Treatment of Aboriginals 1900-2013

Timeline created by brad murphy
  • Federation

    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 Aboriginal people. This leaves the power over Aboriginal affairs with the states. Aboriginal people are excluded from the vote, pensions, employment in post offices, enlistment in the armed forces and maternity allowance.
  • White Australia Policy

    The government introduces the White Australia policy, trying to ban all non-Caucasian people from entering the country.
  • Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act

    Torres Strait Islanders become subject to the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act.
  • Western Australia Aborigines Act

    The Western Australia Aborigines Act is passed, making the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' under 16 years old. Reserves are established, a local protector is appointed and rules governing Aboriginal employment are laid down
  • NSW Aborignes Protection Act

    The NSW Aborigines Protection Act is introduced following crises in public schools. Aboriginal schools are established in NSW. Exclusion of Aboriginal children from public schools followed requests by the white community. In NSW there are 22 Aboriginal schools in 1910, 35 in 1920 and 40 in 1940. The Act also made it illegal for 'half-castes' to live on reserves.
  • Victiorian Aborigines Act

    The Victorian Aborigines Act permitted the Board for Protection of Aborigines to help 'half-castes' by licensing needy persons to live on stations. The Aborgines Protection Board Act is passed, giving the Board 'legal' control over Aboriginal people on stations and reserves but not missions in the Northern Territory.
  • South Australian Aborigines Act

    The South Australian Aborigines Act makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' child under 21 years old. The Chief Protector also has control of where the child lives. The Chief Protector is replaced by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1939 and guardianship power is repealed in 1962. Federal government passes the Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance. The Chief Protector is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' under 18 years old
  • World War I

    Beginning of WWI. Approximately 400 to 500 Aboriginal children continued to be removed from their families during the period of 1914 to 1918, including children whose fathers are overseas at war. Aboriginal people serve in the war despite the Defence Act 1909 which prohibits any person not of 'substantially European' origin from serving. Aboriginal soldiers are among Australian troops at Gallipoli.
  • Aboriginal Population

    Aboriginal population is estimated to be at its lowest at 60,000-70,000. It is widely believed to be a 'dying race'. Most Australians have no contact with Aboriginal people due to segregation and social conventions
  • Assimilation Roots

    Queensland Protector of Aborigines recommends to the federal government that Aboriginal people be assimilated where they are in contact with European society and inviolable reserves be established for tribal people.
  • Aborigines Act

    Under the Aborigines Act, Aboriginal people apply to 'cease being Aboriginal' and have access to the same rights as 'whites'. The Arnhmen Land Reserve is declared.
  • Assimilation Policy

    Aboirginal Welfare - Conference of Commonwelath and State Authorities called by the federal government, decides that the official policy for some Aboriginal people is assimilation policy. Aboriginal people of mixed descent are to be assimilated into white society whether they want to be or not, those not living tribally are to be educated and all others are to stay on reserves.
  • World War II

    World War II begins. Although Aboriginal people are not recognised are citizens, two Aboriginal miltary units are established and some Aboriginal people serve in other sections of the armed forces as formally enlisted soldiers, sailors or airmen. Aboriginal people serve in Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific and New Guinea. Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families during the period 1939 to 1945, including children who fathers are at war overseas.
  • Exemption Certificates

    An Exemption Certificate is introduced, exmpting certain Aboriginal people from restrictive legislative and entitling them to vote, drink alcohol and move freely but prohibiting them from consorting with others who are not exempt. Aboriginal people use the derogatory terms 'dog tags' or 'dog licenses' to refer to the certificates. For many Aboriginal people this renunciation of their traditional lifestyle is promoted as the only opportunity to overcome poverty, gain work and acess to education.
  • Right To Enrol

    Aboriginal people are given the right to enrol and vote at federal elections provided they are entited to enrol for state elections or have served in the armed forces.
  • Schooling

    The first formal schooling for Aboriginal 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 with white children anyway". Aboriginal children assimilate into NSW local schools, if all other parents agree. This right of veto is removed in 1960.
  • Maralinga Atomic Tests

    Atomic tests are conducted on Maralinga lands at Emu Field, South Australia. They are code named Operation Totem. A black cloud passes and hundreds of families are forced to leave their homelands because of severe contamination. Further atom tests followed in 1956 at Maralinga, South Australia - Operation Buffalo.
  • Commonwealth Electoral Act

    The Commonwealth Electoral Act is amended to give franchise to all Aboriginal people, extending the right to vote to Aboriginal people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Norhtern Territory. Aboriginal people in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are given the right to vote in federal elections. Aboriginal people are not made to register but once they have voting is compulsory for them, as it is for every Australian. Compulsory enrolment is not required until 1984
  • Integration Policy

    Integration policy is introduced, supposedly to give Aboriginal people more control over their lives and society. 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 Aboriginal person could be detained for up to a year for behaving in an 'offensive, threatening, insolent, insulting, disorderly, obscene or indecent manner'
  • Charles Perkins

    After entering in 1963, Charles Perkins becomes the first Aboriginal university graduate at University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts. He is also the first Aboriginal Australian to graduate from university.
  • Freedom Rides

    Charles Perkins leads a freedom ride by Aboriginal people and students through north-western New South Wales in support of Aboriginal rights. The ride demonstrates the extent of discrimination against Aboriginal people in country towns, including refusal of service in shops and segregated cinemas, swimming pools, hotels and clubs.
  • 1967 Referendum

