The Journey So Far
For at least 60,000 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived on the land now known as Australia.
1770InvasionCaptain James Cook claims the land now known as Australia.
1788First FleetCaptain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet arrive at Botany Bay.
1846Petition Queen VictoriaExiled Tasmanian Aboriginal people on Flinders Island petition Queen Victoria about agreement made with Colonel Arthur.
1881Petition from residents of Maloga missionPetition from residents of Maloga mission (Yorta Yorta) to NSW Governor seeking land grants (residents soon after moved to Cummergunja reserve).
1886Petition from Wurundjeri elder William Barak to Victorian Government opposing the Aboriginal Protection Bill‘We should be free like the White Population there is only few Blacks now remaining in Victoria ... and we Blacks of Aboriginal Blood, wish to have now freedom for all our life time’.
1890-99Debates over a federal ConstitutionAboriginal people not involved and barely mentioned in Conventions.
1897-98Constitutional Convention Held in 3 StatesConstitutional Conventions are held in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
1901The Constitution Coming into ForceAboriginal people continue to be forced onto reserves and missions under racial segregation acts known as ‘Protection’ legislation.
1912The Call for Ngarrindjeri AutonomyDavid Unaipon calls for Ngarrindjeri autonomy over the Point Macleay reserve.
1924The formation of AAAPAThe AAPA is generally recognised as Australia’s first pan-Aboriginal activist organisation.
1926Call For An Aboriginal StateUnaipon calls for the establishment of an Aboriginal state.
1927Call For the Abolition of Protection and ControlFred Maynard calls for abolition of protection and control of Aboriginal affairs.
1933Petitioning for Representation in Federal ParliamentYorta Yorta man, William Cooper, petitions the King seeking intervention including representation in federal Parliament. The Commonwealth does not send it on to the King. Aboriginal man Joe Anderson, also known as King Burraga, calls for Indigenous representation in the federal Parliament.
1934Urge To Take Over Aboriginal AffairsDavid Unaipon urges Commonwealth to take over Aboriginal affairs from the States.
1936Torres Strait Maritime StrikeTorres Strait Islander workers in the pearling industry go on strike and win, leading the Queensland government to establish Islander Councils that give Torres Strait Islanders some political representation and power.
1937Petition For Representation in ParliamentYorta Yorta man William Cooper petitions King George VI for representation in Parliament.
1938Day of MourningThe Australian Aborigines’ League and the Aborigines Progressive Association hold a ‘Day of Mourning’ on 26 January, the sesquicentenary of British colonisation of Australia.
1949Australia Aborigines LeagueSecretary of Australia Aborigines League Doug Nicholls wrote to Prime Minister Chifley seeking representation of Aboriginal people in the Federal Parliament.
1958Federal Council for Aboriginal AdvancementThe Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement is created (renamed in 1964 as the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders).
1962The Right To VoteThe right to vote in federal elections is extended to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
1963Yirrkala Bark PetitionsThe Yolngu Nation send the Yirrkala Bark Petitions to the Parliament objecting to the excision of land from their reserve for mining. They were not consulted and ‘fear their needs and interests will be completely ignored as they have been ignored in the past’.
1966Walk-off at Wave HillVincent Lingiari and Dexter Daniels lead the Gurindji people in a walk-off at Wave Hill station, NT fighting for wages, land rights and self-determination.
1967Constitutional ReferendumA referendum is held granting the Federal Parliament power over Indigenous affairs and enabling Aboriginal people to be counted as part of the Australian population for constitutional purposes.
1971The NT Supreme Court rules against land rightsThe NT Supreme Court rules against Yolngu land rights claim in the first significant land rights case in Australia.
1972Larrakia PetitionNational Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) is established and the Larrakai petition is sent to the Queen.
1973National Aboriginal Consultative CommitteeNational Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) established and later replaced in 1977 with the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC).
1973Land Rights CommissionThe Whitlam government establishes a royal commission to examine ways to recognise Aboriginal land rights.
1975Racial Discrimination ActRacial Discrimination Act enacted by the federal Parliament.
1976Creation of Land Rights in the NTCommonwealth used its constitutional power to legislate land rights in Territory. This starts the push to use the power from the 1967 referendum to create national land rights.
1977National Aboriginal ConferenceThe Fraser government creates the National Aboriginal Conference.
1977Establishment of the NACCThe NACC (National Aboriginal Consultative Committee) is replaced with the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC).
1979Call For A TreatyFollowing nationwide consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the National Aboriginal Conference calls for a treaty to be negotiated between Aboriginal people and the Commonwealth.
1983Two Hundred Years LaterSenate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs hands down its report Two Hundred Years Later ... which recommends the government consider a treaty in consultation with Aboriginal peoples. The committee also recommends the insertion into the Constitution of a provision ‘which would confer a broad power on the Commonwealth to enter into a compact with representatives of the Aboriginal people’.
1988The Barunga StatementA second bark petition is presented to Prime Minister Bob Hawke by Yolngu man, Galarrwuy Yunupingu. The Barunga Statement calls for recognition of Aboriginal rights and for a national elected Aboriginal and Islander organisation to oversee Aboriginal and Islander affairs, and for the Commonwealth to negotiate a treaty. Prime Minister Bob Hawke commits to a treaty by 1990.
1989Establishment of ATSICThe Federal Parliament creates a new independent statutory body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), after an extensive consultation period including 500 meetings with 14,500 people.
