Back In Time



Indonesian trepang fishers visit northern Australia.


Dutchman Willem Janz and his ship Duyfken explore the western coast of Cape York Peninsula and were the first Europeans to have contact with Australian Indigenous people.  There were clashes between the two groups.

The Spaniard Luis De Torres sailed through Torres Strait.


Dutchman Jan Carstenz described several armed encounters with Indigenous People on the northern coast of Australian.  Shots were fired and an Indigenous man was hit.


Englishman William Dampier visited the west coast of Australia.


Anticipating that Captain Cook would discover the great southern land he was issued with special instructions to "with the consent of the natives take possession of convenient situations in the name of the King ... or if you find the land uninhabited Take Possession for His Majesty."


April 29 Captain James Cook in the Endeavour entered Botany Bay.  After an encounter with local people in Botany Bay Cook wrote that "all they seem'd to want was us to be gone."


August 18 the British Government chose Botany Bay as a penal colony.


18 January Captain Arthur Phillip entered Botany Bay.  A total of nine ships sailed into Botany Bay over three days.

Indigenous people watched the arrival.

25 January Phillip sailed to Port Jackson and between 25 January and 6 February 1,000 officials, marines, dependents and convicts came ashore.

Frenchman La Perouse and two ships arrive at Botany Bay and reamin until March 10.

Resistance and conflict between Europeans and Indigenous people begin almost immediately.

Early February the French fire on Indigenous people at Botany Bay.

29 May the first conflict between the First Fleet arrivals and Indigenous people takes place near Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.  Two convicts are killed.

December, Arabanoo is the first Indigenous person to be captured by Europeans.

Captain Phillip estimates that there are 1,500 Indigenous people living in the Sydney Region.


April, smallpox decimates the Indigenous peopulation of Port Jackson, Botany Bay and Broken Bay.  The disease spread inland and along the coast.

The settlement spreads to Rose Hill, later called Parramatta.

November, Governor Phillip captures two Indigenous men - Bennelong and Colebee.  Colebee escapes but Bennelong is kept at Government House for five months.


Bennelong and a boy named Yemmerrawanie are taken to England by Phillip.  Bennelong meets George III.  Yemmarrawanie dies in England.  In 1795 Bennelong returns to Australia.


September, Pemulwuy spears Phillip's gamekeeper, John McEntire, and Phillip orders the first punitive expedition.  Pemulwuy and his son Tedbury led Indigenous resistance in the Sydney area in a guerrilla campaign lasting several years.


Time-expired convicts granted land around Parramatta.


Colonists spread to Prospect Hill, Kissing Point, Northern Boundary, the Ponds and the Field of Mars.


By August, 70 colonists farming on the Hawkesbury.  Indigenous people are dispossessed of their land.


Punitive party pursue Pemulwuy and about 100 Indigenous people to Parramatta.  Pemulwuy is wounded and captured but later escapes.


Colonists dispossess Indigenous people of land around Georges River flats and Bankstown.


Two Indigenous boys killed near Windsor by five Hawkesbury settlers.  A court martial found them guilty but referred sentencing to the Secretary of State for Colonies and the men are released on bail.  Govenor Hunter is recalled.  Acting-Governor King is instructed to pardon the men.

Beginning of a six-year period of resistance to white settlement by Indigenous people in the Hawkesbury and Parramatta areas.  Known as the 'Black Wars'.


April, Governor King orders Indigenous people gathering around Parramatta, Georges River and Prospect Hill "to be driven back from the settler's habitation by firing at them."


June 30, Proclamation stating: "His Majesty forbids any act of injustice or wanton cruelty to the Natives, yet the settler is not to suffer his property to be invaded or his existence endangered by them, in preserving which he is to use the effectual, but at the same time the most humane, means of resisting such attacks."

Shortly after this Pemulwuy is shot by two settlers.  Tedbury continues the resistance.


Settlements established near present-day Melbourne at Port Phillip and in Tasmania at Risdon, on the Derwent River by Governor King.  The settlement at Port Phillip is abandoned.


Colonists are authorised by Lt. Moore to shoot 50 Indigenous people at Risdon Cover in response to Indigenous resistance.  Hostilities increase - the slaughter of Indigenous people in Van Diemen's Land has begun.


Most of the Cumberland Plain west of Sydney is occupied by colonists.  The Darug people are being dispossessed of their land.


Indigenous people trying to defend their land, kill colonists.  A Government order on 19 April directed Captain William Bligh to send soldiers "for their [colonists] protection against those uncivilised insurgents."

20 July the colony's Judge-Advocate, Richard Atkins when referring to whether or not Indigenous people could be witnesses or criminals before a court stated that Indigenous people "are at present incapable of being brought before a criminal court - and that the only mode at present when they deserve it, is to pursue them and inflict such punishment as they merit."


Tedbury is wounded but there are no records of what happened to him.


Colonists, assisted by Indigenous people, cross the Blue Mountains.  Create new hositilities as they pass through Indigenous lands.


The establisment of a "Native institution at Parramatta" by Govenor Macquarie to "civilise, educate and foster habits of industry and decency in the Aborigines."  An annual 'feast' is also begun to reunite parents with children, who have been separated from their parents to attend the institution.


Remnants of the Broken Bay Indigenous people are established on a reserve at George's Head.


Attacks on farms by Indigenous people on the edge of Sydney.  Macquarie sends Captain James Wallis with three detachments of the 76th Regiment to arrest 'offenders'.  They attack a camp near Appin at night and 14 Indigenous people are killed including Carnabyagal.

