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Aboriginal Rights in the 20th Century Timeline

  • Constitution becomes law of the land

    The Australian constitution comes into effect providing the legal framework to govern the country. It can only be changed by a referendum.
  • Fight for the right to vote

    Fight for the right to vote
    A "Day of Mourning" protest to mark Australia Day takes place at Australian Hall in Sydney. It comes after years of campaigning by Aboriginal leaders such as William Cooper and Jack Patten for Indigenous representation in Parliament and the right to vote.
  • Indigenous people gain the right to vote

    Indigenous people gain the right to vote
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had the right to vote in some states before 1901, but it was taken away or limited when the constitution was enacted. In 1962, Indigenous people gain the right to vote in federal elections. By the end of 1965, Indigenous people around the country gain the same voting rights as other Australians when Queensland follows the other states and extends voting rights to all Indigenous people to vote in state elections.
  • Referendum for Indigenous rights

    More than 90 per cent of Australian voters choose yes to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census and for Indigenous people to be subject to Commonwealth laws, rather than just state laws.
  • Push for constitutional reform

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) report Recognition, Rights and Reform says constitutional reform is a priority. The report, which is endorsed by ATSIC at its 33rd meeting held in Canberra, says consultations across the country have found overwhelming support for the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.
  • Support for preamble recognition

    The constitutional convention held at Old Parliament House from February 2-13 to debate proposals on whether Australia should become a republic supports Indigenous recognition in a new preamble.
  • Preamble overshadowed by republic debate

    Preamble overshadowed by republic debate
    The proposed preamble is put to voters that includes Indigenous recognition as one element of a wider statement about the nation. The preamble struggles to get attention in a contested debate over the republic and there is discord about the wording. The referendum question is unsuccessful.
  • People's walk for Aboriginal reconciliation

    People's walk for Aboriginal reconciliation
    The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation's Roadmap To Reconciliation agenda presented at the Corroboree 2000 calls on the Federal Parliament to initiate and support a referendum to deal with Sections 25 and 51 (xxvi) and add recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the constitution. More than 250,000 people walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of Indigenous Australians.
  • Election pledge for new referendum

    Election pledge for new referendum
    Prime minister John Howard makes a re-election pledge to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. Kevin Rudd, as opposition leader, follows by promising bipartisan support for the proposal, regardless of the election outcome.
  • Apology to the Stolen Generations

    Prime minister Kevin Rudd delivers an apology in Federal Parliament for the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. In the speech he commits to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and makes a statement of recognition "that today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history".
  • Push for recognition grows

    Yolngu and Bininj clans of Arnhem Land call on Kevin Rudd to "work towards constitutional recognition of our prior ownership and rights".
  • 'Bring us into the nation'

    Galarrwuy Yunupingu writes in The Monthly that he wants constitutional recognition "to bring my people in from the cold, bring us into the nation".
  • Unique chance to change the constitution

    Lowitja O'Donoghue, the inaugural chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, declares there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the constitution, stating it would be good "for the nation's soul".
  • Expert panel delivers recommendation

    The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples presents its report to the Gillard government.
  • Leaders support act for recognition

    Leaders support act for recognition
    Prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott address Parliament in support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill. Ms Gillard said: "We must never feel guilt for the things already done in this nation's history, but we can and must feel responsibility for the things that remain undone."
  • Polls show support

    March 27, 2015 An opinion poll conducted by ANU finds 82 per cent support for removing race discrimination from the constitution. May 17, 2015 Recognise opinion poll says 75 per cent of Australians would back a yes vote. June 20, 2015 Newspoll says 63 per cent of voters support recognition in the constitution.
  • Long-awaited committee report released

    Liberal MP Ken Wyatt tables a much-anticipated report, with support from the Government, Labor and the Greens, on progress towards a referendum on Indigenous recognition in the constitution.
  • Political and Indigenous leaders plot path to referendum

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten host an unprecedented joint summit with about 40 of the nation's most influential Indigenous representatives on the path forward to a referendum. Sources: Recognise, Human Rights Commission, Reconciliation Australia, Australian Electoral Commission