Aboriginal timeline: Protest

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1928

  1. Aboriginal activist and toymaker Anthony Martin Fernando (1864 - 1949) is picketing Australia House in London. Pinned to his coat
    are scores of small, white, toy skeletons and he’s wearing a placard proclaiming: ‘This is all Australia has left of my people’.

1936

  1. 13 January

    Torres Strait Islanders unite in the Maritime Strike, protesting against poor working conditions of pearl divers and for the Islander’s right to determine how they spend their wages and to control their own affairs. The strike is about equality and autonomy. Islanders used ingenious methods to organise the strike to avoid detection, such as submerging messages for pearl divers or talking in language. The strike lasted 9 months and eventually led to the Queensland government passing the Torres Strait Islander Act 1937 giving legal recognition to Torres Strait Islanders as a separate Indigenous people.

1938

  1. 26 January

    150 years after European occupation the Aboriginal Progressive Association declares a Day of Mourning. An Aboriginal conference is held in Sydney. These are the first of many Aboriginal protests against inequality, injustice, dispossession of land and protectionist policies.

  2. 6 December

    Aboriginal man William Cooper, in his 70s, leads a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to deliver a petition which condemns the "cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany". [1] The Jewish community appreciated Cooper's legacy with a plaque at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne in 2002 in honour of "the Aboriginal people for their actions protesting against the persecution of Jews by the Nazi Government of Germany in 1938."

1939

  1. 4 February

    The first-ever mass strike of Aboriginal people in Australia occurs, called the Cummeragunja Walk-off. Over 150 Aboriginal people pack-up and leave Cummeragunja Aboriginal Station in protest at the cruel treatment and exploitation of residents by the management. They walk 66kms and cross the border from New South Wales into Victoria in contravention of the rules of the New South Wales Protection Board. The opera Pecan Summer tells the story of the walk-off.

1940

  1. Increased mining developments in the 1940s in Western Australia bring protest from Aboriginal people concerned about their land. This lays the basis for the Pindan movement which was to grow from the 1946-49 Pilbara strike by
    Aboriginal pastoral workers.

1945

  1. Aboriginal cattle station workers in the Port Hedland district of Western Australia strike for a pay increase. They are getting 10 shillings a week and are supplied with blankets. Aboriginal people then form a co-operative to mine alluvial wolfram which was successful.

1946

  1. Aboriginal pastoral workers initiate the Pilbara strike in Western Australia over pay, conditions and ill treatment.

1949

  1. February

    A group of Aboriginal stockmen including Ampilatwatja man Banjo Morton walk off from the Lake Nash Cattle Station demanding wages instead of rations. After a short period they are paid one pound a week. It is the first time Aboriginal stockmen walked off disputing labour conditions in the NT.

1957

  1. 10 June

    The Palm Island workforce demonstrates and strikes against unfair wages and apartheid. In response, the Queensland government dispatches 20 police to put the rebellion down. At gunpoint, 7 men and their families are shipped off the island in leg irons and transported to settlements on the mainland.

1965

  1. 12 February

    From 12 to 26 February, Charles Perkins leads a freedom ride by Aboriginal people and students through north-western New South Wales in support of Aboriginal rights. The protesters want to draw attention to segregation (places of leisure in country towns – swimming pools, picture theatres, hotels and RSL clubs), refusal of service in shops,  and the appalling conditions under which Aboriginal people live. The ride exposes the extent of discrimination against Aboriginal people.

1966

  1. Stockmen and women walk off Wave Hill cattle station owned by British aristocrat Lord Vestey, about 700 kms south of Darwin in the Northern Territory, in protest against intolerable working conditions and inadequate wages. They establish a camp at Watti Creek and demand the return of some of their traditional lands. This begins a seven-year fight by the Gurindji people to obtain title to their land.

1969

  1. An Aboriginal delegation goes to New York and presents a statement on Australian Aboriginal people to the office of the UN Secretary-General.

1971

  1. Aboriginal workers walk off the Noonkanbah cattle and sheep station in Western Australia to stop oil drilling on a sacred site.

  2. Larrakia people ‘sit-in’ at Bagot Road, Darwin as a protest against theft of their land.

  3. November

    During a ‘Smash The Acts campaign’ dozens of Aboriginal people march in Sydney to protest against protectionist acts which regulate many aspects of their lives.

1972

  1. January

    Aboriginal activists pitch an Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Parliament House in Canberra, demonstrating for land rights.

  2. 14 July

    On National Aborigines Day there are Australia wide strikes and marches by Aboriginal people.

1975

  1. The Laverton Royal Commission in Western Australia investigating clashes between police and Aboriginal people at Laverton and Skull Creek in December, 1974 and January, 1975, found that police were unable to justify arrests and that some parts of the police story had been invented. The Premier, Sir Charles Court, dismissed the report as “a waste of money”.

1982

  1. October

    Queensland Aboriginal people protest at the Commonwealth Games.

References

View article sources (1)

[9638] 'Campaigner honoured', Koori Mail 516 p.27

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2019, Aboriginal timeline: Protest, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/protest>, retrieved 20 August 2019

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