13 February – Anniversary of the Apology
13 February marks the anniversary of the formal apology made on 13 February 2008 by the government and the Parliament of Australia to the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - in particular to the Stolen Generations.
26 May - National Sorry Day
National Sorry Day offers the community the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of the policies of forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, which originated in the 1800s. The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 following the 1997 HREOC Bringing Them Home report which recommended that a national day of observance be declared. It is now commemorated nationally with thousands of Australians from all walks of life participating in memorial services, commemorative meetings, survival celebrations and community gatherings to honour the Stolen Generations.
For further information on National Sorry Day, please visit the National Sorry Day Committee site: http://www.nsdc.org.au/
27 May to 3 June - National Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation Week was initiated in 1996 to provide a special focus for nationwide activities. The week is a time to reflect on achievements so far and to consider what must still be done to achieve reconciliation.
National Reconciliation Week offers people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation, to hear about the cultures and histories of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in our communities.
The Week is timed to coincide with two significant dates in Australia’s history, which provide strong symbols of our hopes and aims for reconciliation: 27 May and 3 June.
For further information on National Reconciliation Week, you can visit the Reconciliation Australia website: www.reconciliation.org.au or the website for the relevant Reconciliation body in your state or territory.
27 May - 1967 Referendum
In 1967 over 90% of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
3 June - Mabo Day
Mabo Day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgement in 1992 in the Mabo case. This is a day of particular significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo’s name is synonymous with native title rights. His story began in May 1982 when he and fellow Murray (Mer) Islanders David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and CeluiaSalee instituted a claim in the High Court for native title to the Murray (Mer) Islands in the Torres Strait.
The claim was made against the State of Queensland, which responded by seeking to legislate to extinguish retrospectively any native title on the Islands. This was challenged in the High Court on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. 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 High Court found that the Meriam people were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of lands in the Murray Islands.’ The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (a land belonging to no one) at the time of British colonisation.
1 July - Coming of the Light
This is a particular day of significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians. It marks the day the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait. The missionaries landed at Erub Island on 1 July 1871.
Religious and cultural ceremonies are held by Torres Strait Islander Christians across the Torres Strait and on the mainland to commemorate this day.
3-10 July - National NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is observed from the first Sunday in July to the second Sunday in July each year.
NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The week is celebrated not just in the Indigenous community, but also increasingly in government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.
Wherever you live, taking part in NAIDOC Week is a great way to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to build bridges between all Australians.
NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week, and its acronym has become the name of the week itself.
This year, national NAIDOC Week will be observed from 3-10 July 2011.
For further information on NAIDOC, please visit the website www.naidoc.org.au