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Justice Drummond in the Federal Court makes a decision that the claim of the Wik and Thayorre Peoples could not succeed over the areas that were subject to pastoral leases. The judge’s reason was that he considered that the grant of pastoral leases under Queensland law extinguished any native title rights.
The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families is established in response to efforts made by key Aboriginal agencies and communities. It examines the effects of separation, identify what should be done in response, find justification for any compensation and look at the laws of that time affecting child separation.
The inquiry holds hearings in all states between December 1995 and October 1996 and received 777 submissions, 69% of those from Indigenous people, 6% from churches and 1% from government.
The Australian Government proclaims the Aboriginal flag as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953.
Northern Territory and Western Australia pass mandatory sentencing laws which affect particularly Aboriginal youths.
Yothu Yindi release their song Treaty, peaking at no 11 on the Australian single chart and quickly becoming a timeless protest song in the campaign for Aboriginal rights reform.
Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party campaign against Aboriginal ‘special treatment’.
Australia’s first Aboriginal judge, Robert ‘Bob’ Bellear, is sworn in as a New South Wales District Court judge. Bellear dies on 14 March 2005, aged 60.
Paul Harriss (Independent) is elected to the Legislative Council in Tasmania, representing the electorate of Huon.
The Council for Reconciliation starts its first National Reconciliation Week.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation organises the first National Reconciliation Week.
Aboriginal sprinter, Cathy Freeman, wins a silver medal in the 400 metres run at the Atlanta Olympics, USA, and Nova Peris-Kneebone becomes the first Aboriginal person to win a gold medal for being part of the victorious Australian women’s hockey team.
The Jawoyn people in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory sign on to the largest single commercial deal in Australian history involving Aboriginal interests. The signing is a major expansion of Aboriginal involvement in the Pegasus Mt Todd Gold Mine.
Seven Palm Island settlement workers win a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission case against the Queensland government for the deliberate underpayment of wages between 1975 (the date from which it was illegal to racially discriminate; Racial Discrimination Act 1975) and 1986 (when the Queensland government finally paid equal wages). The plaintiffs each won $7,000 compensation.
The Wik Decision - the High Court reversed Justice Drummond’s judgement. The High Court found that pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title and that both could co-exist but where there was a conflict native title rights were subordinate to the rights of the pastoral lease holder. The federal government develops ‘Ten Point Plan’ outlining a proposed legislative response to the High Court Wik decision, with the aim of limiting Aboriginal land rights.
The state governments of Australia formally apologise to the Aboriginal people :
- 27 May 1997: Western Australia (Richard Court, Premier; Geoff Gallop, Leader of the Opposition)
- 28 May 1997: South Australia (Dean Brown, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)
- 3 June 1997: Queensland (K.R.Lingard, Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care)
- 17 June 1997: Australian Capital Territory (Kate Carnell, Chief Minister)
- 18 June 1997: New South Wales (Bob Carr, Premier)
- 13 August 1997: Tasmania (Tony Rundle, Premier)
- 17 September 1997: Victoria (Jeff Kennett, Premier)
- 24 October 2001: Northern Territory (Claire Martin, Premier)
On a national level, prime minister John Howard refuses to apologise to the Stolen Generations for another ten years. He is forced out of office in the federal election in 2007, never having apologised.
They can't give me back my mother, my lost childhood... but when Bob Carr gave his apology it was a removal of all my mother's guilt, the secret she bore alone... the apology set her free. — Aunty Nancy de Vries, taken at 14 months 
Hamersley Iron and the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation finalise a unique regional land use agreement making the way of the $500 million Yandicoogina iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The agreement was the result of 20 months of consultation and negotiation.
Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd enters into a detailed Heads of Agreement with the Aboriginal community in Weipa, Cape York, Queensland, for a proposed bauxite mining and shipping operation from Alspac’s existing mining lease at Ely, north of Weipa.
In response to the Wik decision the federal government under Howard develops its 10 Point Plan as the basis for amending the Native Title Act 1993. These amendments are introduced in the spring session (September 1997) of the Commonwealth parliament.
The 700-page report of the ‘Stolen Children’ National Inquiry ‘Bringing Them Home’, is tabled in federal parliament. The report concludes that the forcible removal of children was an act of genocide, contrary to United Nations Convention on Genocide, ratified by Australia in 1949. Australians are shocked by the report’s details.