1991Breaking The Promise of A TreatyBreaking the promise of a treaty, the government proposes a statutory Reconciliation process instead. In breaking the promise to deliver a treaty, the government says that Australians need to be educated more about Indigenous peoples. Australia commences a decade of statutory ‘Reconciliation’, with the federal Parliament enacting a law establishing the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The government deletes the word 'Justice' from the title of the Act which was the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Justice.
1992Native Title Recognised by the High CourtThe High Court delivers judgment in the Mabo case, holding that native title survived the British acquisition of sovereignty.
1993Native Title Act PassedThe Keating government passes the Native Title Act after months of pressure, protest and tough negotiations. The Government also promises a land fund to compensate those whose native title has been extinguished and a social justice package to advance reconciliation.
1995Recognition, Rights and Reform ReportATSIC delivers the Recognition, Rights and Reform Report, which outlines a range of sweeping proposals for the Keating government’s social justice package, including constitutional recognition. The social justice package is never implemented.
1997Bringing Them Home Report tabledThe Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission tables the Bringing Them Home report, which examines the long history of racially discriminatory Australian laws and policies that resulted in the widespread removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Among its 54 recommendations is a call for an official apology from the Commonwealth Government. Prime Minister John Howard refuses to provide this.
1998Hindmarsh Island Bridge decisionThe High Court of Australia hands down the Hindmarsh Island Bridge decision, which leaves open the possibility that section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution can be used by the Commonwealth to impose racially discriminatory laws upon Aboriginal people.
1999Constitutional Referendums on a Republic and New PreambleAustralia holds a referendum to decide whether to become a republic, and whether to adopt a new preamble to the Constitution which acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Prime Minister Howard proceeds with wording for the preamble that had been rejected by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and many Indigenous land councils.
2000The Roadmap For ReconciliationThe Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation delivers its Australian Declaration towards Reconciliation and the Roadmap for Reconciliation. The report reinforces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations for a treaty and constitutional change.
2005Abolition of ATSICParliament formally abolishes ATSIC.
2007New Commitment to Constitutional PreambleShortly before the 2007 election, Prime Minister John Howard announces the government’s intention to hold a referendum to symbolically recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a new preamble to the Constitution.
2008Apology to the Stolen GenerationsPrime Minister Kevin Rudd presents the Apology to the Stolen Generations. The Australia 2020 Summit is held, with the final report noting the ‘strong view that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights needs to be included in the body of the Constitution, not just in the Preamble.
2008Yolngu and Bininj Leaders present a Statement of Intent to Prime MinisterThe Prime Minister is presented with a Statement of Intent from Yolngu and Bininj Leaders, who express their desire for constitutional protection for traditional land and cultural rights.
2010Establishment Of The Expert PanelPrime Minister Julia Gillard establishes the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution.
2012Expert Panel ReportAfter conducting community consultations, the Expert Panel hands down its report. It finds strong public support for constitutional recognition. The panel recommends removing existing constitutional references to race in ss 25 and 51(xxvi), inserting a statement of Indigenous recognition into the Constitution, giving the Commonwealth Parliament a new power to make laws about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, creating a constitutional ban on racial discrimination and inserting a provision recognising Indigenous languages.
2013Recognition ActThe Gillard government, with support from the Opposition, passes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013, to provide an interim form of recognition of Aboriginal people.
2014 Joint select parliamentary committee formedParliament forms a joint select parliamentary committee, chaired by Senators Ken Wyatt and Nova Peris, to advance the work of the Expert Panel.
2015Referendum Council EstablishedIndigenous Leaders meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at Kirribilli House and issue the Kirribilli Statement. In response, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader establish the Referendum Council.
2016-17First Nations Constitutional DialoguesThe Referendum Council runs 13 First Nations Regional Dialogues to discuss options for constitutional reform, and to ensure that Aboriginal decision-making is at the heart of the reform process.
2017The Uluru StatementThe Referendum Council holds a National First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru to ratify the decision making of the Regional Dialogues. The Convention delegates draft and overwhelmingly endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is issued to the Australian people. This calls for a constitutionally entrenched First Nations Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata commission to oversee a process of treaty-making and truth-telling. The Referendum Council hands down its final report, which endorses the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for Voice, Treaty and Truth. The Turnbull government rejects the call for a Voice to Parliament.
2018Recommendation for Co-designA Joint Select Committee of Parliament to consider the work of the Referendum Council, chaired by Senators Patrick Dodson and Julian Leeser, undertakes its work. In its final report, it finds the Voice is the only viable recognition proposal and recommends that the government ‘initiate a process of co-design [of the Voice] with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.
2019Co-Design ProcessIn the pre-election budget the government commits $7m to a Voice co-design process and $160m to running a referendum. Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, announces a ‘co-design’ process to determine the structure and functions of the Voice. The constitutional enshrinement of the Voice was excluded from the terms of reference.
2021Sydney Peace PrizeThe interim report on the Indigenous Voice Proposal is released. Stage two of the ‘co-design’ process commences, inviting feedback on the proposals on the design of the Voice. The Uluru Statement wins the Sydney Peace Prize with co-laureates Pat Anderson, Megan Davis and Noel Pearson.
2022Anthony Albanese is elected as the new Prime Minister of AustraliaThe Labor Leader Albanese reconfirms his commitment to implement the Uluru Statement in full during his victory speech upon the Australian Labor Party defeating the Liberal National Party in the May federal election.
It’s been a long journey, and there is still much work ahead. Help our voice be heard and become part of a future that empowers all First Nations and Australian people. Together we can make this our shared legacy.