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.


1 1993

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)

26 1972 Tent Embassy established in front of Parliament House, Canberra


5 1972 Tent Embassy Petition to Parliament
8 1972 Woodward Land Rights Inquiry established
13 2008 National Apology Day: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008.


19 1999 UN finds Native Title amendments discriminatory
23 2005 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) abolished


1 1897 Resistance leader Jandamarra killed in WA
5 1997 “Bringing Them Home” Stolen Generations Report
15 1991 Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission Report


1 1946 Pilbara Aboriginal Stockmen’s strike, WA
3 1990 ATSIC established
8 1997 Wik ‘10-Point-Plan’ announced
26 1998

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].

27 1967 Referendum
27 1997 National Reconciliation Convention
28 2000 250,000 people walk for reconciliation in Sydney
29 1992 Torres Strait Islander flag launched
30 1980 Tiwi receive title to Tiwi Islands


3 1992 High Court recognised Native Title, Mabo Day
4 2000 50,000 people walk for reconciliation in Brisbane
9 1838 Myall Creek Massacre, NSW
10   Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony, NSW
11 1988 Barunga Statement presented to Prime Minister Hawke


1 1871 Missionaries 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.
2 1971 Evonne 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

8 1998 Discriminatory Native Title amendments passed
12 1971

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.

23 2000 25,000 walk for reconciliation in Hobart


4 1988

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.

9 1994 International Day of Indigenous Peoples declared for this date
14 1963 Bark Petition from Yirrkala to Parliament
16 1975 Return of land to Gurindji, NT
16-30 1928 Conniston Massacre, NT
18 1978 Tiwi Land Council established
24 1966 Gurindji walk-off, Wave Hill Station, NT


1 1998 Sea of Hands, Uluru
2 1991 Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation established
25 2000 Cathy Freeman’s Olympic Gold Medal
28 1983 John Pat dies in police custody. Each year, Aboriginal people remember his and other cases on John Pat Day with memorial services or protest marches.


12 1997 First Sea of Hands, Canberra
26 1985 Uluru returned to traditional owners
28 1834 Battle of Pinjarra, WA
30 1975 Racial Discrimination Act takes effect


26 1986 Pope John Paul II addresses Aboriginal people in Alice Springs


2 2000 350,000 walk for reconciliation in Melbourne and Perth
4 2000 Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Final Report
9 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act passed
23 1996 High 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 September 2014