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Aboriginal History

Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world that dates back at least 60,000 years (Torres Strait Islanders at least 2500 years). It is only in the past 500 years there has been European contact with Australia and the Torres Strait.

GOORIS OF THE HUNTER BEFORE COOK (BC)

Through the Dreaming the major groups of people emerged. Identified by their mother-tongues, social customs and spiritual attachment to specific geographical areas, these groups have subsequently been described as Awabakal, Worimi, Gringai, Kamilaroi, Wonaruah, Geawegal and Darkinung.

The coastal areas of the Hunter Region were occupied by the Awabakal centred on Lake Macquarie and its mountainous hinterland; to their north were Gaddang speaking tribes, who included the Worimi centred on Port Stephens, possibly the Gringai of the Dungog area, and the Birpai, who were north of the Worimi. To the south of the Awabakal were the Kuringgai ( or Guringgai ), living both north and south of Broken Bay. Inland of the Kurringai and bordering both the Awabagal (sic) and the Wonaruah were the Darkinung tribes, whose territory extended from the Hawkesbury River northwards towards the southern drainage of the Hunter River ( Brayshaw, 1986: 40 ). ( Heath, 1997: 41 )

The Goori communities developed flourishing civilisations along the lines of contemporary nation states. Respecting the laws handed down from the Dreaming they needed neither army nor prison. Their was no meaning to invasion as sharing and caring were central philosophies of their belief systems, as was the concept of reciprocity and the practice of 'payback'. The people cared for the land, and the land responded accordingly. Their sedentary lifestyle ensured that they kept material possessions to a minimum and it reduced their need to build permanent housing. The separate nation-states only came together in great gatherings of more than 1,000 people for special occasions and ceremonies. Closer contact of smaller groups occurred more often for trade and other exchanges.

While these civilisations developed independent of other parts of the world, European civilisation also developed. However it developed along much different lines; particularly in regard to a spiritual detachment from Mother Earth and the obsession of acquiring material resources. These differences were to ultimately impact greatly on Goori civilisation. Two of the great civilisations of Europe, the Greek and Roman Empires were built upon the colonisation of other peoples. However it was peoples from other parts of the world that had first contact with Goori peoples.

Pre-contact Goori Societies:

  • Last Ice Age
  • Lake George, Lake Mungo, Swansea Heads
  • Roman & Greek Empires 4000 BC i.e. 6000 years ago
  • Birth of Christ 1st Century, i.e. 2000 years ago

 

FIRST CONTACT WITH OUTSIDE PEOPLES

The British were not the first to come into contact with Australia's Traditional Owners...

Chinese pre-colonial Australia

1. The Chinese

It is possible that the first foreign probe to Australian shores was made by the Chinese, who may have landed in what is now Darwin in 1432. Although the Chinese were already great travellers and seafarers, the period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 ) was the most expansive for China. 

The admiral Ch'eng Ho assembled a fleet of more than sixty junks and on seven great voyages between 1405 and 1432 visited almost all the regions bordering the Indian Ocean, including East Africa, India, Java and Sumatra. In 1879 a Chinese statuette from the Ming Dynasty was uncovered in Darwin, then an English outpost only ten years old. A piece of porcelain believed to be of the same era was also found in the Gulf of Carpentaria. While precise dating of these objects is not possible, they could have arrived in Australia during the time of Ch'eng Ho. 

(Grassby & Hill, 1988:9)    
Baiini pre-colonial Australia

3. The Macassans

For a period of 200 years to just after the end of the nineteenth century at least 1000 Macassans, more than the total complement of the English First Fleet, came south each year from the Indonesian island of Sulewesi to north Australia , to fish for the sea slug known as trepang, or beche-de-mer. Dried trepang, which was prized in Chinese cuisine, was a major commodity throughout Asia. 


The Macassans called the Northern Territory coast "Marege", and they also worked along the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, which they called "Kayu Jawa". This peaceful invasion left Macassar each year as the north-west monsoon began, providing the constant winds needed to avoid being blown off course. They would stay in Australia for approximately five months before heading back in April when the winds changed to the south-east. 


The Macassans established settlements on sheltered beaches along the coast of Arnhem Land not far from the shallow waters where trepang could be collected. Near their settlements they set up processing plants for the trepang, rows of stone fireplaces which supported the cauldrons in which it was boiled. Some of these still stand. The connection between Macassar and north Australia was severed in 1907. English pearling interests had for some time called for the exclusion of the Macassans from what was then an English colony. 

