- 1901: Federation
- Federation of Australia is established.
- 1901: Aboriginal people denied citizenship | White Australia policy | Deportation of Melanesians
The Constitution denies citizenship, franchise and the right to military duty to Aboriginal People, Asians and Africans. Indigenous people are not included in any census nor regarded as citizens, thus excluding them from civil liberties like Commonwealth voting rights, unless, as in South Australia, they already have the vote in State elections. In Queensland and Western Australia Indigenous people are specifically excluded.
The Immigration Restriction Act is first act of Federal Parliament. It results from agitation aimed at protecting working conditions of Australian workers by prohibiting migration of non-Europeans. The Act allows exclusion of any immigrant who fails a dictation test in a European language. It is known as the ‘White Australia’ policy and prevails until 1960s.
After the Immigration Restriction Act is passed, Queensland begins expelling Melanesian workers. By 1906, three quarters have been deported.
Commonwealth Pacific Islander Labourers Act provides for the end of recruitment of South Sea Islanders by 1904 and deportation of those remaining in Australia by 1906.
- 1901-60s: Assimiliation
- Policy of assimilation for migrants is introduced. Non-British migrants are accepted on the understanding that they should shed their cultures and languages and become indistinguishable from Australians of British background. This policy continues until the 1960s.
- 1903: Naturalisation Act
Commonwealth Naturalisation Act acknowledges all naturalised British residents as subjects in the Commonwealth. Applicants from Asia, Africa or Pacific Islands (except New Zealand) are ineligible for naturalisation.
Male Europeans domiciled in Australia are no longer permitted to bring wives or children into the country.
- 1904: Qld Aboriginal Protection Act
- Torres Strait Islanders become subject to the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act.
- 1905: WA Aborigines Act
- Western Australian Aborigines Act extends control over reserves and gives wide powers to the Chief Protector who is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 16.
- 1906: Deportation of Pacific Islanders | Premiers’ Conference |
The last Macassan voyage to Australia
Systematic deportation of Pacific Islanders begins.
Premiers’ Conference resolves to promote immigration through assisted passages.
The last Macassan voyage to Australia takes place during the 1906 – 07 season before the South Australian Government effectively refuses to grant fishing licences to non-Australian operators.
- 1910: Vic Aborigines Act | Dreadnought boys
Victorian Aborigines Act extends powers of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines to ‘half-castes’ as well as ‘full blooded’ Aboriginal people.
New South Wales devotes half the funds from the Dreadnought Trust to the immigration of British boys aged 15 to 18. Between 1911 and 1914, 1,787 ‘Dreadnought boys’ arrive.
- 1911: SA Aborigines Act | NT Aboriginals Ordinance
South Australian Aborigines Act makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 21 with control over the child’s place of residence. The Chief Protector is replaced by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1939 and guardianship power is repealed in 1962.
Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 18. Any Aboriginal person can be forced onto a mission or settlement and children can be removed at will. These powers are repealed in 1957.
- 1912: Child Emigration Society
- Kingsley Fairbridge establishes the Child Emigration Society in England and a farm school in Western Australia for orphaned and underprivileged child migrants.
- 1914: World War 1 | Deportation of enemy aliens | Aboriginal soldiers
World War 1. Outbreak of war halts immigration. The war ends in 1918.
Commonwealth War Precautions Act is passed, banning German immigration to Australia and enabling the internment of ‘enemy aliens’, mostly Germans, living in Australia. 4,000 residents of German background are deported.
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.
- 1915: Separation of Aboriginal children | German language prohibited
New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board is empowered to remove and apprentice Aboriginal children without a court hearing. This power is repealed in 1940, when the Board is renamed the Aborigines Welfare Board.
Similar policies allowing the removal of Aboriginal children apply in other states and these practices continue up to the 1970s. Over one third of Aboriginal children are forcibly taken from their parents to provide household servants and stockmen for non-Aboriginal society.Teaching German in Lutheran schools is prohibited as unpatriotic.
- 1917: S.A. Nomenclature Act
- South Australia Nomenclature Act changes place names of German origin.
- 1919: Versailles Conference | British ex-servicemen | Armenian church
At the Versailles Conference, Prime Minister W.M. Hughes upholds the White Australia Policy against the racial equality clause proposed by Japan.
Migration scheme for British ex-servicemen begins.
First Armenian church is established in Melbourne.
- 1920: Northern Europeans favoured | Responsibility for immigration | Aboriginal population
People from Britain and Ireland as well as those from northern Europe are encouraged to migrate during the 1920s.
Controls on entry of some southern and eastern Europeans are introduced. Quota is placed on people from Malta, Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, Czechoslovakia and Estonia with Jews added later. Italians cannot be restricted due to treaty between Britain and Italy.Commonwealth Government takes over responsibility from the states for immigrant selection.
Aboriginal population is estimated to be at its lowest at 60,000 – 70,000. The majority of Australians have no contact with Aboriginal people due to segregation and social conventions.
- 1921: Increased immigration | Leaugue of Nations
There is a sharp rise in immigration, particularly from Italy, due to USA restricting immigration from southern and eastern Europe.
League of Nations appoints High Commissioner for Refugees.
- 1922: Empire Land Settlement Scheme
- Empire Land Settlement scheme begins under which British Government assists immigrants to come to Australia, particularly to go onto the land.
- 1925: Immigration Act amended | Big Brother movement | Aborigines’ Progressive Association
Immigration Act is amended to allow government to exclude or restrict non-British immigrants for economic, industrial or racial reasons.