4 May Macquarie announces a set of regulations controlling the free movement of Indigenous people.

No Indigenous person is to appear armed within a mile of any settlement and no more than six Indigenous people are allowed to 'lurk or loiter near farms.'

Passports or certificates are issued to Indigenous people "who conduct themselves in a suitable manner", to show they are officially accepted by Europeans.

Five areas are set aside by Macquarie as agriculture reserves for the settlement of Indigenous people from the Sydney area.  The Indigenous people who settle on these lands are given seed, tools, stores and clothes for six months.  Convicts are assigned to help with cultivation of crops.


Rapid expansion of the colony into present day Queensland.  A penal settlement set up at Redcliffe but moved to present day Brisbane three months later.

Colonists spread west of the Blue Mountains and establish stations.

There are a number of large scale killings as conflict over dispossession of land and erosion of hunting rights continue.


'Saturday' leads Indigenous resistance in the Bathurst area.

August, martial law is proclaimed in the Bathurst area when seven Europeans are killed by Indigenous people and conflict with Indigenous people is seen as a serious threat.  Soldiers, mounted police, settlers and stockmen carry out numerous attacks on Indigenous people.  As many as 100 Indigenous people are killed.  Martial law stops in December.

August - a Mission is established at Lake Macquarie, north of Sydney.


John Oxley leads an expedition to the Liverpool Plains west of present day Tamworth, NSW.  This area is settled in the 1830s, with an increase in settlers during the 1837-1845 drought, when more land is needed.  Kamilaroi people are dispossessed of their land.


A colony is set up in Perth, on the south-west coast of Australia.


October beginning of the Black Wars in Tasmania.  Governor Arthur tries unsuccessfully to drive all the remaining Indigenous people in eastern Van Diemen's land on to the Tasman Peninsula.  2 200 men form a 'Black Line.'  It cost 5000 pounds and only two Indigenous people are caught - an old man and a young boy.


October, Governor Stirling leads a party of men to a site near present day Pinjarra, on the Swan River and attacks 80 Indigenous people.  One of Stirling's men dies and many Indigenous people are killed.  Official reports say that 14 Indigenous people were killed by Indigenous accounts suggest a whole clan was decimated in the attack.  This became known as the 'Battle of Pinjarra.'  The battle was an attempt to punish Indigenous people south of Perth, after conflict with settlers.

Indigenous people are unsuccessful in defending their land and are dispossessed.


John Batman attempts to make a 'treaty' with Indigenous people for Port Phillip Bay, near present day Melbourne by 'buying' 243 000 hectares with 20 pairs of blankets, 30 tomahawks, various other articles and a yearly tribute.  Governor Burke does not recognise the 'treaty' and the purchase is voided.  This is the only time colonists attempt to sign a treaty for land with Indigenous owners.

The Dunghutti people of north coast NSW are now confined to 40 hectares of land on the Bellwood Reserve, near present day Kempsey.  They previously owned 250 000 hectares.

October, George Augustus Robinson, who sees himself as a protector of Indigenous people, takes over the European style settlement on Flinders Island in Bass Strait.  He spent much time convincing Indigenous people on Van Dieman's Land to move to Flinders Island.  After most Indigenous people have died from various diseases the protectorate is abandoned in December 1849.


Port Phillip Bay District established.  As the settlement expands Indigenous lives are severely disrupted and people die in great numbers.

Colony of South Australia is founded. A protector of Indigenous people is appointed by the Kaurna people, near Adelaide, are unable to maintain life as a group because of the expanding settlement and loss of their land.


A select committee of the British House of Commons said that Indigenous people had a "plain right and sacred right" to their land.

The committee reports genocide is happening in the colonies.


Conflict between Indigenous people and settlers, stockmen and shepherds increases on the Liverpool Plains between 1827-1837.


Drought on the north-west plains of NSW.  Drying up of creeks and waterholes, forces Indigenous people to kill sheep and cattle on European holdings, and move towards settlements looking for food.


January, Major Nunn's campaign.  Mounted police, mostly European volunteers, set out in response to conflict on the Liverpool Plains, north central NSW.  At Vinegar Hill, a site on 'Slaughterhouse Creek', 60-70 Indigenous people are reported killed.  The only European casualty is a corporal, speared in the leg.

11 April, "Faithful Massacre" at Owens Creek, Vicotia.  Ten Europeans travelling south from NSW with G. P. Faithful, killed by Indigenous people.

'The Bushwack' or 'The Drive', against Indigenous people, is initiated by squatters and their stockmen to clear the Myall Creek area, near present day Inverell, NSW.

On 10 June, the 'Myall Creek Massacre' occurs.  12 heavily armed colonists rounded up and brutally kill 28 Indigenous people from a group of 40 or 50 people gathered at Henry Dangar's Station, at Myall Creek.  The massacre was believed to be a payback for the killing of several hut keepers and two shepherds.  But most of those killed were women and children and good relations existed between the Indigenous people and European occupants of the station.  15 Novemer, 11 Europeans were charged with murder but are acquitted.  A new trial is held and seven men are charged with murder of one Indigenous child.  They are found guilty and hanged in December.

Competition between Indigenous people and colonists develops for water on Bogan River, west of present day Dubbo.  Seven Europeans and their overseer are killed on William Fee's outstation.  Border Police formed after the Myall Creek Massacre, arrive from Bathurst and almost all men of the group involved are killed.