(Grassby & Hill, 1988:8)    

Baiini pre-colonial Australia

5. The Dutch

In 1606, the same year that Torres sailed into history, William Janaz in the Duyfken made a probe on behalf of the expanding Dutch Empire. Like Torres he found the people of the north hostile: as the dutch came ashore on the western side of Cape York the sailors found themselves under heavy attack. Janaz acknowledged that a number of his sailors were killed in the attack. 


(Grassby & Hill, 1988:1 )

 
Baiini pre-colonial Australia

2. The Baiini

Pre-dating the Macassans - and still a mystery to European Australians - was the arrival on the shores of north-east Arnhem Land of the Baiini. Some stories indicate they were of European origin, others suggest they were traders from the East Indies or sea gipsies of Malayan type who were to be found in all parts of the East Indies Archipelago. 


They are described as having come by sailing ship, and once they arrived on the shores of Arnhem Land they built houses of stone and ironbark.  The Baiini apparently left Australia to return from whence they came, abandoning their houses and rice plantations and leaving only memories of their coming in song and stories. 


(Grassby & Hill, 1988:6)


Baiini pre-colonial Australia

4. The Spanish

In 1605 Quiros returned to the Pacific, full of inspiration to explore and conquer. They reached what Quiros first thought to be the great south land, which he claimed in the name of the King of Spain and named in his honour Austrialia del Espiritu Santo. 


He established a settlement, and then discovered he had reached an island in what is now Venuatu. Quiros' second-in-command, Luis Vaer de Torres, returned to Spain via Manilla. The route he chose was through the strait that today bears his name. 


An attempted landing at the tip of Cape York was repulsed. The people of Australia, changing their tactics of withdrawal before would-be intruders, attacked with spears and war clubs, as Torres reported on his return to Madrid. 


(Grassby & Hill, 1988:10)

 
Baiini pre-colonial Australia

6. The English

The occupation of Australia became, in fact, a race between the English and the French, another vigorous people on the imperial ascent. 

The first recorded English presence in Australia was in 1622, when an English ship, the Tryal, was wrecked on rocks just north-west of Monte Bello islands off the west coast. They were followed by the notorious William Dampier, who made two visits to the west in 1688 and 1699. (Grassby & Hill, 1988:12)  However, it wasn't until Cook's proclamation of English ownership in 1770: "in the name of His Majesty King George III", that the ongoing dispossession of Goori peoples began, although there was some respite until Phillip's First Fleet in 1788. 

Cook's proclamation appeared to be in contravention of his instructions which said he should take possession" with consent of the natives". The lie of terra nullius (land without people) was born.    

AUSTRALIA & HUNTER REGION TIMELINE

1770

COOK LANDED

Captain James Cook landed in Kamay/Botany Bay 

1770

1788

FIRST FLEET

A fleet of 11 ships landed in Kamay/Botany Bay on 24 January, led by Captain Arthur Phillip, commencing the first European settlement in Australia.

1789

SMALLPOX

First reported as being contracted by Goori people, killing half their population between Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury.

1789

1790

CONVICTS ACCEPTED INTO WORIMI SOCIETY

In September four convicts seized a small boat in Port Jackson and sailed north, eventually landing at Port Stephens where they fell in with an Aboriginal community with whom they lived for five years. In 1795, they were picked up by Captain Broughton in the HMS Providence.

1790

PEMULWUY LEADS GOORI RESISTANCE

Pemulwuy commenced a 12-year campaign of guerrilla warfare against the settlers and then the Redcoats, around Parramatta and the Hawkesbury. His most common tactic was to burn crops and kill livestock.

1790

1797

1ST OFFICIAL ENGLISH LANDING IN HUNTER AREA

The escapee convicts (ref. 1790) reported on the vast coal deposits lying along the beaches on Awbakal Country (Newcastle). Lt. John Shortland was the first Englishman to officially set foot on the Awabakal lands at Muloobinbah (Awabakal word for 'Place of Sea Fern', now known as Newcastle), reported of vast cedar and ash timber resources along the river.

1804

PENAL COLONY EST. IN NEWCASTLE

Following an uprising by 300 Irish convicts in Sydney (known as The Castle Hill Rebellion), a permanent settlement was swiftly established at Muloobinbah (Newcastle) to house convicts who re-offended in the Colony. The settlement was re-named Newcastle, after England's famous coal port. The penal colony closed in 1822.