Big Brother movement is launched to assist British adolescents to come to Australia as farm workers.
Australian Aborigines’ Progressive Association is formed to oppose New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board.
- 1926: Aboriginal people killed
- Following the killing of a European in Dala, Western Australia, 11 Aboriginal people are murdered in police custody; no prosecutions follow.
- 1927: Discrimination against Aboriginal people
Federal law for family endowment excludes Aboriginal people and instead payments go to Aborigines Protection Board. Aboriginal people are denied maternity allowance and old age pension.
Aboriginal people are banned from central Perth until 1948.
- 1928: Coniston massacre | Quotas for Europeans
Coniston massacre, Northern Territory. Settlers and police admit to shooting over 30 Aboriginal people after a white dingo trapper is killed. Following the massacre, an inquiry is held into the conditions of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
Commonwealth Government introduces a quota system for the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.
- 1929: Depression | 1st Russian orthodox church
Due to the Depression, assisted migration scheme is terminated by Commonwealth government, leading to a sharp decline in immigration.
First Russian Orthodox Church is built in Brisbane.
- 1930: Hostility to non-British
During the Depression, there is increased hostility towards southern European workers. Some Queensland unions succeed in restricting employment for non-British workers in cane fields.
Entry of non-British Europeans is banned unless they are wealthy or have relatives living in Australia.
- 1934: Aborigines Act | Battle of Dingbat Flat | Egon Kisch | Anti-Italian Riots in Kalgoorli
Under the Aborigines Act, Aboriginal people can apply to ‘cease being Aboriginal’ and have access to the same rights as ‘whites’.
‘Battle of Dingbat Flat’ – Italians, Greeks and other non-British immigrants are attacked over increasing numbers of southern Europeans moving into Western Australia.
Dictation Test is used to prevent Czech-Jewish writer Egon Kisch from landing in Australia.
In the gold-mining city of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, an incident in a hotel sparks resentment against Italians living in Kalgoorlie. Anti-Italian sentiment culminates in a two day riot in which migrants homes and shops are burnt. Hundreds of Italian migrants are forced to shelter in the surrounding countryside.
- 1936: Jewish refugees | WA Aborigines Act
Commonwealth Government agrees to permit entry to Jewish refugees who are guaranteed by relatives or friends not to cost the state.
Western Australia Aborigines Act is amended to permit Aboriginal people to be taken into custody without trial or appeal and to prevent them from entering prescribed towns without a permit.
- 1937: Indigenous assimilation | Indigenous segregation | Aboriginal massacre, Gravesend
First Commonwealth and State conference on ‘native welfare’ adopts ‘assimilation’ as the national policy. In practice, assimilation policies lead to the destruction of Aboriginal identity and culture, justification of dispossession and the removal of Aboriginal children.
At the same time, segregationist practices continue until 1960s with separate sections in theatres, hospitals with separate wards, hotels refusing drinks and schools that can refuse enrolment to Aboriginal children.
Massacre of Aboriginal people occurs at Gravesend, New South Wales with over 200 killed.
- 1938: Day of Mourning | Jewish refugees accepted
Aborigines’ Progressive Association holds Australian Aborigines Conference in Sydney, on January 26, the 150th anniversary of European occupation. Aboriginal people mark this date as ‘Day of Mourning and Protest’.
Monthly newspaper, Australian Abo Call is published in Sydney, advocating equality of treatment and opportunity for Aboriginal people.After the Evian Conference, Commonwealth Government decides to accept 15,000 Jewish refugees over 3 years; only 7,500 arrive before war breaks out. Australian Jewish Welfare Society is established to assist immigrants.
- 1939-45: World War 2 | Enemy aliens
World War 2 begins. Although Aboriginal people are not recognised as citizens, two Aboriginal military units are established and some Aboriginal people serve in other sections of armed forces. Aboriginal people serve in Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific and New Guinea.
Social policy legislation to support families during war years applies to Aboriginal people who can meet strict eligibility criteria. As a result, many Aboriginal people leave reserves to seek employment and improved living conditions.
Thousands of nationals of enemy countries, particularly Italians, are interned across the country as ‘enemy aliens’ during the war.
- 1940: Jewish refugees | Benefits for Aboriginal people
The Dunera arrives in Sydney carrying Jewish refugees from Europe – they are interned at Hay, New South Wales, as ‘enemy aliens’.
Discrimination against Aboriginal people begins to raise community disquiet. South Australian Premier Playford requests Commonwealth Government to pay maternity benefits and old age pension to Aboriginal people.
- 1941: Italian POWs
- First Italian prisoners of war arrive.
- 1942: Aboriginal Reconnaissance Unit
- Darwin is bombed by the Japanese. In Arnhem Land, Aboriginal people make up a special reconnaissance unit in defence of Australia. Northern Territory Aboriginal missions are evacuated. Children evacuated after the bombing are transferred to Victoria, South Australia or New South Wales and some never return.
- 1943: Exemption certificate | Rural Employment Scheme
Exemption Certificate is introduced. This means that certain Aboriginal people are exempted from restrictive legislation and are entitled to vote, drink alcohol and move freely but are also prohibited from consorting with others who are not exempt.
Aboriginal people use the derogatory terms ‘dog tags’ or ‘dog licences’ 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 access to education and social welfare benefits.
Rural employment scheme using Italian prisoners of war begins.
- 1944: Cowra breakout
- Four Australian soldiers and at least 231 Japanese prisoners are killed in a breakout attempt by Japanese prisoners of war from a prison camp in Cowra. 108 prisoners and three guards are wounded. No civilian casualties or injuries are recorded.
