Significant dates and annual events

Significant dates

The Centre for Aboriginal Studies recognises several annual dates and events which hold significance to many Aboriginal Australians.

26 January: Survival Day

Ever since the first Day of Mourning in 1938, the tradition has continued each year on 26 January. In 1998, a silent re-enactment of the original Day of Mourning protest was staged by around four hundred protestors, along the same route that the group of Aboriginal people took in 1938. It also involved descendants of the original protestors reading the speeches which were given 60 years ago and the ten points which were outlined from the meeting to be reaffirmed.

Survival Concerts are held across Australia on January 26, and represent a peaceful resistance by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to colonisation and to Australia Day being celebrated on the anniversary of the arrival of the British. The Concerts celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survival and showcase performing artists. The first Concert was held in Sydney in 1992 and has been running in Perth since 2000.

Learn more about Survival Day

13 February: Apology Day

On 13 February 2008, as parliament returned from its summer break, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a Motion of Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples in the House of Representatives. He apologised for past laws, policies and practices that devastated Australia’s First Nations Peoples – in particular members of the Stolen Generations. This was the parliament’s first order of business, and The Hon. Kevin Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to give a public apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Federal Government.

17 March: Close the Gap Day

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People die on average between 10 and 17 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians. Indigenous babies are between two and three times more likely to die before their first birthday as non-Indigenous babies. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians continue to suffer from much higher rates of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, pneumonia and diabetes than other Australians. Many Indigenous urban and remote communities experience poor access to primary healthcare. Access can involve distance from services, lack of cultural appropriateness or the wrong type of service.

The aim of Close the Gay Day is to bring people together, to share information, and – most importantly – to take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.

Learn more about Close the Gap Day

26 May: Sorry Day

National Sorry Day is an annual day of commemoration and remembrance of all those who have been impacted by the government policies of forcible removal that have resulted in the Stolen Generations.

Sorry Day has been held annually on 26 May each year since 1998, and was born out of a key recommendation made by the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families in the Bringing them home Report that was tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997: 7a. That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, in consultation with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, arrange for a national ‘Sorry Day’ to be recognised each year to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects.

27 May: 1967 Referendum

On 27 May 1967 a Federal referendum was held. The first question, referred to as the ‘nexus question’ was an attempt to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The second question was to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. This fact sheet addresses the second question.

Learn more about the 1967 Referendum

27 May to 3 June: Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week is celebrated across Australia each year between 27 May and 3 June. The dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey: the anniversaries of the successful referendum and High Court Mabo decision.

The week is 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. May 27 marks the anniversary of Australia’s most successful referendum and a defining event in our nation’s history. The 1967 referendum saw over 90 per cent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the national census.

Learn more about Reconciliation Week

3 June: Mabo Day

On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision which legally recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land – a relationship that existed prior to colonalisation and still exists today. This recognition paved the way for land rights called Native Title.

Learn more about Mabo Day

July: NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.

We encourage all staff, students and community members to participate in the celebrations and activities that take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week.

Learn more about NAIDOC Week

9 August: UN International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed on 9 August each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also recognises the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.

People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities may include educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples. Events may include messages from the UN secretary general and other key leaders, performances by indigenous artists, and panel discussions on reconciliation.

More about the UN International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples

Annual events at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies

These are events we host every year, and we’ll provide more event details in the weeks leading up to each one.

May: Rob Riley Memorial Lecture

Rob Riley was an Indigenous statesmen and leader of his people whose untimely death was mourned throughout Australia. Inspired by his conviction that Australia had to confront its history of dispossession of Aboriginal people from their lands and all that has flowed from it, Riley worked tirelessly to advance social justice and reconciliation with non-Indigenous Australia.

The Centre of Aboriginal Studies established the Rob Riley Memorial Lecture to keep upholding the memory of Western Australia’s key Indigenous figures, the late Rob Riley. It’s held each year in May, and is delivered by a community or business leader.

Rob Riley Memorial Lecture | 2022 – YouTube

July: NAIDOC Week at Curtin

NAIDOC Week (first week of July) is a national event in celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, history and achievements. It has been held since 1957. Curtin celebrates NAIDOC Week with a number of activities on campus and all staff are invited to help celebrate!

November: Kambarang Day

Kamberang Day is an event for year 10 or 11 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the Perth Metro and rural areas. It aims to raise students’ aspirations and support their retention through to year 12 and into university.

Kamberang Day usually happens in November to celebrate the Nyungar season of Kamberang (October/November).