been celebrated as a national holiday since 1994. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the date marks the beginning of the invasion and colonisation, which is why it is often referred to as ‘Invasion Day’. It is also a day we celebrate our resilience and continued survival, which is why others refer to it as ‘Survival Day’.

Further learning:




FEBRUARY


13 February
Anniversary of the Apology


The National Apology to the Stolen Generations came about as a recommendation from The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal Children from their Families. The National Inquiry then led to the Bringing them home report which was tabled in Parliament on 26 May 1997. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd delivered the National Apology to the Stolen Generations at 9.00am on 13 February 2008.

Each year since the National Apology, the Prime Minister has delivered a Closing the Gap Statement in Parliament.

Further learning:




MARCH


19 March
National Close the Gap Day


National Close the Gap Day is a day to support meaningful action on achieving Indigenous health equity by 2030. The Close the Gap campaign campaign was started in 2006 by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. In 2008, the Australian government launched the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy which included several targets across health, education and employment.

Further learning:


​24 March 2005
ATSIC abolished


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was a government body established in 1990 to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Representatives were elected officials from across Australia. It was responsible for Australian government programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2004, the Howard government introduced and subsequently passed legislation to abolish ATSIC.

Further learning:




MAY


1 May 1946
Pilbara strike

On 1 May 1946, over 800 Aboriginal stockmen throughout the Pilbara walked off their jobs in protest over their poor employment and living conditions. The strike lasted until August 1949 and became Australia’s longest industrial action at the time. It ended when two of twenty five stations agreed to improve living conditions and increase pay. This eventually became the standard for all stations.

Further learning:


26 May
National Sorry Day

National Sorry Day commemorates the anniversary of the ‘Bringing them Home’ report being acknowledged in federal parliament on 26 May 1997. Since 1998 the day has remembered the suffering and injustice, and acknowledged the strength of Stolen Generations survivors.

Further learning:


27 May
Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum

The 1967 referendum was held to remove parts of the Australian constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These changes would give the Australian government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to be included in the census. Prior to the referendum, only the states were allowed to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Over 90% of Australians voted ‘Yes’ to these changes, the highest ‘Yes’ vote ever.

Further learning:

27 May - 3 June
Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. NRW marks two anniversaries in Australia’s reconciliation journey - the 1967 Referendum and the 1992 Mabo High Court decision. Each year the week celebrates a different theme.

Further learning:


29 May
Torres Strait Islander Flag Day

The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok from Thursday Island. It was the winning entry in a design competition, held as part of a Cultural Revival Workshop, organised by The Islands Coordinating Council in January 1992. The flag was officially presented to the people of the Torres Strait at the sixth Torres Strait Cultural Festival on 29 May 1992.

The flag was recognised by the former national body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in June 1992 and given equal prominence with the Aboriginal flag. In July 1995, the Torres Strait Islander flag was recognised by the Australian Government as an official 'Flag of Australia' under the Flags Act 1953.

Further learning:




AUGUST


4 August
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (Children’s Day) is the largest national day to celebrate our children. Children’s Day is celebrated across Australia each year on 4 August. Further learning:


9 August
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
On 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People would be observed on 9 August every year. This date commemorated the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. 23 August 1966
Gurindji (Wave Hill) Walk Off
On 23 August 1966, the Gurindji people walked off the Wave Hill station (approx. 600kms south of Darwin) in strike. The Gurindji people worked as stockmen and domestic workers on the station which they walked off to protest poor living and employment conditions. The strike lasted until the 1970s when the Gurindji people were handed back part of their land. This event was also important as it led to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) 1976. Further learning:
25 August
Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day
Saturday the 25th August 2012 is the Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day. In 1994, the Commonwealth Government officially recognised the Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) as a distinct cultural group. This was followed by a formal Recognition Statement by the Queensland Government in September 2000, which also acknowledged the past injustices suffered by the ASSI, and the significant contributions they had made to the economic, cultural and social development of QLD Further learning:




SEPTEMBER


September
Indigenous Literacy Day
Indigenous Literacy Day is a national celebration of Indigenous culture, stories, language and literacy. Through activities on the day, we focus our attention on the disadvantages experienced in remote communities and encourage the rest of Australia to raise funds and advocate for more equal access to literacy resources for remote communities. Further learning:


13 September 2007
Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine). Further learning: 25 September 2000
Cathy Freeman wins Olympic Gold medal
Kuku Yalanji woman Cathy Freeman won the gold medal in the 400m at the Sydney Olympic Games. She was the first Australian woman to win an individual track event in 36 years and became the first Aboriginal person to be an Athletics Olympic Champion. Further learning:




OCTOBER


26 October

Anniversary of Uluru hand back

On 26 October 1985, Uluru was handed back to the Anangu people. The Anangu then signed a 99 year agreement to lease the land to the Australian Parks & Wildlife Service.