Reports of poisoning of Indigenous people on 'Tarrone' near Port Fairy, West Melbourned and 'Kilcoy' noth-west Moreton Bay.  Flour is poisoned and left in shepherds' huts on 'Kilcoy' in the expectation that Indigenous people now dispossessed of hunting grounds would take it.


Governor Bourke of NSW ordered the establishment of the Native Police, in the Port Phillip district.  They are trained to disperse groups of Indigenous people.  This force is disbanded in 1853.

Native Police forces operated punitive expeditions and attacked and killed many station Indigenous people.  The force was lead by European officers.  The force played a significant role in later years, in 'settling' hostilities in the Macleay and Clarence River Regions of NSW.  Native Police were used extensively against Indigenous people in Queensland.  They were later disbanded and replaced by civil police, following increasing concern within non-Indigenous communities concerning the forces' activities.  The force was finally disbanded in Queensland in 1897.


A number of squatters abandon their stations because of continued resistance of Indigenous people in defence of their land which includes attacks on properties.


About 50 remaining Indigenous people from the Sydney and Botany Bay peoples are living at a camp on Botany Heads.


Native Police are used to 'settle' hostilities on the northern plains of NSW.  Hostilities lessen in the area.


The Board of National Education, established in NSW states "It is impractical to provide any form of education for the children of the blacks."

Native Police are introduced into northern regions with headquarters at Callandoon near present day Goondiwindi, on the Macintyre River.


A select committee of the NSW Government claimed that protectors of Indigenous people serve no purpose and should be abolished.

Land Commissioner McDonald reported widespread food shortages among Indigenous people in the Murray District after their displacement by pastoralists who took their land for sheep stations.

December, Flinders Island Protectorate in Bass Strait abandoned after most Indigenous people have died from various diseases.


The Colony of Victoria established.


27 October The Jiman people kill 11 Europeans at Martha Fraser's Hornet Bank Station on the Dawson River, central Queensland.  Local squatters with the help of the Native Police later shoot several Jiman men.


A Board of Protection is established in Victoria and continues until 1957.  During the next 20 years nearly 11 000 hectares of land are 'temporarily reserved.'  By 1900, most Victorian Indigenous people are placed on reserves.


17 October, a party of settlers led by Horatio Spencer Wills, is attacked by Indigenous people at the new Cullin-la-ringo station, near Emerald, Queensland.  Wills and 18 Europeans are killed.  Native Police deserters are said to be the ringleaders.  A puntive party set out immediately and numerous Indigenous people are slaughtered.


Indigenous cricket team tours England.  Some members of the team find it difficult to adapt to the climate and have to return home.  One team member dies.


150 Indigenous people are killed resisting arrest in the Kimberley.


A settlement is established in Darwin.

Punitive expeditions are common in the north and north-west until the 1930s.

Act for "Protection and Management of Aboriginal Natives" is passed in Victoria.


The Maloga Mission is established as a refuge for Indigenous people in NSW.


8 May Truganini dies in Hobart aged 73.  The Tasmanian Government does not recognise the Indigenous heritage of people of Indigenous descent and claims the last Tasmanian Indigenous person has died.  A falsehood many still believe today.


In the early 1870s the first Indigenous children are enrolled in the public schools in NSW.  By 1880 there are 200 Indigenous children in school in NSW.


The Hermansburg Mission is established on the Finke River, Northern Territory by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and the Hermannsburg Mission Society of North Germany.


South Australia introduces a Protection Policy.


A Protector of Aborigines is appointed in NSW.  The Protector has the power to create reserves and to force Indigenous people to live on them.

The Minister for Education establishes separate schools for excluded Indigenous children.  The protector attempts to provide reserves with a building where a school can be run by the Department of Education.  Where this is not possible, Indigenous children can attend the local public schools providing they are "habitually clean, decently clad and that they conduct themselves with propriety, both in and out of school."


The Aboriginal Protection Board is established in NSW.  Indigenous people at Maloga Mission on the Murray River are moved to Cumeroogunga.  By the end of the 1880s several reserves have been established in NSW.  Reserves are set up far enough away from towns so that contact with Europeans is limited.  Segregation is a key part of Aboriginal Protection Policy.

White parents object to about 16 Indigenous children attending a public school at Yass.  The Minister for Education, George Reid, stops the children from attending school stating, in general that although creed or colour should not exclude a child "cases may arise, especially amongst the Aboriginal tribes, where the admission of a child or children may be prejudical to the whole school."


Western Australian Aborigines Protection Act provided for a Protection Board.

The Victorian Aborigines Protection Act excludes "half-castes" from their definition of an Aboriginal person.  As a result nearly half the residents of the stations have to leave their homes.


Jandamarra, an Indigenous resistance fighter, declares war on European invaders in the West Kimberley and prevents settlement for six years.

In the 1890s Western Australia gives increased law enforcement powers to its justices of the peace who can sentence Indigenous people to three years gaol or 24 lashes for offences such as sheep stealing.  However, no Western Australian jury convicts a Europeaqn for killing an Indigenous person, even though in one case a European had tied an Indigenous person to his horse and dragged the main along the ground to his death.


2 May - a man hunt lasting almost three years followed the spearing by Indigenous people of S Murskiewicz at Dora Dora Creek, 68km from Albury.  The two Indigenous people responsible were finally caught in Queensland.


