Learn about some of the significant dates and events in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
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’.
Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day: What’s in a name?
Debunking: ‘There are more important things to talk about than Australia Day’
Survival Day and a New National Holiday
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.
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.
24 March 2005
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.
1 May 1946
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.
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.
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.
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.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
Gurindji (Wave Hill) Walk Off
From Little Things Big Things Grow - Paul Kelly
The Untold Story of the 1966 Wave Hill Walk Off
Wave Hill Anniversary
Wave Hill Walk Off
Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day
Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day
I Am South Sea
Recognition for Australian South Sea Islanders
10 things you should know about slavery in Australia
Indigenous Literacy Day
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
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples video
Cathy Freeman wins Olympic Gold medal
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.