    In the 1967 Commonwealth Referndum more than 90% vote to empower the Commonwealth to legislate for all Aboriginal people and open means for them to be counted in the census. Hopes fly that constitutional discrimination will end. It also empowers the federal government to legislate for Aboriginal people in the states and share responsibility for Aboriginal affairs with state governments. The first census fully including Aboriginal people is in 1971.
  • Aboriginal Developments

    The Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs is established and in 1972 becomes the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
    Lionel Rose beats bantamweight 'Fighting' Harada in Tokyo to become the first Aboriginal world boxing champion. He goes on to receieve the Australian of the Year award the same year.
  • Aboriginal Flag

    The Aboriginal Flag is designed by Luritja artist Harold Thomas and flown for the first time in Adelaide. Evonne Cawley, an Aboriginal tennis player, receives the Australian of the Year award.
  • Self-Determination/Tent Embassy

    The 'Aboriginal Tent Embassy' is pithced outside Parliament House in Canberra, demonstrating for land rights. The Whitlam Government abolishes White Australia Policy and introduces a policy of self-determination. The change means having the right to cultural and linguistic maintenance and management of natural resources on Aboriginal land
  • Racial Discrimation Act

    The Racial Discrimination Act is passed in Federal Parliament. The Australian Senate unanimously endorses a resolution put up by Senator Neville Bonner acknowledging prior ownership of this country and seeking compensation for their dispossesion.
  • Sacred Sites Ordinance

    The NT Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance is passed, instituting prosecution for tredpass and desecration of Aboriginal sites.
    Health statistics show that 48 in every 1,000 Aboriginal babies in NT die before reaching 1 year of age. This compares to 1 baby in every 1000 in the white population. Of the 6000 Aboriginal children living in Sydney, 4000 are underweight. Leprosy sill occurs in Aboriginal populations and alcohol is a serious problem.
  • Neville Bonner

    The first Aboriginal parliamentarian, Neville Bonner recieves the Australian of the Year award.
  • Uluru

    The Commonwealth Government returns Uluru Kata-Tijuta National Park (including Uluru/Ayer's Rock) to its traditional Aboriginal owners.
  • Pope John Paul II

    Pope John Paul II addresses the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in Blatherskite Park in Alice Springs.
  • Survival Day

    Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders march through the streets of Sydney on Australia Day to celebreate their survival during the past 200 years, while non-indigenous Australia commemorates the bicentenary of their immigration. Aboriginal people rename the day to 'Survival Day'.
  • The United Nations

    Australia's representative to the United Nations Human Right Committee acknowledges 'public policy regarding the care of Aboriginal children, particularly during the postwar period, has been a serious mistake'.
  • Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation

    The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation is set up, funded by the federal government, with cross-party support. The parliament noted that there had been a formal process of reconciliation to date, "and that it was most desirable that there be such a reconciliation" by 2001
  • Mandawuy Yunupingu

    Mandawuy Yunupingu, leader of the Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi, recieves the Australian of the Year.
  • Mabo v Queensland

    The High Court of Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo v Queensland (Mabo Decision). It deicdes that Native Title exists over particular kinds of lands - unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves - and that Australia was never terra nullius or empty land
  • The Flag

    The Australian Government proclaims the Aboriginal Flag as the official 'Flag of Australia' under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953.
  • Atlanta Olympics

    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 an Olympic gold medal as a member of the women's field hockey team.
  • Bringing Them Home

    The 700 page report of the Stone 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 the UN Convention on Genocide, ratified by Australian in 1949. Austalians are shocked by the reports details.
  • Howard's gaffe

    During the opening address of the Reconciliation Convention PM John Howard refers to the plight of Australia's Aboriginal people as a mere 'blemish', dismissing centuries of dispossession and violence as insignificant. Indigenous delegates in the audience stand and turn their backs on the PM in protest. The PM snaps and screams at the audience in return
  • Cathy Freeman

    Aboriginal athlete and Olympic medallist Cathy Freeman receieves the Australian of the Year award.
  • Sorry Day

    One year after the Bringing Them Home report 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 wh removed Aboriginal children thought they were doing the right thing and people should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past, Over 1 million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books spea a different language.
  • Cathy Freeman

    Cathy Freeman wins gold in the women's 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies celebrated cultural identity and history and provided some deft political comment on contemporary Aboriginal issues.
  • Shared Responsibility policy

    The government starts using Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs), voluntary written agreements, which set out what outcomes are to be achieved, and the agreed roles and responsibilities of governments and Aboriginal communities in relation to particular projects or activities.
  • UN Declaraton on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    143 member states adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Along with Canada, New Zealand and the US. Australia is one of four nations to vote against the declaration, while 11 nations abstain.
  • The Apology

    The Australian Parliament apologises to the Stolen Generations. Both the government and the opposition support the apology and say 'sorry' to Aboriginal people who were taken from their families from 1900 to the 1970s.
  • FIrst Aboriginal NBA player

    Nathan Jawai is the first Indigenous Australian player to be drafted into the NBA. He will eventually play for the Toronto Raptors and the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • The Forgotten Australians

    PM Kevin Rudd says sorry to the Forgotten Australians which include migrants and Indigenous people who were victims of abuse in orphanages and institutions between 1930 and 1970. The Forgotten Australians suffered similar abuse as the members of the Stolen Generations
  • Tent Embassy 40th Anniversary

    The Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra celebrates its 40th anniversary
  • Yunupingu

    Yothu Yindi lead singer Yunupingu dies at his home in Yirrkala in Eastern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, aged 56, from kidney disease