- 1945: Department of Immigration | Post-war immigration
Department of Immigration is established with plans to increase Australia’s population by 1% annually through migration.
Post war immigration program is set up, with ‘populate or perish’ approach in response to labour shortages and fear of invasion by Asia. British subjects receive free and assisted passage. Due to labour shortages in Britain, fewer British migrants apply, so groups previously restricted are now encouraged to migrate, in particular those from southern and eastern Europe.
- 1946: Deportation of Asians and Pacific Islanders | Pilbara strike
Government begins deporting Asians and Pacific Islanders who fled to Australia in World War II.
Aboriginal workers on stations in the Pilbara, Western Australia, go on strike for better wages and conditions; the strike lasts until 1949.
- 1947: Displaced Persons Scheme | 450,000 migrants arrive | Migrant assimilation | Aliens Act | Immigration Advisory Council | Assisted Passage | European refugees | Bonegilla | Census
Displaced Persons Scheme brings a total of 170,000 refugees, mainly from Eastern Europe – Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia.
In the period of post-war reconstruction 450,000 migrants arrive. Many people from non-English speaking countries take unskilled work, particularly those admitted under Displaced Persons Scheme and those from southern Europe, Middle East and Latin America.
Assimilation of new migrants is a priority. Migrants are expected to take on Australian way of life and learn English quickly. Few services are available apart from basic English.
Aliens Act requires all non-British people over 16 to register and notify the Government of changes in circumstances.
Immigration Advisory Council is established.
Assisted Passage Scheme for Empire and American ex-servicemen and women who had served in Australia is introduced; this is later extended to members of wartime resistance movements.
Australia signs agreement with Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organisation for resettlement of European refugees. Polish refugees land in Tasmania to work on Hydro-Electric Scheme.
Bonegilla Immigration Reception and Training Centre is opened.
Census shows total population of 7.6 million (90% Australian born, 7% born in United Kingdom and Ireland).
- 1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Australian citizenship | Non-Europeans leave | Assisted passage ends
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is adopted by the United Nations with Australia’s support.
Commonwealth Nationality and Citizenship Act creates status of ‘Australian Citizen’; previously Australians had been simply ‘British subjects’.
Calwell announces that all non-Europeans who took refuge in Australia during the war must leave.
Assisted passage agreement with Malta is concluded.
- 1949: UN Convention on Genocide | Aboriginal vote | Immigration Council | AMES |
Snowy Mountains Scheme
The United Nations Convention on Genocide is ratified by Australia. It comes into force in 1951.
Aboriginal people are given the right to enrol and vote at Federal elections provided they are entitled to enrol for State elections or have served in the Defence Forces.
Immigration Planning Council is established.
Adult Migrant Education Scheme is established.
New South Wales Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, a major employer of migrant labour, begins.
- 1950: Citizenship Convention | Russian migration
First annual Citizenship Convention is held in Canberra, with aim of helping non-British migrants assimilate and become citizens.
Russians living in China begin to leave after the Communist victory in 1949 and migrate to Australia.
- 1951: Aboriginal assimilation | High Commissioner for Refugees | Assisted passage concludes
Federal Government convenes Australian Conference for Native Welfare, with every state and territory represented except Victoria and Tasmania, which claim to have no Aboriginal ‘problem’. The Conference officially adopts a policy of ‘assimilation’ for Aboriginal people. ‘Assimilation means, in practical terms, that it is expected that all persons of Aboriginal birth or mixed blood in Australia will live like white Australians do.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is established.
Assisted passage agreements with Netherlands and Italy are concluded.
- 1952: Assisted passage | Japanese wives
Assisted passage agreement is concluded with West Germany and arrangements are made with Austria and Greece.
Japanese wives of Australian servicemen are admitted under permits valid for 5 years.
- 1953: Concern over treatment of ‘non-Whites’ | British migrants | Atomic tests
Federal Government enacts Wards’ Employment Ordinance in the Northern Territory which makes Aboriginal people wards of the state with minor status and discriminates against them in employment and pay. Employment practices go against International Labour Organisation’s Convention 107. Concern is expressed internationally about Australia’s treatment of ‘non-Whites’, in particular Aboriginal people.
British migrants become entitled to all Australian welfare benefits on arrival. Non-British migrants have a limited range of benefit entitlements.
Atomic tests are carried out at Emu and Maralinga, South Australia. Many Aboriginal people die from radiation poisoning. Hundreds of families are forced to leave their homelands because of severe contamination. Tests continue until 1957.
- 1954: Assisted passage
- Assisted passages are introduced for migrants from the USA, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
- 1955: Millionth migrant
- Australia’s one millionth post-war immigrant arrives.
- 1956: Permanent residence for non-Europeans | Hungarian refugees | Armenian church
Permanent resident status is granted to non-Europeans who had fled to Australia during the second world war or had been long term residents (at least 15 years); non-European spouses of Australian citizens are permitted to apply for naturalisation.
Hungarian refugees arrive in Sydney following Russian invasion of Hungary.
Armenian Church is consecrated in Sydney.
- 1957: NAIDOC formed | Vic Aborigines Welfare Board | EEC | Citizenship for non-Europeans
Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement is formed and National Aboriginal Day of Observance Committee (NAIDOC) is formed.
Victorian Aborigines Welfare Board replaces the Board for the Protection of Aborigines. The Welfare Board is abolished in 1967.
Treaty of Rome establishes European Economic Community (EEC). Freedom of movement within EEC and ‘guestworker’ programs have the effect of reducing emigration from Europe to Australia.