1804

1814

SCHOOL OF ASSIMILATION

Governor Macquarie established the Parramatta Native Institution (Sydney). Its aim was to educate, train and Christianise Aboriginal children in an attempt to assimilate them into colonial society. 

1824

AUSTRALIAN AGRICULTURAL COMPANY (A.A.CO.)

This British company was formed for large-scale operations of a colonial settler's pursuits. Aboriginal land rights were swept away when A.A.CO. issued new grants and land titles to private settlers. The first grant, containing 1 million acres, was chosen by Mr Dawson, the original agent, in the neighbourhood of Port Stephens. 

1824

1824

LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY AT LAKE MACQUARIE

10,000 acres of land was reserved at Reid's Mistake (Awaba) for an Aboriginal mission station. The mission was to be run by Reverend L. Threlkeld under the auspices of the London Missionary Society. The background to the mission extended to the first attempts by Governor Phillip to capture Gooris and attempt to assimilate them for the benefit of the invaders, including capturing Aborigial children. 

1838

MYALL CREEK MASSACRE

Throughout 1836 and 1837 the frontier Aboriginal resistence to invasion reached a level that the settlers found unacceptable. More than 40 Gooris had peacefully set up camp on Henry Dangar’s Myall Creek property. On 9 June 1838 a posse of armed white settlers appared and the Gooris sought protection in one of the station hand’s huts. From here they were roped together - men, women and children. 28 Goories had been cut to pieces with swords, decapitating most of the babies and children. Heads had been hurled far from the bodies. One man had been burnt to death, while an attractive woman had been kept alive and repeatedly raped. 

1838

1838

MYALL CREEK MASSACRE TRIAL

Massacres of Aboriginal people were not unusual at this time. The Myall Creek case was special because those responsible were brought to trial. This was partly due to the station manager William Hobbs who alerted the police magistrate at Muswellbrook – which then led to a trial, an acquittal, a retrial and, on 5 December, the judge passed the sentence of death of all accused. Seven men were hung at the Sydney gaol in George Street on the 18 December. This result that received a mixed reception throughout the colony.

1839

ABORIGINAL PROTECTION POLICIES

In May 1839 Governor Gipps republished the order forbidding forcible detention of Goori women in the squatting districts and attempted to enact legislation that allowed Gooris to give evidence in court. Other legislative move included a clause in the Publicans’ Act 1838 forbidding the transfer of alcohol to Gooris and a Bill forbidding the use of firearms by Gooris without permission of a magistrate. The latter was not enacted. Disapproval of mixed marriages was made by the church on the grounds that the Aborigines were unbelievers. Seeds were sown at this time of protectionist measures including the forced removal of Gooris onto mission stations/reserves, the removal of Goori children from their families, the exclusion of Goori children from the public school system, exclusion of Gooris from the public welfare system, the exclusion of Gooris from award wage entitlements, and the denial of Goori rights to land and cultural pursuits.

1839

1848

EDMUND KENNEDY EXPEDITION

Edmund Kennedy sought to find a route from Rockhampton to the Cape York Peninsula in order to take the land over for pasturalism. The expedition found the country too rough near the coast and had to abandon most of their supplies. Kennedy and Wonnarua man Jacky-Jacky continued ahead alone for the last leg of the journey. Only kilometres short of the Cape they were attacked by Gooris and Kennedy was killed. Jacky-Jacky survived to complete the journey and meet their supply ship. He then led a return party in an unsuccessful attempt to recover Kennedy’s body. Jacky-Jacky returned south to a hero’s welcome, including being awarded a brass chest-plate by Governor FitzRoy, before returning to his people around Singleton.