The Queensland Aboriginals' Protection and Restriction of Sale of Opium Act established reserves and provides for the appointment of protectors.  Europeans are permitted to employ Indigenous people but Chinese people are not.  This Act with some amendments in 1901 and 1934 remains the chief statement of Queensland Policy until 1939 when a new Act is passed.

Jandamarra, Kimberley's resistance fighter is shot and 19 former Indigenous prisoners who he had freed and were fighting with him are also shot and killed.


During 1900 Jimmy and Joe Governor, and Jackie Underwood kill seven Europeans in NSW because Jimmy Governor took offense at slurs passed upon his European wife.  Joe was later shot dead and Jimmy and Underwood were arrested.

TIMELINE - CONTACT 1901 - 1969


1 January - Federaqtion - The Commonwealth Constitution states "in reckoning the numbers of people ... Aboriginal natives shall not be counted."  It also states that the Commonwealth would legislate for any race except Aborigines.  The states therefore retain their power over Aboriginal Affairs.


The Queensland Government establishes Cherbourg, an Indigenous community, about 30km from Gympie.


The Western Australia Aborigines Act is passed.  Reserves are established, a local protector is appointed and rules governing Indigenous employment are laid down.


The Invalid and Old Age Pension Act provides social security for all Australians except Indigenous people.

1909 - 1910

NSW introduces the NSW Aborigines Act following crises in public schools.  Indigenous schools are established in NSW during the early part of the 20th century.  Exclusion of Indigenous children from public schools followed requests by the European community.  In NSW, there are 22 Indigenous schools in 1910, 35 in 1920 and 40 in 1940.  The syllabus stresses manual activities and the teacher is usually the reserve manager's untrained wife.

The Act also made it illegal for 'half castes' to live on reserves.  In 1915 and 1918 amendments to the Act give the NSW Aborigines Protection Board greater powers to remove children for training as domestic servants.


The Victorian Aborigines Act permitted the Board for Protection of Aborigines to help 'half castes' by licensing needy persons to live on stations.

An inquiry is held into the Forest River Massacre in the Kimberley.

The Aborigines Protection Board Act is passed which gives the Protection Board 'legal' control over Indigenous people on stations and reserves but not missions, in the Northern Territory.


The South Australian Aboriginal Act is this state's first legislation relating directly to Indigenous people.


Maternity Allowance is introduced does not include Indigenous people.


The United Church in North Australia opens an Indigenous mission on South Goulburn Island.


The Queensland Government establishes an Indigenous station - Palm Island - in the Palm Isles.

The Northern Territory Aboriginal Ordinance Act "ensured that Aborigines could not drink or possess or supply alcohol or methylated spirits, could not come within 2 chains of licensed premises, have firearms, marry a non-Indigenous person without permission or have sex across the colour line."

The Ordinance also forbids mining on Aboriginal Reserve Land.


Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, is named an Aboriginal Reserve.  A number of missions have been established here.

The Indigenous population of Australia is estimated to be 60 000.  It is widely believed to be a 'dying race.'


The Church Missionary Society of the Church of England set up a mission at Oenpelli, Central Australia.  The Indigenous community later run a water buffalo farm and sell X-ray style bark paintings.

Conniston Massacre in the Northern Territory.  Europeans shoot 32 Indigenous people after a European dingo trapper, and a station holder are attacked by Indigenous people.

A court of inquiry says the Europeans' action was 'justified'.  Indigenous people are refused legal aid by the Federal Government.

Some reserves are leased to non-Indigenous settlers in Victoria.


Queensland Protector of Aborigines recommends to the Federal Government that Aborigines be assimilated where they are in contact with European society and that invoilable reserves be established for tribal people.


Victorian William Cooper, petitions the King to have an Indigenous represetative in the Lower House of Federal Parliament.  A similar attempt is made in NSW.  They are unsuccessful.

In the 1930s clashes occur between Indigenous and Japanese fishers on the coast of Arnhem Land.  Several Japanese are fatally speared.

Gradual change occurs in attitudes of non-Indigenous people.  Passive policies become more positive.  Welfare Organisations and anthropologists become more active.


At Caledon Bay, Western Australia, a Japanese and three Europeans are killed by the local landowners.


The Arnhem Land Reserve is declared.


The Methodist Overseas Mission establishes Yirrakala, an Indigenous community on the Gove Peninsula, Northern Territory.  It was later taken over by the United Church in North Australia.

A Roman Catholic Mission is established at Port Keats, Northern Territory.


At a conference of state and federal officials called by the Federal Government, assimilation for some Indigenous people is adopted as official policy.  Part Indigenous people are to be assimilated into white society whether they want to be or not, Indigenous people not living a tribal life are to be educated and all others are to stay on reserves.

June, William Ferguson launches in Dubbo, NSW, the Aborigines Progressive Association, in opposition  to the Aborigines Protection Board, after officials of the Board had arbitrarily used their powers to harass Indigenous people.

The Presbyterian Church establishes a mission - Ernabella - in the Musgrave Ranges, South Australia.


On 26 January, 150 years after European occupation, the Aboriginal Progressive Association declares a Day of Mourning.  An Indigenous Conference is held in Sydney.  These are the first of many Indigenous protests against inequality, injustice, dispossession of land, and protectionist policies.

For the Europeans 'celebration' of 150 years of "settlement" in NSW - Indigenous people are trucked to Sydney to take part in the re-enactment of the British landing on 26 January 1788.  Indigenous people are threatened with starvation if they do not play their role.

