Significant Dates & Cultural and Community Events
There are numerous significant dates and cultural and community events in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calendar.
These dates and events may be marked by communities in various ways.
Australia Day/Survival Day
For many people Australia Day is celebrated as the day Australia was founded, however for some communities it is marks mourning for the people who suffered as a result of colonisation. For these communities the day celebrates the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, history and culture since colonisation.
Anniversary of the Australian Government’s Apology to the Stolen Generations
On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tabled a motion in parliament apologising to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and particularly the Stolen Generations, for laws and policies that had resulted in grief, suffering and loss for individuals, families and communities.
Harmony Day is celebrated around Australia on 21 March each year, which is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day is an Australian Government initiative that celebrates cultural diversity through a variety of community events and activities designed to enhance our understanding of the diverse community in which we live.
National Sorry Day
National Sorry Day marks the anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1997. The report followed the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, which outlined the extent to which forced removal of thousands of children had on their communities. The first National Sorry Day was held in 1998 and is now commemorated each year in public recognition of the pain and suffering caused by over 150 years of enforced removal policies. www.nsdc.org.au
27 May – 3 June
National Reconciliation Week
Australia’s formal reconciliation process commenced as a result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1991, which recommended that reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians’ must be achieved if division, discord and injustice to Indigenous Australians were to be avoided. Through the establishment of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and subsequently Reconciliation Australia, formal reconciliation continues to be a national focus. National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to recognise reconciliation and celebrate progress in developing respectful relationships amongst all Australians.
Referendum Day recognises the struggle undertaken by Aboriginal people and ultimate success in achieving a 97% ‘yes’ vote in the Referendum of 17 May 1967. The Referendum changed the constitution to allow Aboriginal people to be counted in the census and to enable the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people.
Mabo day celebrates the 1992 High Court decision that ruled in favour of Eddie Koiki Mabo and other claimants that their people had occupied the island of Mer in the Torres Strait prior to the arrival of the British. This historic decision effectively recognised the existence of Native Title rights by establishing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have legal rights to Crown Land in Australia and rejecting the concept of ‘Terra Nullius’, which claimed Australia was a land belonging to no-one prior to British occupation. www.mabonativetitle.com
Coming of the Light festival
The Coming of the Light festival celebrates the day that the London Missionary Society arrived in the Torres Strait on 1 July 1871 and introduced Christianity to the Island’s people. The people of the Torres Strait have a strong Christian faith and the day is marked with cultural and religious activities throughout the Torres Strait Islands and mainland Australia. www.tsra.gov.au
1st week of July
NAIDOC Week events are held across Australia every July in order to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islander Observance Committee’, which was responsible for organising national activities for NAIDOC Week. The acronym has now become the name for the week itself. www.naidoc.org.au
National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (NAICD)
Since 1998, National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day is held annually on 4 August. The aim of the day is to celebrate and promote support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. www.snaicc.asn.au
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was first proclaimed by the United Nations in 1994. The day was initiated with the aim of strengthening international cooperation for solutions to the problems faced by Indigenous people in areas such as human rights, development, the environment, education and health. www.un.org