history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander

Dates to Honour the History of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Learn some of the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the true history of so-called “Australia” with this list of dates.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this list contains names of deceased people.

When you look at significant events for Aboriginal people you’ll notice a history of sadness, loss and denial. You’ll also notice the ongoing fight for rights, land and recognition. While there is a long way to go to heal, and for returned rights and reconciliation, within that fight there’s much to reflect on, honour and celebrate.

Significant dates in history for First Nations people are not mentioned enough in the history of so-called “Australia”. When the history has been taught, it’s mostly been whitewashed. Sadly, teachings have ignored the invasion and colonisation of Australia. When people create content around dates, they often leave out the dates of significance for First Nations people.

Whether it be in teachings or content, including these dates in history means that we’re acknowledging the true history of this country. We’ve listed dates that honour the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples… which if for nothing else is a great place to begin your own further learning.

The list aims to provide those dates for everybody: content creators, teachers and curious people. It functions to remind people that Indigenous people did exist, still exist, and continue to contribute in the most significant ways within our society.

Here Are Some Significant Dates in the History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples:

January

  • 1 January 1993 – The Native Title Act is a law passed by the Australian Parliament that recognises the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs. It established a process for claiming and recognising native titles and was passed on this day in 1993.

8 January 1980 – Adam Goodes, former AFL superstar and 2014 Australian of the Year, was born in Wallaroo, South Australia

  • 26 January Invasion Day. This is not “Australia Day”. This is not a day to celebrate. This is a day of mourning because from this day in 1788 onwards, First Nations people suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and widespread oppression at the hands of colonisers. 

“Our land, our pride and our future has been taken away from us and our people buried in unmarked graves. We wander through Australian society as beggars. We live off the crumbs of the white Australian table and are told to be grateful. This is what Australia Day means to Aboriginal Australians. We celebrate with you but there is much sadness in our joy. It is like dancing on your mother’s grave.” – Charles Perkins

  • 26 January 1972Tent Embassy was established in front of Parliament House, Canberra.

19 January 1948 – Yawuru man and WA politician Pat Dodson was born

February

16 February 1973 – Cathy Freeman was born in Mackay, Queensland, on the lands of the Yuwibara people

March

  • 18 March (2022) – National Close the Gap Day, first organised in 2006, is held each year on the third Thursday of March to improve the health of Aboriginal people. Close the Gap day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the Aboriginal health crisis.
  • 21 March – Harmony Day. It started in 1999 and celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.
  • 21 March – International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • 21 March (2022) – Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination
  • 23 March 2005 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) abolished. It was originally established on 3 May 1990.

April

May

  • 1 May 1946 – The Pilbara Strike began in Western Australia. Around 800 First Nations pastoral workers from over 25 different stations in north-west Western Australia went on strike for better wages and working conditions. It lasted until 1949, making it the longest strike in Australian history.
  • 26 May – National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations’. The first National Sorry Day was held in 1998.
  • 27 May – The anniversary of the 1967 referendum which recognises the 97% ‘yes’ vote. It allowed First Nations people to be included in the census.
  • 27 May – National Reconciliation Week runs until June 3rd. It’s a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
  • 29 May – Anniversary of the launch of the Torres Strait Islander Flag, which was first launched in 1992. The Torres Strait Islander Flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders.

June

  • 3 June 1992 – Mabo Day is marked annually on 3 June,  commemorating Mer Island man Eddie Koiki Mabo and his successful efforts to overturn the legal fiction of terra nullius, or ‘land belonging to no-one’. The day also marks the end of National Reconciliation Week.
  • 10 June 1838 – Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony
  • 11 June 1988 Barunga Statement presented to Prime Minister Hawke. The statement was written on bark and called for self-determination, a national system of land rights, compensation, an end to discrimination, respect for Aboriginal identity, and the granting of social, economic and cultural rights. It began with: “We, the Indigenous owners and occupiers of Australia, call on the Australian Government and people to recognise our rights.” 

16 June 1936 – Arrernte and Kalkadoon man Dr Charles Perkins was born. Charlie was an activist, soccer champion and politician.

29 June 1936 – Eddie Mabo was born in his village of Las on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait

July

  • 1st week of July – In 2022, NAIDOC Week is held from Sunday the 4th of July until Sunday the 11th of July. It’s an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the oldest continuing cultures on the planet. The theme is ‘Heal Country!’. Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people.
  • 12 July 1971 – The Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas and first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, South Australia, on National Aborigines Day, 12th of July 1971.

14 July – Deborah Mailman was born in 1972

August

  • 9 August 1994 – International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
  • 14 August 1963 – Bark Petition from Yirrkala to Parliament. The Yirrkala bark petitions, sent by the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land to the Australian Parliament in 1963, were the first traditional documents prepared by Indigenous Australians that were recognised by the Australian Parliament.
  • 16–30 August 1928Conniston Massacre. It is the last known officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous Australians. 
  • 24 August 1966 – Wave Hill Walk-Off. Two hundred Gurindji stockmen, domestic workers and their families initiated strike action at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory.

September

  • 1 September – Indigenous Literacy Day

1 September 1956 – Professor and Goenpul woman Aileen Moreton-Robinson, one of Australia’s leading scholars and a hero of First Nations academia, was born on Quandamooka country 

  • 25 September 2000 – Cathy Freeman wins two Olympic Gold Medals
  • 28 September 1983 – The death of John Pat. He was a young indigenous boy who, at the age of 16 years and 11 months, died while in the custody of Western Australia Police. The deaths in custody crisis continues.

October

  • 1st weekend – NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout
  • 26 October 1985 – Uluru is returned to traditional owners.

26 October 2019 – Uluru climbing is finally banned

28 October 1834 – Battle of Pinjarra, WA

  • 30 October 1975 – The Racial Discrimination Act took effect, making it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their race, colour, descent, national origin or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.

31 October 1951 – Professor Marcia Langton AO, Yiman and Bidjara academic, was born on this day

November

  • 3 November 1920 – Black rights activist, poet, environmentalist, and educator Oodgeroo Noonuccal was born (born Kath Walker)
  • 26 November 1986 – Pope John Paul II addresses Aboriginal people in Alice Springs.

December

  • 10 December 1948 – Human Rights Day 
  • 16 December 1976 – Aboriginal Land Rights Act passed in the Northern Territory. A Land Rights Act title gives First Nations people a freehold title that’s absolute, meaning it can’t be bought or sold and is held by an Aboriginal land trust for traditional landowners. The Land Rights Act covers vacant Crown Land outside towns and Aboriginal-owned pastoral stations. The Land Rights Act began on this day in 1976, but since 1997 no new claims have successfully been made using this legislation.
history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander

Have we missed a date? Let us know on Instagram. We’re looking forward to hearing from you. This important list will continue to grow as we learn more and more.

Feel free to use our FREE Social Media Marketing Planner to plant these dates into your marketing plan to grow some compelling, relevant, inclusive content. We get a whole lot of content creators visiting our site looking for specific dates of the year. So, we thought we’d provide you with a free marketing planner template.