1866

MARY ANN BUGG GAOLED AT EAST MAITLAND

Mary Ann Bugg, daughter of a Worimi/Birpai woman and an ex-convict shepherd, had been to be ‘civilised’ at the Sydney Orphan School and was to become well known as the wife of one of Australia’s longest surviving bushrangers: Fred Ward aka ‘Captain Thunderbolt’. Prior to their marriage he had served a prison sentence as a receiver of stolen horses. Just before the birth of their first child at Dungog, Fred Ward was regaoled at Cockatoo Island. In 1863 Ward escaped. Oral history traditions hold that Mary Ann swam out to Cockatoo Island through shark infested waters to accomplish this. In March 1866, in an effort to capture Thunderbolt the troopers arrested Mary Ann, along with her two elder children and baby. The two older children were taken away from her and, with the baby, she was brought before the bench, charged with being an ‘an idle and disorderly person and a companion of reputed thieves, having no visible means of support or fixed place of residence’, thereby sentenced to six months imprisonment at East Maitland gaol. There was immediate controversy in the Legislative Assembly over this ‘perversion of justice’. The governor intervened and Mary Ann was released after serving only a short part of her sentence. (Jansen, 1996: 6). This incident led to legal reforms to ensure that such perversions of justice did not occur again.

1866

1867

ABORIGINAL CRICKET TEAM AT MAITLAND

On 5 March 1867 the Maitland Mercury reported on the cricket match between a white Maitland representative team and the Koori cricket team from Victoria. The match was played in front of 3000 spectators. The Koori team toured England in 1868 and became the first Australian Cricket Team to do so. It’s record in England was 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws from 47 matches. One of the stars of that team was Johnny Cuzens, whose traditional name was Yellanach. This tiny man (5 feet 1 inch or 155cm) was, with Johnny Mullagh, the star of the famous Aboriginal cricket team. He played 46 of the 47 matches; scored 1364 runs for an 18.94 average; and took 113 wickets for an 11.38 average. Dr W.G. Grace praised the ‘all round form’ of Cuzens and Mullagh. In 1866 Cuzens played for Victoria against Tasmania. (Tatz at al: 1996)

1873

WILLIE PRICE CLAIMS LAND AT PORT STEPHENS

One of the earliest recorded claims by the Worimi people for the return of part of their lands was an individual claim by Tom ‘Willie’ Price. Willie asked for land in 1873 at Nelson’s Bay near Karuah, and he too was told that as an existing coastal reserve was in force, his land would be secure enough if it was held only as ‘permissive occupancy’. Although Price was unable to gain further security over the land, the Lands Department was still prepared to confirm his right of occupation in 1892 when it was queried. (Goodall, 1996: 80)

1873

1901

FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIA

The states joined together and formed the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth Constitution stated that “in reckoning the numbers of the people...Aboriginal natives shall not be counted”. During debate in Queensland on protection powers over Aborigines, Augustus Gregory, Member of Parliament for Chermont, says: “The law of evolution says the nigger shall disappear in the onward progress of White Australia” - cited in Weekend Australian, 27-28 May 2000.

1905

WILLIAM RIDGEWAY GAINS PERMISSIVE OCCUPANCY AT TEA GARDENS

As in the case of Willie Price, another Worimi man gained limited ownership over part of his peoples land when: “A later permissive occupancy over beachfront land was granted to William Ridgeway at Tea Gardens, on the northern side of the Karuah inlet, in 1905, adding to the possibility that there may have been other such Aboriginal requests to secure land between 1870 and 1905 which led to the same outcome.” (Goodall, 1996: 80)

1905

1909

ABORIGINES PROTECTION ACT

The Act provided the Aborigines Protection Board, which had existed since 1881, with legal powers to 'provide for the protection and care of Aborigines.' It was the first piece of legislation that dealt specifically with Aboriginal people in New South Wales. It applied to all Aboriginal people but contained particular provisions for children, including the right of the Protection Board to remove youths from Aboriginal Reserves and place them into service.

1924

AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES PROGRESSIVE ASSOCIATION (AAPA)

The first Aboriginal protest group to be formed was the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association which held meetings in Sydney between 1924 and 1927 under the leadership of Fred Maynard. (Broome, 1982: 166). Fred Maynard was born at Hinton in 1879 of Worimi background and was the nephew of a Goori farmer, Tom Phillips, who farmed the St. Clair mission which was taken over by the Aboriginal Protection Board/APB (from the Australian Inland Mission) in 1916. In 1913 the local committee of the APB recommended that the Kooris’ land at St. Clair be revoked and their bullocks sold. They further suggested that the Kooris should be induced to work the local farms rather than the farms on the mission. They looked at Kooris as a cheap form of labour. (Heath, 1997: 61)

1924

1928

CONISTON MASSACRE

The Coniston massacre, which took place in the region around the Coniston cattle station in the then Territory of Central Australia (now the Northern Territory) from 14 August to 18 October 1928, was the last known officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous Australians.