NSW Government changes Aboriginal policy from protection to assimilation following the 1937 conference.

December, Albert Namatjira holds his first exhibition in Melbourne of 41 works.  All works are sold in three days.


Protest at Cumeroogunga, NSW, over malnutrition and ill treatment.

The Aborigines Protection Board in South Australia is established.

As a result of the 1937 conference Queensland passes legislation allowing Indigenous people to receive workers' compensation.  Also as a result of this conference a Native Affairs Branch is set up in the Northern Territory.


Amendments to the NSW Aborigines protection legislation results in the replacement of the Aborigines Protection Board with the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board.  Responsibility for Indigenous Education is transferred to the Department for Education, which takes control of reserve buildings and started to provide trained teachers.

The Aborigines Progressive Association had campaigned to bring about reforms to the NSW Protection Board.

In the 1940s most Federal social security benefits are extended to Indigenous people.

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


The Child Endowment Act is passed but no endowment is paid to nomadic or dependent Indigenous people.

The numbers of district protectors in Western Australia is increased.


Darwin is bombed by the Japanese.  Many Indigenous people are relocated to 'control camps' and restrictions are placed on Indigenous movement, especially women.  In Arnhem Land Indigenous people make up special reconnaissance unit in defence against the Japanese.

The United Church in North Australia set up an Indigenous mission on Elcho Island, Northern Territory.


A further amendment to the Indigenous protection legislation in NSW gives two Indigenous 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.


2 October, Education Gazette, NSW states "children of any Aborigine securing an Exemption Certificate are to be admitted to the ordinary public school."


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

An investigation shows Indigenous people on Lord Vestey's Northern Territory cattle station are getting poor rations, inadequate housing, water and sanitation facilities, and are paid less that the 5?- a day minimum wage, which was set for Indigenous people in a 1918 Ordiance.  European males are receiving 2 pounds/8/- a week in 1945.


Indigenous children need a medical certificate to attend public schools.

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


The Commonwealth Citizenship and Nationality Act for the first time gives a category of "Australian Citizenship" to all Australians, including all Indigenous people.  However, at state level Indigenous people still suffer legal discrimination.

The Coranderrk Lands Act alienates Victoria's only 'permanent reservation.'  In 1951 the remainder of Lake Condah reserve is revoked despite Indigenous resistance.


The Commonwealth Electoral Act extends the franchise to Indigenous ex-service men only.

Douglas Nicholls, an Indigenous pastor is unsuccessful in petitioning the King to have an Indigenous representative in the Victorian Parliament.


The first formal schooling for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory is provided.  Lack of facilities is rationalised by the claim that children "beyond the age of 10 couldn't keep up with white children anyway."

Indigenous children assimilate into NSW local schools, if all other parents agree.  This right of veto is removed in 1960.


The Northern Territory Welfare Ordinance makes Indigenous people wards of the government, basically making Indigenous adults and children minors.

Atom tests are conducted on Maralinga lands at Emu, South Australia.  They are code named Operation Totem.  A black cloud passes and many Indigenous people suffer radiation sickness.


The Australian Capital Territory Aboriginal Welfare Ordinance is passed.  Before this, Indigenous people in the ACT came under NSW law.  Most Indigenous people in the ACT are living at Jervis Bay.  The ordinance is repealed in 1965.


Further atom tests at Maralinga, South Australia - Operation Buffalo.


Operation Antler atom tests at Maralinga, South Australia.  The presence of Indigenous people on the test site is documented.

The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders is set up.  This group combines a number of civil rights and Indigenous welfare organisations.  The work of this group plays a large part in bringing about the 1967 Referendum.

Formation of the NADOC - National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee.


Indigenous men Ernie Mitchel and Peter Coffin receive 50 pounds in damages for slander against an ABC reporter in Western Australia.


The Victorian (Houses) Act encourages a rehousing policy.

The Victorian Aborigines Advancement League begins assisting residents of the Cumeroogunga reserve, NSW, in their fight to regain land leased since the 1920s.  When the lease ended in 1960 the co-operative, Cumeroogunga Pty Ltd, began farming the land.


December, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies is formed in Canberra.


The Commonwealth Electoral Act is amended to give the vote to all Indigenous people.

The Aboriginal Affairs Act in South Australia reconstituted the Aborigines Protection Board and South Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs.  The Act also limited mining on reserves by people other than Indigenous.

Indigenous people in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are given the right to vote in Federal elections.  Indigenous people are not made to register but once they have voting is compulsory.

In NSW the prohibition on Indigenous access to alcohol is removed.


In July a bark petition against mining on the Gove Peninsula is drawn up by the senior men of the affected clans.  On 28 August the petition is presented to the Governor General.  Although it is signed by more senior clan members, the Federal Government fails to recognise Indigenous political structure and rejects the petition because of insufficient signatures.  Also in August, a select committee on the grievances of Indigenous people at Yirrkala on the Gove Peninsula is appointed.  From the 1-3 September the committee visits Yirrkala.  Their report is tabled in Parliament in October.

Police evict residents at Mapoon, Queensland.  The people are taken to other reserves and their settlement is burned down, to allow mining by Comalco.

BHP and the Church Missionary Society at Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory sign an agreement which provides lump sum payments and royalties for use of land by BHP.

The Western Australian Native Welfare Act repeals the 1905 Act and alters the definition of an Indigenous person and eligibility for aid.


