Communities and Justice

Dates of significance to NSW Aboriginal people

Australia Day / Survival Day

26 January

While January 26 is a day of celebration for many Australians, it's a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. January 26 marks the day that New South Wales was established as a colony in 1788. We at DCJ are sensitive to the fact that for many people in NSW, January 26 is a day of contemplation that marks the survival of Aboriginal Peoples, cultures and traditions.

The Freedom Ride

12 February

On 12 February 1965, University of Sydney students inspired by equal rights activism in the United States started a bus tour of western and coastal NSW with three key goals in mind:

  • draw attention to the poor state of Aboriginal health, education and housing
  • focus and attention on the social discrimination experienced by Aboriginal people to effect positive change
  • encourage and support Aboriginal people themselves to resist discrimination.

The Freedom Ride was led by Charles Perkins, an Arrente man born in Alice Springs who dedicated his life to advocating for Aboriginal rights. The Freedom Ride has an important place in the history of Australia and is remembered every February for fostering Aboriginal activism and raising much needed public attention on issues Aboriginal people continue to face today.

Anniversary of the Apology (2008)

13 February

Anniversary of the formal apology made by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Parliament of Australia, on 13 February 2008 to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the forced removal of children from their parents and community over generations.

The Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples page on the Australian Government website provides a link to a video of the National Apology made in 2008 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd including accessible versions. Web visitors will also find the full text or transcript of the National Apology.

National Close the Gap Day

15 March

National Close the Gap Day is an annual event held to raise awareness about the differences in the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10–17 years less than other Australians. Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

The National Close the Gap Day is an initiative of the Close the Gap campaign. The Close the Gap campaign is a social justice campaign launched by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and general non-government organisations that helps shape government policy and action to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal people around the country.

What is Closing the Gap?

Closing the Gap is the Australian Government strategy in response to the Close the Gap campaign, and includes policy responses broader then health, including education and economic development.

Bringing them home

5 April

On 5 April 1997, 'Bringing them home' was launched as the final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families.

The final report holds and honours the many personal stories shared by members of the Stolen Generations with the inquiry. The report is a tribute to the strength and resilience of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people adversely affected by forcible removal. We remember and acknowledge the sorrow of all the children who will never come home - for them, their parents, their communities and all Aboriginal people.

National Sorry Day

26 May

National Sorry Day in 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of this special Australia-wide commemoration acknowledging more than 150 years of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and culture and to think about the victims of these misguided actions by government.

Holding a National Sorry Day was one of the recommendations made by the 1997 Bringing Them Home inquiry. The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998.

National Sorry Day helps people come together to reflect on the past but also talk about what is needed to bring healing to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities.

Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum

27 May

In 1967, after 10 years of campaigning, a referendum was held to change the Australian Constitution. The result was the removal of two negative references to Aboriginal Australians giving the Commonwealth the power to legislate for them as a group. This change was seen by many as a recognition of Aboriginal people as full Australian citizens.

Reconciliation Week

27 May – 3 June

National Reconciliation Week was initiated in 1996 to provide a special focus for nationwide activities all Australians can take part in to promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The dates of 27 May to 3 June encompass important milestones, namely the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

Reconciliation Australia describes the week as a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2022 is 'Be Brave. Make Change'. It is a challenge to us all to Be Brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can Make Change for all.

Mabo Day

3 June

Mabo Day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgement in 1992 in the Mabo case, that Australia was not ‘Terra Nullius’ (no mans land) when British colonists arrived in 1788. This is a day of particular significance for Torres Strait Islander people, but also for Aboriginal people too as the decision opened up a new wave of land rights.


3 - 10 July 2022

NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal rights groups in the 1920′s that sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

To find out more, visit the NAIDOC Week website.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

4 August

Children's Day and the week leading up to it, is a time to for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children. The day is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that community, culture and family play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

To find out more, visit the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day website.

Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

13 September

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. The Australian Government gave its support on 3 April 2009.

Learn more on the Australian Human Rights Commission page about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

NSW Aboriginal Rugby League KnockOut

29 September - 1 October

Best known as the Koori Knockout, in 2018 the event took place at Apex Oval, Dubbo and featured more than 25 attractions and activities.

Last updated:

14 Apr 2023