Non-Europeans can apply for citizenship after 15 years’ residence.
- 1958: Council for the Advancement of Aborigines | Commonwealth Migration Act |
Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines is established. The title is changed in 1964 to Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Commonwealth Migration Act is revised, abolishing the dictation test and introducing an entry permit system as a means of controlling immigration.
Assisted passage arrangements are made with Spain.
- 1959: Immigration Reform Group
Immigration Reform Group is founded, advocating ending the White Australia Policy.
Australian citizens are permitted to bring non-European spouses and unmarried minor children into Australia; this is extended to all British subjects in 1960. ‘Distinguished and highly qualified’ non-Europeans are admitted for permanent residence.
- 1960: Policy of integration | Immigration slows | WA Department of Native Affairs |
Benefits for Aboriginal people
Policy of integration rather than assimilation is promoted for migrants. As Australia becomes more diverse, it is seen that migrants need more help in settlement. Ethnic organisations are seen as playing a role in this process. However, while a degree of cultural pluralism is accepted, migrants are still expected to assimilate in the long run.
During 1960s immigration from Europe slows as economic conditions improve. Australia looks to a wider range of countries to maintain migration intake.
Western Australian Department of Native Affairs ceases taking Aboriginal children from their parents and sending them to missions for their education.
Aboriginal people become eligible for social service benefits.
- 1961: Native Welfare Conference | Institute of Aboriginal Studies
Conference of Native Welfare Ministers agrees to strategies to assist assimilation of Aboriginal people. These include the removal of discriminatory legislation and restrictive practices, the incorporation of Aboriginal people into the economy through welfare measures and education and training and the education of non-Aboriginal Australians about Aboriginal culture and history. After the Conference, all states and territories amend their legislation.
The Conference marks the beginning of modern land rights movement and widespread awakening by non-Aboriginal Australians to claims for justice by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. South Australian Premier argues for integration rather than assimilation for Aboriginal people.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies is established in Canberra.
- 1962: Aboriginal vote
- The Commonwealth Electoral Act is amended to give franchise to all Aboriginal people; that is, it extends the right to vote to Aboriginal people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
- 1963: Protest by Yirrkala people
- Yirrkala Aboriginal people from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, protest to the Commonwealth Government about part of their reserve land being given over for mining.
- 1964: NT Social Welfare Ordinance | Integration office
Northern Territory Social Welfare Ordinance removes some discrimination against Aboriginal people.
The Assimilation Section of the Department of Immigration changes its name to the Integration Section.
- 1965: Freedom ride | ALP drops White Australia Policy
‘Freedom Ride’ by Aboriginal people and students is led by Charles Perkins into 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.
Australian Labor Party drops White Australia policy from its party platform.
- 1966: Anti-discrimination legislation | Anti discrimination bills | Wave Hill Station strike |
Award wages for Aboriginal workers | Immigration policy | 120,000 migrants/year |
First Aboriginal Australian to gain a university degree
Australia signs the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
South Australia passes Aboriginal Lands Trust Bill and the Prohibition of Discrimination Bill, the first state act prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race, colour or country of origin. South Australia also passes the Aboriginal Affairs Act Amendment Bill (1966-67) and the Aboriginal and Historic Relics Preservation Act (1965).
200 Gurindji stockmen at Wave Hill Station, Northern Territory walk off in protest at unequal pay and conditions and as a statement about ownership of their traditional land. The strike lasts 9 years and culminates in some land being returned to the Gurindji people by Prime Minister Whitlam in 1975.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission finds in favour of an application from the North Australian Workers’ Union for award wages for Aboriginal pastoral workers. The cattle industry reacts by phasing out Aboriginal labour and driving Aboriginal communities progressively off the properties which are their traditional lands.
Review of immigration policy substantially weakens the White Australia policy; the 15 year residence requirement for non-Europeans is reduced to 5 years.
An average of 120,000 migrants arrive per year. A large-scale intake of refugees results in greater diversity in the Australian population.
Dr Charles Nelson Perkins AO enters the University of Sydney in 1963 and graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in May 1966. He is the first Indigenous Australian to graduate from university. He is instrumental in establishing the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs in Sydney and forges a lasting connection with the Sydney Aboriginal community.
- 1967: Referendum on Aboriginal Rights | Turkish migration concludes
Constitutional Referendum on Aboriginal Rights is held. 90% of Australian population vote to eliminate sections 51 and 127 of the Constitution, giving the Commonwealth power to legislate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to include them in the Census.
Migration agreement is concluded with Turkey.
- 1968: Office of Aboriginal Affairs | Czech and Slovak refugees
Commonwealth Government establishes Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
Czech and Slovak refugees arrive in Australia following Warsaw Pact forces’ invasion of Czechoslovakia.
- 1969: Committee on Overseas Qualifications | UN Aboriginal delegation |
N.S.W. Aboriginal Welfare Board
Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications is established.
Aboriginal delegation presents United Nations Secretary-General with a statement on conditions of Australian Aboriginal people.
New South Wales Aboriginal Welfare Board is abolished.
- 1970: Increasing diversity | Aboriginal land rights | Child Migrant Education | Migration peak | Yugoslav migration | Romanian Orthodox Parish
Increasing diversity of population occurs throughout the 1970s with migration of new groups of refugees from South and Central America and Africa and increasing numbers of Lebanese escaping civil war in Lebanon.
Limited land lease rights are given to Aboriginal people on Northern Territory reserves.
Department of Immigration funds the Child Migrant Education Program.
There is post-war peak of annual permanent migrant arrivals of 185,325.