1931

NEMARLUK’S RESISTANCE IN THE NT

Nemarluk (c.1911-1940), Aboriginal resistance leader, was born about 1911 in the central Daly River region of the Northern Territory.  In July 1931 three Japanese shark-fishermen, Nagata Yoshikiya, Yusama Owashi and Ryukichi Yoshida, anchored their rented lugger, Ouida, near Port Keats. Nemarluk and his party used Aboriginal women to win the confidence of the fishermen. Days later, they killed the Japanese. . It is part of the oral tradition of Nemarluk's people that he had vowed to kill those who intruded on his country. Nemarluk evaded arrest until 4 May 1933 when he was apprehended at Legune Station. While awaiting trial, he escaped from Darwin Gaol and Labour Prison in September and remained at large for six months. After his recapture he was transported back to Darwin and tried in April 1934. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

1931

1938

26 JANUARY: DAY OF MOURNING

The Aborigines Progressive Association declared 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet, as a Day of Mourning and Protest. They called a conference at The Australian Hall in Elizabeth Street, Sydney with ‘Aborigines and Persons of Aboriginal Blood only (are) invited to attend’.

1939

CUMEROOGUNGA (CUMMERAGUNJA) WALK-OFF

70 of the 350 Aboriginal residents on Cumeroogunga station on the NSW side of the Murray River protested against malnutrition, ill treatment and harsh Aboriginal Protection Board/APB controls. They crossed the river and established a camp on the Victorian bank. On the same day, Jack Patten is arrested at Cumeroogunga and charged by NSW police for inducing unrest. (Australian Museum; Gary Foley’s Koori History website).

1939

1944

HAROLD BLAIR SINGS FOR MARJORIE LAWRENCE

Harold Blair, who was born on the Aboriginal settlement at Cherbourg in 1924 and brought up on Purga Mission near Ipswich, sang at the Lennon Hotel in Brisbane on 29 Sept 1944, for the renowned Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence. Following the audition Miss Lawrence was reported to say “You’ve got a fine tenor voice and a natural musical instinct. If you work hard you can become one of the greatest ambassadors for your race. You can do more than politicians or fine speeches. Work hard. You’ve got it in you to succeed!”. From reportedly being illiterate at 18-year old, Harold Blair became an outstanding tenor who sang fluently in five languages and performed on the stage in many different countries including America, England, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark. Among his many fine achievements was his unyielding struggle in the fight for justice for his people.

1952

DEATH OF DAVE SANDS

On the morning of 12 August 1952 a disbelieving Australia heard that Dave Sands (born of the Dunghutti peoples), national and Empire middleweight boxing champion and contender for the world title, had died the previous evening at the age of 26. Dave suffered head and internal injuries when the truck he was driving crashed and overturned on a metre high embankment as the road divided near Dungog. (Phil Wilkins, The Sun 19.8.1985). Dave was perhaps the best known of the famous Ritchie family. The six brothers fought under the name of Sands during the 1940s and 50s, forging forged a unique record in world boxing. The Ritchie family maintained a close association with the Newcastle area with Clem, the eldest brother, and their sister Lillian, being actively involved with the setting up and then the ongoing activities of the Awabakal Co-op.

1952

1961

POLICY OF ASSIMILATION

The Policy of Assimilation was agreed upon by Commonwealth and State Ministers at the Native Welfare Conference in Canberra, 26-27 January 1961. The policy ruled that all Aborigines and part Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, as other Australians. (cited in ‘Survival. A History of Aboriginal Life in New South Wales’, Nigel Parbury, 1988)

1963

UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE FORCES GOORIS OFF LAND

The university’s involvement with the Goori community is worthy of note. In acquiring the land in 1963 it participated in the forced removal of Gooris from the site:
“In April, the Newcastle City Council ordered the removal of nineteen squatters, mainly Aborigines...It took eighteen months of effort by the City Council, the University, the Department of Education, the Crown Solicitor and the Aborigines Welfare Board (who had to rehouse the settlers) to reach a solution (Wright, 1992: 84).