On the same day in 2019, the Uluru climb was permanently closed.

Further learning:




JUNE


3 June
Mabo Day

On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia handed down the Mabo decision. The decision recognised the land rights (Native Title) of the Meriam people on Mer (Murray Island), overturning the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius’ or ‘land belonging to no one’. ‘Terra nullius’ was the legal justification the British people said they had for invading Australia. The case was led by Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo and was heard over ten years, starting in Queensland before going to the High Court of Australia.

Further learning:

12 June 1988
Anniversary of the Barunga Statement

​On 12 June 1988, the Barunga Statement was presented to then Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the annual Barunga cultural and sporting festival. Painted on bark by Aboriginal people during the festival, the statement called for self determination, land rights, compensation, an end to discrimination and respect for Aboriginal identity. The statement includes an English language translation of the text.

Further learning:

21 June 2007
Northern Territory Intervention declared

​On 21 June 2007, then Prime Minister John Howard announced a ‘national emergency response to protect Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory’ from sexual abuse and family violence. This became known as the ‘NT intervention’ or the ‘Emergency Response’. The justification for this ‘emergency response’ was that paedophile rings were operating in Aboriginal communities, claims which were refuted by the Australian Crime Commission in 2009 after thorough investigation. The release of Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, titled Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle: ‘Little Children are Sacred’ was also offered as justification for the Intervention, however, the legislation went well beyond child protection.

​Some of the measures that were introduced as part of the Intervention include: forced government leases of Aboriginal-owned land, abolishing the permit system for access to Aboriginal-owned land, blanket alcohol bans, and government management of people’s income. In order to pass the legislation required for the Intervention, the Australian government had to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act. Many of the measures introduced were continued under the “Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory” policy from 2012, which remains in place today.

Further learning:




APRIL


5 April 1997
Bringing them Home report released

​‘Bringing them Home’ was the title of the final report by the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now called Australian Human Rights Commission).

​The inquiry was conducted over two years into the impacts of the policies of forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, known as the ‘Stolen Generations’. The stories of over 500 people were heard over the two years, some of which are in the report. There were also 54 recommendations made in the report.

Further learning:

​15 April 1991
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody final report released

​In 1987, the Australian government appointed a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody after several deaths in the 1980s. The Royal Commission held community meetings and public hearings as well as conducting research and receiving submissions from organisations and individuals.

​The final report made 339 recommendations to address the issues found during the investigation. A government review in 2018 found only 64% of the recommendations had been fully implemented and the rate of Indigenous imprisonment had doubled since 1991.

Further learning:




JULY


1 July Coming of the Light
Anniversary of the arrival at Erub Island of members of the London Missionary Society in 1871. The missionaries introduced Christianity to the area and acceptance of Christianity led to changes that affected every aspect of Torres Strait Islander people’s life.
The day is celebrated with religious and cultural ceremonies, across the Torres Strait and on mainland Australia. There are also island-specific celebrations held at other times. Further learning:

July NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is held in the first week (a Sunday to Sunday) of July that incorporates the second Friday, except for 2020 where it will be celebrated from 8-15 November. Each year there is a different theme for the week. Further learning: 12 July 1971 Aborignal 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. It is important to know that use of the Aboriginal flag is currently controlled by three non-Indigenous companies, WAM Clothing, Carroll & Richardson Flagworld and Gifts Mat, who hold exclusive licensing agreements. This means that to use the Aboriginal flag on any merchandise a fee must be paid to these non-Indigenous companies. Blak Business does not endorse this practice. We stand with Clothing The Gap’s Free the Flag campaign and encourage you to support it too. Further learning:





Landing tile artwork: Akweke Stories