Migration agreement is concluded with Yugoslavia.
First Romanian Orthodox parish established in Carlton, Melbourne.
- 1971: International Year for Action to Combat Racism | Aboriginal people in Census |
1st Aboriginal Member of Parliament | Aboriginal children in NSW Schools
Nations International Year for Action to Combat Racism is held
Aboriginal flag is flown for the first time in Victoria Square, Adelaide.
Aboriginal people are counted in the Census for the first time.
Senator Neville Bonner becomes the first Aboriginal Member of Federal Parliament, as a senator from Queensland.
New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service is established.
Principals of schools in New South Wales are no longer able to exclude Aboriginal children because of home conditions or community opposition.
- 1972: Aboriginal Tent Embassy | Department of Aboriginal Affairs | Policy of self-determination
Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra is set up as focus for land rights movement on Australia Day, 26 January.
Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs is established.
Policy of self-determination for Aboriginal people is adopted by Federal Government, replacing earlier policies of protectionism and assimilation. The change means having the right to cultural and linguistic maintenance and management of natural resources on Aboriginal land.
- 1973: ‘Family of the Nation’ speech | Immigration reforms | Land Rights Commission |
Aboriginal Consultative Committee | Ethnic Communities’ Councils |
Telephone Interpreter Service | Chilean refugees
Minister for Immigration, Al Grassby, delivers the ‘Family of the Nation’ speech, introducing the term ‘multicultural’ and linking it with social justice. A policy of multiculturalism begins to develop.
Federal Labor Government announces that future migration policy will be non-discriminatory with regard to race, colour and nationality.
Wide ranging reforms to immigration and visa rules are made. Residence qualification for non-British migrants to be naturalised is reduced from 5 years to 3 (the same as for British) and the words ‘British subject’ are removed from Australian passports. There is an amnesty for illegal immigrants and racially selected sporting teams are banned from visiting Australia.
Aboriginal Land Rights Commission is established.
National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, an elected advisory body to the Commonwealth Government, is established.
Ethnic Communities’ Councils are established in Victoria and South Australia. By 1979, Councils exist in all states.
Telephone Interpreter Service is established.
Chilean refugees begin arriving in Australia after the overthrow of the Allende Government.
- 1974: Woodward report | Occupational restrictions | Cypriot migration
Second Report of the Aboriginal Land Commission (the Woodward Report) is tabled, acknowledging Aboriginal people’s link with the land; ‘to deny Aborigines the right to prevent mining on their land is to deny the reality of their land rights‘.
Occupational restrictions are imposed on the entry of immigrants other than close relatives of permanent residents, or refugees.
Migration from Cyprus increases after Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus.
- 1975: Racial Discrimination Act | Anti-Chinese meeting | DIEA |
Population & Immigration Council | Education programs |
Commissioner for Community Relations Aboriginal & Islander Health Organisation |
NSW Aboriginal Children’s Service | Gurindji people gain leasehold title | NSW ECC |
Radio Paesani | Timorese refugees | Indo-Chinese refugees | First Aboriginal School principal
Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act is passed, prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent or ethnic origin.
A mass anti-Chinese meeting is held in Hyde Park, Sydney.
Coalition Government is elected – retains non-discriminatory immigration policy and begins to raise immigration targets.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (DIEA) is established.
Australian Population and Immigration Council is established to evaluate demographic trends and the social and economic impact of migration on Australia.
Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations is established.
Commonwealth Schools Commission Report 1976-78 endorses notion of education for cultural pluralism. Funding for English as a Second Language programs is transferred from DIEA to Schools Commission.
National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation is formed.
Aboriginal Children’s Service is established in New South Wales – an Indigenous community-controlled service for the care and placement of Indigenous children.
Gurindji people gain leasehold title to part of Wave Hill Station.
New South Wales Ethnic Communities’ Council is established.
The Italian Radio Paesani is launched in Adelaide; it is the first station in Australia to broadcast a program in a language other than English. Other ethnic radio stations follow.
Timorese refugees flee to Australia after Indonesian invasion of East Timor.
In the period, 1975-1984 Australia resettles over 90,000 Indo-Chinese refugees under the humanitarian element of the migration program.
Vic Chapman achieves the distinction of becoming the first Aboriginal person in NSW to be appointed as a School Principal.
- 1976: Vietnamese ‘boat people’ | Land Councils | Indigenous population |
Aboriginal Child Care Agencies | Migrant Education | Lebanese migration | Mosque in Sydney
First Vietnamese ‘boat people’ arrive in Darwin.
Commonwealth Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act implements the main recommendations of the Woodward Report. The most significant land rights legislation in Australia, the act transfers reserve land to Aboriginal ownership and administration to Land Councils. It gives statutory recognition to the Northern Land Council and the Pitjantjajara Land Council is formed.
Census establishes national Indigenous population at 160,000.
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency is established, rapidly achieving a 40% reduction in the number of Aboriginal children in children’s homes. It is followed by the South Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (1978), Karu in Darwin (1979) and the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (1980).
Commonwealth Child Migrant Education Program is discontinued and programs of Multicultural and Migrant Education commence.
Lebanese displaced by war in Lebanon settle in Australia.
Mosque at Lakemba in Sydney is completed.
- 1977: Galbally report | Ethnic Affairs Council | Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council |
Central Land Council | Increased migration
Report of the Review of Post-Arrival Migrant Programs and Services (Galbally Report) is released, with 3 aims: maintenance of cultural identity; promotion of equality of opportunity; and preservation of social cohesion. Report recommends $5 million for multicultural education.
