Culture and Events

National Apology Day

13 February

On 13 February 2008 The Australian government took the long overdue step of apologising to the stolen generation. The stolen generation refers to the thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their parents and adopted by white families.

Babies, toddlers and youngsters were forcibly removed from their mothers and fathers and sent to missions or adopted by white families. This policy of integrating mixed-race children into white society started in 1910 and only ended in 1969.

Nearly forty years after it ended, newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the formal apology in a parliament address on 13 February 2008.

National Apology to Australian's Indigenous Peoples Speech by Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

Link: National Apology to the Stolen Generation Video

Link: History of the National Apology

Link: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation

Link: Story of the Healing Foundation

National Close the Gap Day

24 March

National Close the Gap Day is a way for all Australians to join together and raise awareness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health crisis and the campaign to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.

Link: National Close the Gap Day

National Sorry Day

26 May

National Sorry Day provides all Australians with an opportunity to acknowledge the impact of forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

The National Sorry Day Committee was established in 1998 and continues its ongoing commitment to work with members of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. The Committee also advises and consults with Governments, community organisations, educational facilities and the broader Australian community on continuing to commemorate the day and ensuring the 54 recommendations of the 'Bringing Them Home' report are achieved by 2017.

Link: National Sorry Day Committee

The Stolen Generation Testimonies

The 'Stolen Generations' Testimonies' project is an initiative to record on film the personal testimonies of Australia's Stolen Generations Survivors and share them online.

Link: Stolen Generation Testimonies

National Reconciliation Week

27 May - 3 June

Reconciliation Week is a time for everyone to join the reconciliation conversation, and to think about turning around the disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

National Reconciliation Week began in 1996 to provide a nationwide focus on reconciliation activities. The week acknowledges the events surrounding the 1967 Referendum where 90% of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Many activities will take place in all states and territories throughout schools and universities, various organisations, governments and local communities.

Link: National Reconciliation Week

Mabo Day

3 June

Mabo Day is a particularly significant day for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australian's judgement in the 1992 Mabo case.

The High Court, in an historical judgement delivered on 3 June 1992, accepted the claim by Eddie Mabo and the other claimants that their people, the Meriam people had occupied the Islands of Mer for hundreds of years before the arrival of the British. The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (a land belonging to no-one) at the time of British colonisation.

The late Eddie 'Koiki' Mabo's name is synonymous with native title rights. His story began in 1982 when he and fellow Murray (Mer) Islanders, David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Salee instituted a claim in the High Court for native title to Mer Island in the Torres Strait.

Mabo, The Native Title Revolution is a Screen Australia Digital Learning website which won the 2008 United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award.

Coming of the Light

1 July

Torres Strait Islanders living in the islands and mainland Australia come together to honour this anniversary every year on 1 July.

The London Missionary Society set out to convert people of the Southwest Pacific to Christianity from the 1840s.

On the 1 July 1871, Reverend Samuel MacFarlane, a member of the Society anchored at Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait.

In defiance of tribal law Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub welcomed the London Missionary Society. The acceptance of missionaries and Christianity into Torres Strait led to profound changes that affected every aspect of life from that time onwards.

It is recognition of an integral point in time when Christianity was accepted by Torres Strait Islanders. Where there are significant numbers of Torres Strait Islanders a re-enactment of the event depicting the first contact with missionaries is held.

This re-enactment generally depicts the hostile reception displayed by the majority of people in the village that took place on a beach of Erub (Darnley Island).

Activities include church services and a re-enactment of the landing at Kemus on Erub; hymn singing; feasting; and ailan dances strengthen community and family ties.

National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week

1st week in July

National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in various fields.

Events are held across Australia during the week and include a variety of activities involving schools, community organisations and award ceremonies and a NAIDOC ball.

A National NAIDOC Poster competition is open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to showcase their artistic talents and the winning artwork is reproduced on the NAIDOC week poster that is distributed nationally.

The early history of NAIDOC can be traced back to 1920 when Aboriginal rights groups protested against the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A timeline of the history that covers the period 1920 up to the present is accessible on the NAIDOC website.

Link: National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day

4 August

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) is the national non government peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day (NATSICD) is a celebration of our children. Held on 4 August each year, (NATSICD) was first observed by SNAICC in 1988. Each year SNAICC produces and sends out resources to help you celebrate (NATSICD).

Link: SNAICC National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day

International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples

9 August

By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The UN General Assembly had proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World's Indigenous People, and the same year, the Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, starting on 10 December 1994 (resolution 48/163). The goal of the First International Decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

The Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People began in 2005.

Link: International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples