There are a number of significant dates for Aboriginal people. Click the links to view information about each date and its significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- January 26 - Survival Day
- February 13 - Apology Day
- March 17 2016 - Close the Gap Day
- May 26 - Sorry Day
- May 27 - 1967 Referendum
- May 27 - June 03 - Reconciliation Week
- June 03 - Mabo Day
- July 3-7 2016 - NAIDOC Week
- 09 August - UN International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples
Ever since the first Day of Mourning in 1938, the tradition has continued each year on 26 January. In 1998, a silent re-enactment of the original Day of Mourning protest was staged by around four hundred protestors, along the same route that the group of Aboriginal people took in 1938. It also involved descendants of the original protestors reading the speeches which were given 60 years ago and the ten points which were outlined from the meeting to be reaffirmed.
The Survival concerts are historically linked to NAIDOC. The Concerts, celebrated across Australia on January 26, represent a peaceful resistance by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eople to the colonisatin and to Australia Day being celebrated on the anniversary of the arrival of the British. The Concerts celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survival and showcase performing artists. The first Concert was held in Sydney in 1992 and has been running in Perth since 2000.
On 13 February 2008, as parliament returned from its summer break, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a Motion of Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples in the House of Representatives on 13 February 2008, apologising for past laws, policies and practices that devastated Australia’s First Nations Peoples – in particular members of the Stolen Generations. This was the parliament’s first order of business, and The Hon Kevin Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to give a public apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Federal Government.
March 17 2016 - Close the Gap Day
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People die on average between 10 and 17 years younger than non- Indigenous Australians. Indigenous babies are between 2-3 times as likely to die before their first birthday as non - Indigenous babies.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians continue to suffer from much higher rates of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, pneumonia and diabetes than other Australians. Many Indigenous urban and remote communities experience poor access to primary healthcare. Access can involve distance from services, lack of cultural appropriateness or the wrong type of service.
The aim? To bring people together, to share information — and most importantly — to take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.
May 26 - Sorry Day
National Sorry Day is an annual day of commemoration and remembrance of all those who have been impacted by the government policies of forcible removal that have resulted in the Stolen Generations.
Sorry Day has been held annually on 26 May each year since 1998, and was born out of a key recommendation made by the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families in the Bringing them home Report that was tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997: 7a. That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, in consultation with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, arrange for a national `Sorry Day' to be celebrated each year to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects.
May 27 - 1967 Referendum
On 27 May 1967 a Federal referendum was held. The first question, referred to as the 'nexus question' was an attempt to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The second question was to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. This fact sheet addresses the second question.
May 27 - June 03 - Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation Week is celebrated across Australia each year between 27 May - 3 June. The dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey - the anniversaries of the successful referendum and High Court Mabo decision.
The week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort. May 27 marks the anniversary of Australia’s most successful referendum and a defining event in our nation’s history. The 1967 referendum saw over 90 per cent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the national census.
June 03 - Mabo Day
On 3 June, 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision which legally recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land—that existed prior to colonalisation and still exists today. This recognition paved the way for land rights called Native Title. 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the Mabo decision.
July 3-7 2016 - NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.
NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
We encourage all Australians to participate in the celebrations and activities that take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week.
2016 NAIDOC THEME: - Songlines: The living narrative of our nation
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Dreamtime describes a time when the earth, people and animals were created by our ancestral spiritual beings. They created the rivers, lakes, plants, land formations and living creatures.
Dreaming tracks crisscross Australia and trace the journeys of our ancestral spirits as they created the land, animals and lores. These dreaming tracks are sometimes called ‘Songlines’ as they record the travels of these ancestral spirits who 'sung' the land into life.
These Songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance and art. They carry significant spiritual and cultural connection to knowledge, customs, ceremony and Lore of many Aboriginal nations and Torres Strait Islander language groups.
Songlines are intricate maps of land, sea and country. They describe travel and trade routes, the location of waterholes and the presence of food. In many cases, Songlines on the earth are mirrored by sky Songlines, which allowed people to navigate vast distances of this nation and its waters.
The extensive network of Songlines can vary in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres, crossing through traditional Country of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups. For example, the Seven Sisters Songline covers more than half the width of the continent, from deep in the Central Desert out to the West Coast while others connect the Gulf of Carpentaria with the Snowy Mountains near Canberra.
Aboriginal language groups are connected through the sharing of Songlines with each language group responsible for parts of a Songline.
Through songs, art, dance and ceremony, Torres Strait Islanders also maintain creation stories which celebrate their connection to land and sea.
Songlines have been passed down for thousands of years and are central to the existence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are imperative to the preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices.
We invite all Australians to learn more about Songlines and explore those which have created the Country in your region. Learn how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are today using digital technologies and modern mediums to record and celebrate these ancient Songlines or dreaming stories.
Through learning more about Songlines and how they connect people to Country and the Country to people – we celebrate the rich history and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures - the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.
09 August - UN International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples
The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World's Indigenous People is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.
What do people do?
People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities may include educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples. Events may include messages from the UN secretary general and other key leaders, performances by indigenous artists, and panel discussions on reconciliation.