Australian Ethnic Affairs Council is established.
A National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council is set up.
The Central Land Council is formed.
Migration levels increase: 1977-80: 70,000 – 80,000 per year. 1981-82: 111,000 – 118,000 per year.
- 1978: Aboriginal Development Commission | Aboriginal sacred sites | Uranium mining |
Mining on Aboriginal reserve | Kimberley Land Council | Government accepts Galbally report |
NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission SBS Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) commences broadcasting |
Immigration points system
Aboriginal Development Commission is established.
Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance is passed, instituting prosecution for trespass and desecration of Aboriginal sites.
The Ranger (uranium mining) Agreement is signed by the Northern Land Council and the Commonwealth of Australia.
Aboriginal communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island seek Commonwealth Government support against a Queensland government-backed mining project on their reserve.
Kimberley Land Council is formed.
Commonwealth Government accepts the recommendations in the Galbally Report, including the encouragement of multiculturalism. This is a significant departure from previous policies of assimilation and integration.
Points system is introduced for immigration selection.
The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) formally comes into existence on 1 January 1978. The purpose of SBS is “to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society”.
New South Wales Government report Participation recommends establishment of Ethnic Affairs Commission.
- 1979: Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs | UN Refugee Conference |
Refugee Advisory Council | NUMAS | Terra Nullius challenged | National Aboriginal Council
Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs (AIMA) is established to raise awareness of cultural diversity and promote social cohesion.
Over 200,000 Indo-Chinese refugees in camps throughout Asia lead to the United Nations International Refugee Conference. Australia agrees to accept some 36,000 refugees.
Australian Refugee Advisory Council is established.
Numerical Multi-factor Assessment System (NUMAS), or points system, is introduced for immigrant selection.
Coe vs Commonwealth in High Court of Australia: unsuccessful challenge to legal concept of terra nullius.
National Aboriginal Conference resolves that a treaty should be concluded between Aboriginal people and the Commonwealth Government.
- 1980: Federation of Land Councils | Drilling on sacred sites | Link Up Aboriginal Corporation |
National Federation of Land Councils is formed.
Dispute at Noonkanbah, Western Australia, over drilling on sacred sites draws national and international attention to Aboriginal rights.
Link Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation is established to provide family tracing, reunion and support for forcibly removed children and their families. It is followed by Link Up (Qld) in 1988.
Channel 0/28 (SBS) begins multicultural television transmission in Sydney and Melbourne.
- 1981: Human Rights Commission | World Council of Indigenous People |
SA Pitjantjajara Land Rights Act | SNAICC | Special Humanitarian Program |
First Aboriginal Australian to become a permanent head of a federal government department | Ethnic Schools Program
Commonwealth Human Rights Commission is established. It is replaced in 1986 by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
National Aboriginal Conference hosts an Australian meeting of the World Council of Indigenous People.
South Australian Pitjantjajara Land Rights Act is passed, the first such State Act. Anangu Pitjantjajara, a corporate body, is established to administer some 100,000km of land for the Anangu people.
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) is established to represent the interests of Australia’s approximately 100 Indigenous community-controlled children’s services.
End of assisted passages to all immigrants except refugees. The Special Humanitarian Program is established.
Dr Charles Nelson Perkins is appointed Permanent Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the first Aboriginal to become a permanent head of a federal government department. He serves as Chairman of the Aboriginal Development Commission between 1981 and 1984. Throughout his career, he is a strident critic of Australian Government policies on indigenous affairs.
Commonwealth Ethnic Schools Program commences, supporting communities offering language tuition in community languages to children.
- 1982: New immigration scheme | Commonwealth Games Protest Brisbane
New immigration scheme emphasising family reunion and needed occupational skills begins.
In the lead up to and during the Commonwealth games in Brisbane, large protests take place in response to the Queensland Government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protection Act. The protests continue for 11 days and make international headlines. The resulting international attention provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to highlight the injustices and discrimination they face.
- 1983: Migration Act Amendment | Aboriginal Child Placement | El Salvadorans arrive
Labor Government reconfirms non-discriminatory migration policies. Migration Act is amended to replace term ‘alien’ with ‘non-citizen’ and end favoured treatment of immigrants who are British subjects. Migrant intake is reduced by 1.5% compared to previous year.
Aboriginal Child Placement Principle is incorporated in Northern Territory welfare legislation. It is followed in New South Wales in 1987, Victoria in 1989 and South Australia in 1993.
El Salvadorans accepted for resettlement under Special Humanitarian Program arrive in Sydney.
- 1984: Immigration debate | African refugees | First congress of FECCA | Heritage Act |
National Population Council | Residence qualification | Tjartutja Land Rights Act |
Council for Overseas Professional Qualifications | NACCME | Warrnambool, Victoria speech by history professor Geoffrey Blainey sparks the “history wars”
‘Immigration debate’ occurs in response to community concern about high levels of immigration in the context of high unemployment. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, historian and academic, is critical of the Government’s immigration program, in particular numbers of migrants from Asia. Public debate in the media and Federal Parliament focuses on attitudes of some Australians to Asian immigration.
First significant group of refugees from Africa (mainly Ethiopa) arrive.
First congress of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) is held in Melbourne.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Act is passed.
National Population Council is established.
Residence qualification for citizenship is reduced from 3 years to 2.
Council for Overseas Professional Qualifications is established to improve the recognition of migrants’ qualifications.
Review of Commonwealth Schools Commission’s Multicultural Education Program. National Advisory and Co-ordinating Committee on Multicultural Education (NACCME) is established to monitor and review multicultural programs.
South Australian Maralinga Tjartutja Land Rights Act is passed. Maralinga Tjartutja, a corporate body, is established to administer some 80,000 km of Maralinga lands.
In his speech Geoffrey Blainey declares “More than half our immigrants are now from Asia, and many come from a peasant background” and “It is almost as if we have turned the White Australia policy inside out”.Blainey coins the term “Black Armband” to describe critical views of Australia’s colonial history.
This derogatory term is adopted by many prominent conservatives including the then Prime Minister John Howard and the media.
- 1985: Uluru Kataatjuta | Access & Equity Strategy | Eminent Persons Group |
Migrant Education Program | Hindu temple
Commonwealth Government returns Uluru Kataatjuta National Park (including Ayer’s Rock) to its traditional Aboriginal owners.
Federal Government announces Access and Equity Strategy to ensure that immigrants have equitable access to government services.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser chairs Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group seeking to promote political dialogue aimed at replacing apartheid with popular government in South Africa.
Major review of Adult Migrant Education Program begins.
Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple is opened in Sydney.
- 1986: Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission | Goondiwindi riot | Jupp Report
Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) is established. It replaces the former Human Rights Commission and has a primary role in implementing Australia’s international human rights obligations.
The ‘Goondiwindi riot’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents of Goondiwindi on New South Wales – Queensland border leads to public acknowledgment of poor living standards and low socio-economic expectations of Aboriginal people in the area.
Don’t Settle for Less: Review of Migrant and Multicultural Programs and Services (Jupp Report) reaffirms multiculturalism with a focus on equitable participation.
- 1987: Toomelah Inquiry | Aboriginal Deaths in Custody | Office of Multicultural Affairs |
Fitzgerald Committee | National Policy on Languages
‘Goondiwindi riot’ results in the first public inquiry for the new HREOC – the Toomelah Inquiry which investigates the wider causes of racial conflict in New South Wales and Queensland border towns of Toomelah, Boggabilla and Goondiwindi. Significant resources are allocated to meet basic housing, water, health and education needs.
Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is established in response to concerns expressed by Committee to Defend Black Rights and its Deaths in Custody Watch Committee about the proportion and number of Aboriginal people dying in gaols.
Commonwealth Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is established within Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, replacing Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs.
Fitzgerald Committee is established to advise on immigration policy.
National Policy on Languages is adopted, recognising the importance of English and languages other than English for all school students.
- 1988: National Inquiry into Racist Violence | Australia Day March | Racial Discrimination Act | Barunga statement | Fitzgerald Committee Report
National Inquiry into Racist Violence is announced by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in response to widespread concern that racist attacks are increasing.
Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their supporters march through the streets of Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January, to celebrate their survival, during national Bicentennial celebrations.
Australia’s representative to the United Nations Human Rights Committee acknowledges ‘public policy regarding the care of Aboriginal children, particularly during the postwar period, had been a serious mistake‘.
High Court judgment affirms power of Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act over discriminatory state based legislation. The Court hands down decision on a claim by Mer people for native title rights to the Murray Islands. It allows the original claim to be heard, which the Queensland Government had attempted to block through introducing retrospective legislation abolishing land rights.
The ‘Barunga statement’ of national Aboriginal political objectives is issued to the Federal Government by Aboriginal leaders.
Fitzgerald Committee Report – Immigration: A Commitment to Australia is released, recommending more emphasis on skilled migration.
- 1989: National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia | Access & Equity Strategy |
Visas of Chinese students extended
Commonwealth Government releases the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia with the three principles of cultural identity, social justice and economic efficiency.
Federal Government’s Access and Equity Strategy is extended to include Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people and all those of non-English speaking background.
Following the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, visas of Chinese students in Australia are extended.
- 1990: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission | Convention on the Rights of the Child
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) is set up as main Commonwealth agency in Indigenous affairs.
Aboriginal and Social Justice Commissioner appointed to HREOC.
Australia becomes a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- 1991: Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report | National Inquiry into Racist Violence |
Australian Language & Literacy Policy
Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is tabled in Federal Parliament, detailing the lives and deaths of 99 Aboriginal people who died in gaol; 45 were people who were separated from their families as children.
Report of National Inquiry into Racist Violence is tabled in Federal Parliament.
As a result of both inquiries, Federal Government begins to address disparity in living conditions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Mechanisms are put in place for monitoring implementation of recommendations of both reports.
Australia’s Languages: the Australian Language and Literacy Policy is released.
- 1992: Native Title – ‘Mabo’ decision | Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation | Redfern Park speech | Youth anti-racism campaign
High Court decision on Native Title (‘Mabo’ decision) overturns the concept of terra nullius and establishes that native title can exist over particular kinds of land – unalienated Crown land, national parks and reserves.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation is set up by the Commonwealth Government to foster better understanding between Indigenous people and the wider Australian community.
Prime Minister Keating launches Australian celebration of International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1993), with a speech accepting responsibility for past mistreatment of Aboriginal people by non-Aboriginal Australians and calling for reconciliation. The speech becomes known as the ‘Redfern Park speech’.
Torres Strait Islander flag is flown for the first time on Thursday Island.
National youth anti-racism campaign of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Different Colours, One People, is launched.
- 1993: Australian Football League (AFL) player Nicky Winmar proudly points to his skin |
Native Title Act
In a match for St Kilda against Collingwood Nicky Winmar is racially abused by Collingwood supporters, who yell for him to “go and sniff some petrol” and “go walkabout where you came from”. At the end of the game Winmar lifts up his jersey and, facing the crowd, points to his skin. The following day, a photograph of this moment is published in the Sunday Age under the headline “Winmar: I’m black and proud of it“.
