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  1. 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."


  1. World War II begins. Although Aboriginal people are not recognised as citizens, two Aboriginal military units are established and some Aboriginal people serve in other sections of the armed forces as formally enlisted soldiers, sailors or airmen. Aboriginal people serve in Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific and New Guinea.

  2. Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families during the period 1939 to 1945, including children whose fathers are at war overseas.

  3. The Aborigines Protection Board in South Australia is established.

  4. As a result of the 1937 conference Queensland passes legislation allowing Aboriginal people to receive workers’ compensation, and the Northern Territory government sets up a Native Affairs Branch.

  5. The Queensland government establishes a leprosarium on Fantome Island (Eumilli Island) in the Great Palm Island group, about 65 km north-east of Townsville. Aboriginal patients are sent there to protect white people from catching the disease until 1973 when it is closed.

  6. 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.


  1. In the 1940s most federal social security benefits are extended to Aboriginal people.

  2. 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.

  3. Discrimination against Aboriginal people begins to raise community disquiet. South Australian Premier Thomas Playford requests the Commonwealth government to pay maternity benefits and old age pension to Aboriginal people.

  4. White Australia policy succeeds: 99% of Australia’s 7 million people are white.

  5. Amendments to the NSW Aborigines protection legislation results in the replacement of the Aborigines Protection Board with the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board. Responsibility for Aboriginal education is transferred to the Department for Education, which takes control of reserve buildings and starts to provide trained teachers. ‘Aboriginal’ schools provide education beyond Grade 3.


  1. Dick and Lyn Johnson play in the position of fullback against each other in the City–Country game.

  2. The Child Endowment Act is passed but declares no endowment should be paid to dependent Aboriginal people.


  1. Darwin is bombed by the Japanese. In Arnhem Land, Aboriginal people make up a special reconnaissance unit in defence of Australia. Northern Territory Aboriginal missions are evacuated. Many Aboriginal people evacuated after the bombing are transferred to ‘control camps’ in Victoria, South Australia or New South Wales and some never return. Restrictions are placed on Aboriginal movement, especially of women.

  2. 19-year old Len Waters becomes the first Aboriginal military pilot to be accepted into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). [2] He is also the only Aboriginal fighter pilot to serve during World War II. Len left the air force in 1946 and died in 1993 aged 69. Streets in ACT and Sydney have been named after him.

    Photo of a street sign
    Len Waters Street in Ngunnawal, Australia Capital Territory.
  3. The Methodist Church in North Australia sets up an Aboriginal mission on Elcho Island, Northern Territory.


  1. The Aborigines Welfare Fund is set up "for the general benefit of Aboriginal people". The fund received income from government-operated retail stores, child endowment benefits and Aboriginal wages. Until 1966 a compulsory deduction from Aboriginal peoples' wages was transferred to the fund.

  2. A further amendment to the Aboriginal protection legislation in NSW gives two Aboriginal people - one ‘full-blood’ and one ‘half-caste’ - representation on the Aboriginal Welfare Board. Walter Page and William Ferguson, both Aboriginal Progressive Association members, take up the positions.

  3. An Exemption Certificate is introduced, exempting certain Aboriginal people from restrictive legislation and entitling them to vote, drink alcohol and move freely but prohibiting them from consorting with others who are not exempt. Their children are allowed to be admitted to ordinary public schools.

    Aboriginal people use the derogatory terms ‘dog tags’ or ‘dog licences’ to refer to the certificates. For many Aboriginal people this renunciation of their traditional lifestyle is promoted as the only opportunity to overcome poverty, gain work and access to education and social welfare benefits.


View article sources (2)

[1] 'Campaigner honoured', Koori Mail 516 p.27
[2] 'First Indigenous military pilot remembered', Koori Mail 525 p.15

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2019, Timeline results for , <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/timeline/searchResults?page=10>, retrieved 24 May 2019

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