The Northern Territory Social Welfare Ordinance replaces the Welfare Ordinance supposedly putting Indigenous people on the same level as other Australians.  But the Ward's Employment Ordinance remains in force leaving Indigenous people on Christian missions and government settlements, about two-thirds of the Indigenous people in the Northern Territory, unequal in employment, wages, vocational training and housing.


Integration Policy is introduced, meaning Indigenous people are supposed to have more control over their life and society.

Northern Territory patrol officers 'bring in' the last group of Indigenous people - the Pintubi people - living an independent life in the desert.  The Pintubi people are relocated to Papunya and Yuendumu.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' Affairs Act, passed in Queensland, gives the Director of Aboriginal Affairs considerable power over 'assisted' Aborigines.  For example, an assisted Aborigine could be detained for up to a year for behaving in an 'offensive, threatening, insolent, insulting, disorderly, obscene or indecent manner', or 'leaving, escaping or attempting to leave or escape from the reserve.'

In the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Frank Ganngu and Elsie Darbuma's application for the return of their three children, who were taken from the leprosarium at the Oenpelli mission and fostered out is rejected.


Stockmen and women at Wave Hill walk-off 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 began a seven year fight by the Gurindji people to obtain title to their land.

Cumeroogunga Pty Ltd become 'tenants at will' of the NSW Aboriginal Welfare Board under an agreement to farm the remainder of the Cumeroogunga reserve.

The South Australian Prohibition of Discrimination Act is the first of its kind in Australia and bands all types of race and colour discrimination in employment, accommodation, legal contracts and public facilities.

The South Australian Lands Trust Act is the first legislation providing land ownership and compensation to dispossessed Indigenous people.  The Act set up a trust composed of Indigenous people.  It enables Indigenous people to obtain specific title to reserves, where reserves existed.

Charles Perkins and Margaret Valadian are the first Indigenous university graduates.


The Commonwealth Referendum passes.  This ends constitutional discrimination and all Indigenous people are now counted in the national census.  It also means that the Federal Government can now legislate for Indigenous people in the states and share the responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs with state governments.  All states except Queensland, abandon laws and policies that discrimate against Indigenous people.  The first census fully including Indigenous people is in 1971.

The Gurindji people petition the Governor General for 1 295 square kilometres of the land to be excised from Wave Hill pastoral lease.


Indigenous workers are included in the Northern Territory Cattle Industries Award.

Nabalco and the Federal Government sign an agreement giving Nabalco a 42 year special lease to mine bauxite near Yirrkala in the Arnhem Land reserve.

Desecration of the Weebo Site in Western Australia eventually led to the Western Australian Heritage Act being proclaimed in 1972.

The Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs is established and in 1972 becomes the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.


Aborigines Welfare Board in NSW is abolished.

The Federal Government establishes the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation to help finance sports activities.

An Indigenous delegation goes to New York and presents a statement on Australian Aborigines to the Office of the UN Secretary-General.

The NSW Aborigines Act transfers control to the directorate within the NSW Department of Youth and Community Services.  An Aboriginal Advisory Council is set up.  The directorate is abolished in 1975 and the staff transferred to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

TIMELINE - CONTACT 1970 - 2000


Indigenous trustees of the Lake Tyer and Framlingham reserves in Victoria are granted individual land title, not communcal title as most preferred as this would prevent sections being sold off, as they later were.

The Gibb Inquiry looks into the situation of Indigenous people on pastoral properties in the Northern Territory.  The government is slow to create living areas of excisions in pastoral properties.

Some people from Maningrida in the Northern Territory, left and went back to a preferred way of life on their home estates.  These estates were called 'outstations' and later 'homeland centres'.  By 1972 many people had moved back to their traditional homelands.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Parks and Wildlife Service names areas at West Point, Sundown Point and Mt Cameraon West as Indigenous sites.


Noonkanbah station workers walk off.

Gumatji Elders Millrrpum and others take on Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Federal Government in the Gove Land Rights Case following on from the bark petition.  The Northern Territory Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people did not, under Australian law own the Arnhem Land reserve.  This meant Nabalco could mine the land.

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

Queensland Aborigines Act is passed.  Under it some legal restrictions for Indigenous people living on reseves are maintained.  Indigenous cultural customs are banned and reading matter, mail, recreation, and marital and sexual relationships are censored.  Their work and wage worth can be decreased and their movements recorded.

NSW Aboriginal Legal Service is formed.

The Northern Territory Ordinance is repealed.

Nevile Bonner becomes the first Indigenous member of Parliament when he filled a casual Senate vacancy.  In 1972 he is elected on the Liberal Party ticket in Queensland.

Evonne Goolagong wins the women's singles at Wimbledon.


January - July the 'Aboriginal Embassy' is pitched outside Parliament House in Canberra demonstrating for land rights.

14 July - National Aborigines Day there are Australia wide strikes and marches by Indigenous people.

23 August, NSW Director-General of Education approved the removal of the section of the teachers' handbook that allowed school principals the right to refuse enrolment to Indigenous children because of home conditions or substantial opposition from the community.

Aboriginal Heritage Act is proclaimed in Western Australia.

The Whitlam Government introduces a policy of self-determination.

December, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established by the Whitlam Government.  By 1975 offices had been established in all states and only Queensland had not transferred to the department all major responsibilities for Indigenous policy and administration.