Native Title Act 1993 incorporates the principles of the Mabo judgement into law. The Act recognises the native title rights of Indigenous Australians who have maintained a ‘continuing connection’ with their land and waters.
- 1994: Native Title Tribunal | Australian Citizenship Act |
Australian South Sea Islander community recognised
Native Title Tribunal is established to hear land claims. Indigenous Land Fund is established as part of Federal Government’s response to the Mabo decision.
Australian Citizenship Act is amended to include a preamble reflecting a multicultural concept of citizenship.
Australian Federal Government officially recognises the Australian South Sea Islander community.
- 1995: Racial Hatred Act | National Inquiry | Going Home Conference | Social justice reports | Indigenous Land Corporation | One Nation party | Karpin report
Racial Hatred Act 1995 is passed, with aim of ensuring that people of all backgrounds can live free from racial vilification, intimidation and harassment.
National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families is established.
Going Home Conference, Darwin, brings together over 600 Aboriginal people removed as children to discuss common goals of access to archives, compensation, rights to land and social justice.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, ATSIC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner presented reports to the Commonwealth Government on how social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could be achieved.
Indigenous Land Corporation is established to assist with land purchase, title transfer and the provision of financial and management advice using monies provided by the Land Fund.
Federal election results in new political party – ‘One Nation’ – with 1 member elected on platform of anti-immigration and anti-Aboriginal rights. Election leads to increased public debate on numbers and composition of migrant intake, benefits given to disadvantaged people, Aboriginal land rights and policies of multiculturalism. Debate also centres on whether Australia is a racist country and rights of people to express racist views.
Enterprising nation: Renewing Australia’s Managers to Meet the Challenges of the Asia-Pacific Century (Karpin report) is released.
- 1996: Parliamentary Statement on Racial Tolerance | High Court decision on Wik |
Senator Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech to parliament.
Bi-partisan Parliamentary Statement on Racial Tolerance is made by Federal Parliament, denouncing racial intolerance and reaffirming commitment to process of Reconciliation and non-discriminatory immigration policy.
High Court decision on Wik finds that, in some cases, native title rights can co-exist with pastoral leasehold rights. Federal Government develops ‘Ten Point Plan’ outlining a proposed legislative response to the High Court Wik decision, with the aim of limiting Aboriginal land rights.
Commonwealth Office of Multicultural Affairs is absorbed into Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
The Cape York Heads of Agreement is brokered between Aboriginal interest groups, the Cattlemen’s Union and the Australian Conservation Association.
Senator Pauline Hanson warns parliament that in her maiden speech that Australia risks being “swamped by Asians”. She claims that most Australians want to see Australia’s immigration policy “radically” reviewed, and “multiculturalism abolished”.
“They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate,” she says.
- 1997: Bringing them home report | National Reconciliation Convention |
Native Title Amendment Bill | National Multicultural Advisory Council
Bringing them home: Report of National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families is released. Report concludes that forcible removal of children was an act of genocide, contrary to United Nations Convention on Genocide, ratified by Australia in 1949.
National Reconciliation Convention is held in Melbourne.
Native Title Amendment Bill is passed, as an adaptation of the ‘Ten Point Plan’.
National Multicultural Advisory Council (NMAC) is established. NMAC issues Multicultural Australia: the Way Forward, discussion document on future of multiculturalism as a public policy.
- 1998: Constitutional Convention | Living in Harmony | Australian Citizenship Council |
2nd Aboriginal person elected | One Nation Party loses
Constitutional Convention held which leads to debate on the recognition of the status of Indigenous peoples and of Australian cultural diversity in an amended Constitution.
Commonwealth Government’s ‘Living in Harmony’ campaign is launched with $5 million to support nation-wide community program to counter racism.
Australian Citizenship Council is established to provide government with advice on issues related to citizenship.
Federal election results in second Aboriginal person elected to Federal Parliament – Senator Aden Ridgeway. The One Nation Party loses its seat.
Commonwealth Government releases Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society as a way of ensuring government services meet the needs of all Australians.
- 1999: Multiculturalism policy | Statement of regret | Constitutional preamble |
Kosovo & East Timor refugees | Republic referendum
Commonwealth Government releases advice from National Multicultural Advisory Council. The report Australian Multiculturalism for a New Century recommends re-establishment of a central coordinating agency and a national communication strategy.
Commonwealth Government develops the multicultural policy statement, A new agenda for multicultural Australia which stresses Australia’s commitment to freedom and the role of democracy as the foundation of Australian multiculturalism.
Federal Parliament issues a statement of sincere regret over the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
All Premiers, Chief Ministers and State/Territory Opposition Leaders meet with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation to discuss the draft Document for Reconciliation.
Significant inclusions recognising the unique culture, heritage and rights of Indigenous Australians and contributions of migrants are included in the draft Constitutional Preamble to be put in the November referendum.
United Nations race discrimination committee finds the Native Title Act in breach of Australia’s commitment as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and requests immediate reopening of talks with Indigenous Australians. Federal Government rejects committee’s findings.
Temporary refugees from Kosovo, former republic of Yugoslavia, come to Australia under new category of visa ‘Temporary Safe Haven’ following war in Kosovo; most return by end of year. Refugees from East Timor also come under ‘Temporary Safe Haven’ visas following massacres of Timorese in the wake of the vote for independence from Indonesia.
Referendum on Australia becoming a republic is held in November and lost.