Aboriginal calendar

When you look at the events which are significant to Aboriginal people you’ll notice that their recent history is one of a fight for rights, land and recognition. It is also a history of sadness, loss and denial.



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 National Close The Gap Day

Harmony Day

Harmony Day, which started in 1999, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. It coincides the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. See also www.harmony.gov.au

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 is 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” [4].

271997National Reconciliation Convention. Reconciliation Week starts.
282000250,000 people walk for reconciliation in Sydney
291992Torres Strait Islander flag launched
301980Tiwi receive title to Tiwi Islands


31992High Court recognised Native Title, Mabo Day. Reconciliation Week ends.
4200050,000 people walk for reconciliation in Brisbane
91838Myall Creek Massacre, NSW
10 Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony, NSW
111988Barunga Statement presented to Prime Minister Hawke


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.
21971Evonne Goolangong Cawley wins Wimbledon


NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

History of NAIDOC Week

From 1940 until 1955, the Day of Mourning was held annually on the Sunday before Australia Day and was known as Aborigines Day. In 1955 Aborigines Day was shifted to the first Sunday in July after it was decided the day should become not simply a protest day but also a celebration of Aboriginal culture.

Major Aboriginal organisations, state and federal governments, and a number of church groups all supported the formation of, the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC, without the ‘I’). This committee was responsible for organising national activities.

At the same time, the second Sunday in July became a day of remembrance for Aboriginal people and their heritage.

In 1975, it was decided that the event should cover a week, from the first to second Sunday in July.

With a growing awareness of the distinct cultural histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, NADOC was expanded to also recognise Torres Strait Islander people and culture. The committee then became known as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC). This new name has become the title for the whole week, not just the day.

What happens during NAIDOC Week?

Each year, a theme is chosen to reflect the important issues and events for NAIDOC Week.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Aboriginal communities, but by Australians from all walks of life.

The Committee makes key decisions on national NAIDOC activities including the focus city, the theme, the National NAIDOC Poster Competition winner and the NAIDOC Awards winners.

For many Aboriginal people a NAIDOC ball is the highlight of the year and they travel hundreds to kilometres to reconnect with their families, to network and meet other members of their communities.

I went to our local council and asked what they did for NAIDOC Week. I was met with blank faces, and asked to explain what it meant.—Annie Moore, a Koorie woman from Victoria [3]

Aboriginal thoughts

For some Aboriginal people, NAIDOC Week is less about their achievements and more about their ongoing struggle.

“The bare bones of what NAIDOC week is really about… is about the people that came before us, who were fed the f*** up with being classed as animals and plants, people who were smacked down every time they tried to change their lot in life,” says an Aboriginal woman in a blog article [5].

Ticket for the NAIDOC Ball

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 Indigenous children like poverty, education access and pride in 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 www.snaicc.asn.au for more information.

91994International Day of Indigenous Peoples declared for this date
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
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
91976Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act passed
231996High Court Wik Native Title decision


View article sources (5)

[1] 'Flag burns as people march', Koori Mail 420, p.38
[2] 'Indigenous kids day celebration', NIT 159 7/8/2008 p.13
[3] 'Now they know what NAIDOC means', reader's letter, Koori Mail 485 p.24
[4] '10 Years of National Sorry Day', Koori Mail 423 p.14; and http://www.ndhr.ca
[5] aboriginaloz.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/naidoc-guest-blog-2-thekooriwoman.html, retrieved 15/7/2013

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:

Aboriginal culture - History - Aboriginal calendar, retrieved 23 May 2015