1963

1966

GURINDJI WALK OFF WAVE HILL STATION

Following a decision of the Arbitration Commission in 1965 that industrial law applied equally to all Australians, and thus Aboriginal Stockmen were entitled to full wages, a lobby group from the pastoralist industry in the NT convinced the Commission that immediate implementation would have a disastrous effect on the industry. The Commission agreed to defer its ruling for three years. This led to the August 1966 walk-off of Gurindji stockmen and their families from the Wave Hill station run by the Vesty company in England. Their return to their traditional land at Wattie Creek led to the first Land Rights legislation in the NT.

1967

FEDERAL REFERENDUM

In 1961 a Senate Committee on Aboriginal voting rights recommended that all Aborigines should be given the right to vote in federal elections and used its powers to provide voting rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. This led to the states providing the right to vote by the mid-sixties. The 1967 Australian referendum asked for approval for two amendments to the Australian Constitution: (1) counting Aboriginal people in the Australian census and (2) allowing the government to legislate separately for Aboriginal people. The amendments to the Constitution were overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 90.77% of votes cast and carrying in all six states. Many viewed this as a positive acceptance of Gooris. The Referendum led to many positive changes, especially the movement of official government policy away from assimilation towards self-determination.

1967

1968

ACCOLADES: LIONEL ROSE & KEVIN GILBERT

ACCOLADES: LIONEL ROSE & KEVIN GILBERT
Lionel Rose, first Aboriginal to win a World Professional Boxing Championship.
Wiradjuri man Kevin Gilbert writes The Cherry Pickers, the first time an Aboriginal artist created a play. He was billed, at the time of the first production/rehearsed reading of The Cherry Pickers in 1971, as the first Aboriginal playwright to have his work performed'. 

1971

EVONNE GOOLAGONG WINS WIMBLEDON

In the first week of July 1971 Evonne Goolagong of the Wiradjuri nation beat Margaret Court in the first all-Australian final in the 87-year history of Women’s Singles at the Wimbledon Open in London.

1971

1971

NEVILLE BONNER APPOINTED TO SENATE

Bonner became the first Aboriginal person to sit in the Commonwealth parliament when he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the Senate caused by the resignation of a Liberal senator for Queensland. He was subsequently returned at elections held in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980.

1972

TENT EMBASSY

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was founded on Australia Day in 1972 to protest the decision by the McMahon Liberal government to reject a proposal for Aboriginal Land rights. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a permanent protest occupation where residing activists claim to represent the political rights of Aboriginal Australians. It is made up of signs and tents on the lawn opposite Old Parliament House in Canberra.

1972

1972

SWANSEA HEADS ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERY

In 1971 a midden was uncovered while clearing for housing near Swansea Heads. An archaeological excavation in 1972 revealed that this was a very old campsite, being carbon-dated as 7,800 years. The dig was conducted by Frances Bentley and Len Dyall. Human remains were discovered along with many stone implements and also food remains, which enabled the researchers to reconstruct the diet of the inhabitants.

1973

WALLARAH HOTEL LICENSED TO DOT & TED WOTHERSPOON

In the NSW coal mining town of Catherine Hill Bay, Ted and Dot were the first Aboriginal people in NSW to hold a hotel license. Eight years prior they would have been refused service in the pub.

1973

1974

SMITHS’ GENERAL CONTRACTORS P/L COMMENCES OPERATIONS

This company was formed by Goori brothers, originally from the New England area. Initially, the company was independent of government funding. Its main activity was railway line construction although it diversified to include labour hire. Robert, Roy and Bill Smith had many years’ experience working on the NSW Government Railways and although lacking in formal qualifications, they knew how to construct railway track, including surveying and costing. Bill moved into the Maitland area in 1955 and after fifteen years’ service on the railways, formed Smiths’ General Contractors in March 1969. The company’s paid up capital was six dollars. They tendered for work and was successful in carrying out projects in many areas of NSW. The first year of operations yielded a turnover in excess of one million dollars. When working outside of Newcastle, Smiths often employed local Gooris to support the Newcastle work crews. The company ensured that 75% of its workforce was Goori. Perhaps the company’s most noted local achievement was the laying of the track for the coal loader at Port Waratah and during this time Smiths employed more than 100 persons. (Heath, 1998: 66)

1974

HARRY WILLIAMS IN WORLD CUP SOCCER

Williams was the first recognised Indigenous Australian to play for the senior Australian national football team, the 'Socceroos'. He was part of Australia's 1974 FIFA World Cup squad.

1974

1975

THE RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, is a statute passed by the Australian Parliament during the prime ministership of Gough Whitlam. The RDA makes racial discrimination in certain contexts unlawful in Australia, and overrides States and Territory legislation to the extent of any inconsistency.