December, the Whitlam Government freezes all applications for mining and exploration on Commonwealth Aboriginal reserves.

A community controlled Aboriginal Medical Service is set up in Redfern, Sydney.  The first in Australia.


Mr Justice Woodward of the Aboriginal Land Commission delivers his first report, showing the way for a new approch to Aboriginal Land Rights.

Department of Aboriginal Affairs begins a national program to improve the health and health services of Indigenous people.

The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is swet up to advise the Federal Government on Indigenous affairs.  Indigenous people elect the members.

Cumeroogunga Pty Ltd buy back adjacent land after receiving a grant from the Capital Loan Fund.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Trust is set up to receive freehold ownership of former Indigenous reserves.


Justice Woodward's second report says "to deny Aborigines the right to prevent mining on their land is to deny the reality of their Land Rights."  His report is accepted in principle by all political parties and most states.

A Commonwealth Act establishes the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission to buy land for Indigenous corporate groups.  Since then many properties have been acquired throughout Australia.  The fund was replaced by the ADC (Aboriginal Development Council) in 1980.


11 June, Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act comes into force.

The National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation is set up.

Gurindji people receive leasehold title to some of their traditional land in the Northern Territory.

The World Council of Indigenous People is founded.


The Laverton Royal Commission in Western Australia investigating clashes between police and Indigenous 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."

Ranger Uranium and Environmental Inquiry examines the effects of mining on Indigenous people.


Establishment of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act is passed by the Federal Parliament.  It provides recognition of Indigenous land ownership by about 11 000 Indigenous people.  It enables traditional Indigenous lands to be granted to the Aboriginal Lands Trust.

Three Land Councils are founded and an office of Aboriginal Land Commissioners is created.

In first claim under the Act, Mr Justice Fox, who ran the Ranger Uranium and Environmental Inquiry recommends that traditional owenrs in the Alligator River region be granted land.  Mining and tourism continue to operate in the area.

The Pitjantjatjara Council is formed.


The National Aboriginal Education Committee is established.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Act comes into force.

NSW Land Council is established by Indigenous people in Sydney.

Indigenous women Isobel Coe received $100 in damages in the Moree District Court, NSW against Malcolm Barber who refused her entrance to his bar.

The Northern, Central and Tiwi Land Councils are established under the Land Rights (NT) Act.

Mr Justice Toohey is appointed Land Commissioner in the Northern Territory.

The first Land Claim hearing to Crown land at Borroloola commences.

The National Trachoma and Eye Health Program finds that of 60 000 Indigenous people examined, more than half fave trachoma.  The infect rate is as high as 80 percent in some areas.


Pat O'Shane becomes the first Indigenous law graduate and barrister.

The Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance is passed, instituting prosecution for trespass and desecration of Indigenous sites.

The South Coast Aboriginal Regional Council in NSW is formed by Indigenous people living in Wollongton and Eden.

Land titles are granted to 15 Aboriginal Land Trusts in the Northern Territory.

Western Australian Government agrees that some of the money earned by mining land held by the Aboriginal Lands Trusts "would go to the Aborigines."

The Kimberley Land Council is formed.  It received no Government assistance.

The North Queensland Land Council is established without government assistance.

The Northern Territory is given self-government by the Fraser Government.

3 November the Northern Land Council and Commonwealth Government signed the Ranger uranium mining agreement.


The Aboriginal Development Commission is established.

The Coe v Commonwealth, Coe is unsuccessful in challenging the legal concept that Australia had been an uninhabited land which had been settled no conquered.

By 1979 NSW Land Trust had gained 144 properties, all former Indigenous Reserves.

June, the Western Australian Supreme Court grants an injunction against the American based Amax company which want to explore Noonkanbah for oil.  Test drilling finally goes ahead despite Indigenous resistance which is supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across Australia.


The Pitjantjatjara Council advises the Aboriginal Affairs Minister of the possible radioactive contamination of Indigenous people at Wallatinna Station, South Australia as a result of atomic tests.  The 'Black Mist' of 1953 is brought to public attention with symptoms of sight loss and skin rashes being reported.  A number of Indigenous people die as a result of the British atomic tests and up to 1 000 are directly affected.

September, the National Federation of Land Councils is formed.


Pitjantjatjara people of South Australia are granted land under the Pitjantjara Land Rights Act (SA).  A large area of the state is returned to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara.


Victorian Premier Cain announces legislation is to be passed recognising the Indigenous ownership of the Framlingham Forest near Warrnambool.

Indigenous people at the Hermannsburg mission are granted freehold title.

October, Queensland Indigenous people protest at the Commonwealth Games.

Northern Land Council sign an agreement with the Pan-Continental mining company allowing the company to mine uranium at Jabiluka.

Death of John Pat in Roebourne (WA) gaol.  The first death in custody to be widely protested and eventually leads to the setting up of the Muirhead enquiry.

The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act is uphealth as able to override inconsistent state laws.


In September a Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Inquiry is established by the Federal Government.  Prime Minister Hawke announces the removal of Indigenous peoples' limited right to say 'yes' or 'no' to mining on Indigenous land in the Northern Territory in the context of 'Uniform Land Rights.'

A Royal Commission is opened into the British Nuclear Tests.


Uluru is handed back to the traditional owners.

In the 'Come to Canberra Campaign' joint land councils from the Northern Territory and the States go to Parliament House, Canberra to protest against the proposed changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of the Northern Territory and the inaequate provisions in Hawke's visions of 'Uniform National Land Rights'.