1975

AWABAKAL NEWCASTLE ABORIGINAL CO-O P/D COMMENCES OPERATIONS

By 1973 along with other Gooris and some non-Aboriginal supporters, Bill Smith was instrumental in establishing the Newcastle Aboriginal Advancement Society which obtained a federal grant a year later to carry out a cultural awareness program in Newcastle. Due to funding difficulties this organisation was superseded by the Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Cooperative Limited which commenced activities in 1975 and, in February 1977, was formally registered as a Community Advancement Cooperative Society. In 1982, it obtained a second registration as an organisation under the Charitable Collections Act. The cooperative’s goals were clearly listed: a. Hold a cultural camp for 9 to 15 year olds at Rathmines the week before Christmas; b. Establish an Aboriginal Health Centre; c. Reclaim the Sacred sights (sic) at the Wattagans and establish a permanent reserve and cultural centre; d. Establish an Aboriginal Pre-school; e. Obtain an Aboriginal legal service field officer to work from the Co-op; f. Set up a loaning and Homework Centre which would include such teaching programs as; the teaching of the Awabakal dialect; g. Establish our own club; h. Set up our own housing Co-op. (Minutes, Awabakal A.G.M. 1977 - Heath,1998:66). By 2000 many of the programs outlined above had been achieved by the Newcastle Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community. Some, directly by the Awabakal Co-op, and others independent of it. But most often through the initial negotiations and support of the Co-op.

1975

1977

NSW ABORIGINAL EDUCATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE FORMED

The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) began in 1977 as a committee of Aboriginal people invited by the Department of Education to advise it on Aboriginal Education. When the Commonwealth stopped funding in 1980, the New South Wales government took over funding the committee.

1978

NEWCASTLE ALL BLACKS FOOTBALL CLUB FORMED

1978

1978

BIRUBI POINT EXCAVATIONS

Excavations of shell middens were conducted on the Aboriginal site at Birubi, near Port Stephens NSW. Prior to 1788 Birubi was an important burial and ceremonial site for the traditional Worimi Aboriginal people.

1979

AWABAKAL XI CRICKET CLUB FORMED

1979

1980

NEWCASTLE ABORIGINAL SUPPORT GROUP FORMED

In September 1980, nine Newcastle citizens met in a school classroom to discuss the Aboriginal situation. The meeting recognised the need and the opportunity to establish a Newcastle Support Group. It was agreed that the Group would be open to all citizens, both black and white, and would endeavour to promote better understanding between Aborigines and non-Aborigines, and support initiatives proposed by Aboriginal groups both locally and nationally. “We have been united in an endeavour to put aside the 200-year old attitude that non-Aborigines know what is best for Aborigines; we are prepared at all times to listen to what the Aborigines are saying” - John P. (Jack) Doherty, President, Newcastle Aboriginal Support Group (cited in On The Fringes Of Newcastle Society, Mary R. Hall and W.J. Jonas, 1985)

1980

FIRST REPORT OF NSW LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY SELECT COMMITTEE UPON ABORIGINES

Extract from Forward: “Today the citizens of New South Wales live on aboriginal land in affluence while the Aborigines live in poverty. Aboriginal children die because of this. Elderly Aborigines are a rarity. Their housing is often sub-standard and overcrowded. Their unemployment rate is high, their health and educational standards low.” The Select Committee’s Reports were instrumental in the development of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 and a number of other state government programs set up to help address Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. These included the setting up of the NSW Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

1980

1981

WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES REPORT ON ABORIGINES RELEASED

This study by a five-member team of the World Council of Churches (and compiled by Elizabeth Adler), resulted in a report accusing the Australian Federal Government of failing to meet its constitutional duty to achieve justice for Australia's Aborigines. It called for strong government action in such areas as land rights, health services, employment, and education – with particular mention of problems in Queensland and W.A. Recommendations were made for action at international, federal, state and church levels.

1982

LAUNCH OF NSW ABORIGINAL EDUCATION POLICY

The first Aboriginal Education Policy released in 1982 focused on the advancement of Aboriginal communities and an appreciation of Aboriginal cultures and societies by other Australians. 