The Pitjantjatjara Council makes an agreement with Amoco Petroleum for exploration on 20 000 square kilometres of their land.


Northern Territory elections are held and for the first time voting is compulsory for Indigenous people.

A Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody begins.

Imparja Television Company receives the first TV Broadcasting license issued to an Indigenous organisation.


Long March.  Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders from around Australia converge on Sydney for protest on 26 January.  1988 is a year of celebration of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander survival.

Burunga Statement.  Prime Minister Hawke affairms that the Government is committed to work for a negotiated Treaty with Indigenous People.

Second Indigenous cricket team tours England.

Human Rights Commission reports that conditions at Toomelah and Boggabilla settlements are worse that third world countries.

Justice Muirhead presents interim report on Black Deaths in Custody.


The NSW Taskforce on Aboriginal Heritage and Culture recommends that responsibility for Indigenous heritage be removed from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and that a separate Aboriginal Heritage Commission be established.

A resolution on Indigenous prior ownership and dispossession is passed at the opening of the new Parliament House in Canberra.  It is not supported by the Liberal Party.


The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act passes through Federal Parliament with cross-party support.  The council is formed.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody presents its Report and Recommendations to the Federal Government.

Legislation providing for land rights in Queensland are passed - the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 and the Torres Strait Land Act 1991.  They are greatly inferior to the standard set by the Northern Territory Legislation.

The Upper House in Tasmania rejects land rights legislation for Indigenous people.


Torres Strait Islander flag designed.

The High Court of Australia rules in the Mabo case that native title exists over particular kinds of lands - unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves - and that Australia never was terra nullius or 'empty land.'

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs invokes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Act to protect women's sites near Alice Springs, threatened by a dam proposed by the Northern Territory State Government.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation issues its Strategic Plan for the next three years.

Prime Minister Keating's Redfern Speech at the launch of the International Year of the Indigenous People acknowledged past wrongs.


International Year of Indigenous People.

The Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner is established by the Federal Government in response to issues of discrimination and disadvantage highlighted by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's National Inquiry into Racist Violence.

30 June 1993 the Wik Peoples' make a claim for Native Title in the Federal Court of Australia for land on the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.  Native Title Act does not pass through Parliament until December 1993.


Native Title Act 1993 becomes Law on 1 January.

Going Home Conference in Darwin.  Representatives from every state and territory met to share experiences, and expose the history of the removal of Indigenous children from their families and the effects of this policy on Indigenous people.


29 January, 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 Wik and Thayorre peoples appeal to the High Court.

In May the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from the Families is established in response to efforts madeby key Indigenous agencies and communities.


September, the Jawoyn People in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory sign on to the larges single commercial deal in Australian history involving Indigenous interests.  The signing is a major expansion of Indigenous involvement in the Penasus Mt Todd Gold Mine.

15 November, the Federal Government under Howards sees economic development as the key to the success of its Indigenous Affairs Policy.  Senator John Herron, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs sets out the government's broad policy in his Lyons Lecture in Canberra and says "As a Government we believe in economic independence and restoration of self-esteem."

23 December, the Wid 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.


March, 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.

10 March, Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd enters into a detailed Heads of Agreement with the Indigenous community Weipa, Cape York for a proposed bauxite mining and shipping operation from Alspac's exisitng mining lease at Ely, north of Weipa.

3 April, 12 months negotiations between the Arakwal people, NSW State Government and the Byron Bay Shire result in an agreement over a new recreation area in Byron Bay.  The Arakwal sisters secure a say in the management of the new park in the area.

7 April, the Dunghutti Indigenous people of NSW and other stakeholders negotiate the first successful claim under the Native Title Act.

25 May, National Sorry Day - a day for organisations to apologies for the removal of Indigenous children from their families.  A chance for all Australians to recognise the pain thousands of Indigenous people went through.  The first 'Sorry Day' is marked by hundreds of activities around the country.  The Australian Federal Government does not take part in 'Sorry Day', saying people who removed Indigenous children throught they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past.

26 May, the 700-page report of the 'Stolen Children' National Inquiry 'Bringing them Home' was tabled in Federal Parliament.

26-28 May, Australian Reconciliation Convention.  At least 100 delegates turn their backs on the Prime Minister Howard as he addresses the conference.

April-May, 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.


Native Title Amendments Act Amendments to the Act brought about by the High Court's Wik Decision.


27 May - 3 June Corroboree 2000 - National Reconciliation Week.

28 May, People's Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday.

27 May, is the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which more than 90 percent of Australians voted to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Indigenous people and for Indigenous people to be counted in the census.

3 June, marks the anniversary of the High Court's Mabo judgement in 1992 which recognised the Native Title Rights of Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and overturned the notion of terra nullius.

The following references were used in compiling this timeline.  Bostock, Lester, 1990 The Greater Perspective, Special Broadcasting Service.  Fraser, Bryce, (ed) 1983 The Macquarie Book of Events, Weldon, Directorate of Special Programs, NSW Department of Education, 1982 Aboriginal Australia, a Preliminary Chronology.  Jonas, Bill and Langton, Marcia 1994 The Little Red, Yellow and Black (and Green and Blue and White) Book, AIATSIS.  Horton, D (ed) 1994 Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press.  Butler, Kevin, Cameron, K & Percival, B 1995 The Myth of Terra Nullius, Invasion and Resistance - the early years, Board of Studies.