1982

1982

‘AWABAKAL VOICES’ ON 2NURFM

A weekly radio program of language lessons called ‘Awabakal Voices’ goes to air on 2NURFM, hosted by non-Aboriginal journalist and scholar, Percy Haslam. Haslam had a had a long, continued and significant association with Aboriginal peoples within the Newcastle and Hunter Valley regions.

1982

KERABEE DAM ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY

An archaeological survey was conducted at Kerrabee Dam, near Muswellbrook by Awabakal Co-op for the Hunter Development Board.

1982

1982

WONNARUA RE-BURIAL AT SINGLETON

Singleton Shire Council gave permission on Tuesday night for an aboriginal skeleton to be reburied in the recreation reserve near the building site where it was uncovered. After extensive investigation and discussion with the Newcastle Awabakal Aboriginal Co-operative and Singleton Aborigines, the National Parks and Wildlife Service recommended that the skeleton be reburied and that a stone monument be erected with the council to pay the costs. Speaking against the recommendation, Cr. F. Tulloch said the proposal was discrimination of the worst kind. (Newcastle Herald 27-5-82). The reburial took place on 9 August in “a rare and moving aboriginal burial ceremony” held in front of 200 children and adults. “The remains were prepared in traditional style, being wrapped in a cylinder of ti-tree bark bound in a spiral with leaves”. (Newcastle Herald 10-8-82)

1982

THE NSW ABORIGINAL LANDS TRUST IS CREATED

The NSW Aboriginal Lands Trust is set up prior to the handing over of reserves to communities through the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1983. Well-known land rights activist George Griffiths was a member of the Lands Trust.

1982

1983

NSW ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS ACT

The right to claim land was introduced in 1983 when the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA) 1983 became law in NSW through Aboriginal Land Councils. It became possible to claim land as compensation for historic dispossession of land and to support Aboriginal communities' social and economic development. The ALRA also acknowledges that past governments’ decisions have progressively reduced the lands set aside for Aboriginal people without compensation.

1983

2ND BIENNIAL AECG IN NEWCASTLE

The second NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) Conference held in Newcastle. The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) began in 1977 as a committee of Aboriginal people invited by the Department of Education to advise it on Aboriginal Education.

1983

1983

WORIMI ARTIST FOR NAIDOC NSW

NAIDOC Inaugural NSW Aboriginal Artist of the Year: a Worimi woman Mini Heath (born in Taree, Biripi country). NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

1984

BILL JONAS APPOINTED TO MARALINGA ROYAL COMMISSION

Bill Jonas, grandson of William Jonas the renowned Goori horseman who rode at King George V coronation in London, was appointed to the Maralinga Royal Commission (investigating the effects of British nuclear tests in Australia). At this time Bill was chairperson of the Awabakal Co-op and the first Goori to obtain an academic appointment at Newcastle University. Later he became Principal of the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) before taking the position of Director of the National Museum in Canberra. In 1999 Bill moved to Sydney to take up the appointment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

1984

1984

HUNTER LALCs FORM & MAKE CLAIMS

The Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) was formed in September 1984. On 1 December successful claims were made in the Hunter through the Karuah LALC. Awabakal LALC’s first claim was successful in 1986 for its allotment in Young St, Carrington. However, Koompahtoo, based around the western reaches of Lake Macquarie has been perhaps the most successful in terms of area of land successfully claimed. The Hunter Region has eight Local Aboriginal Land Councils. Because of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA) in 1983, LALCs have the opportunity to claim Crown land that is not required by government. Additionally, the Act provides a source of funding to LALCs through a percentage of the monies raised by the state government through land taxes over the 15-year period from 1983. All of the Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC) have been successful in acquiring land.

1984

HUNTER ABORIGINAL CHILDREN’S SERVICES

Hunter ACS established under a 12-month Commonwealth Employment Program grant to promote the care and fostering of Aboriginal children in Aboriginal homes.

1984

1985

BI-CENTENARY BOYCOTT

Awabakal AGM in August Votes to boycott Bi-centenary celebrations in 1988.

1985

AEU IN TAFE

Aboriginal Education Unit established at Tighes Hill, TAFE.

1985

1985

'KOORI: A WILL TO WIN' IS PUBLISHED

The book by Wonnarua Koori James Mille ‘Koori: A Will To Win - The heroic resistance, survival & triumph of Black Australia’ is published. This account of 200 years of Aboriginal oppression and opposition is interspersed with biographical experiences of the author’s family: the traditional society of the Wonnarua people (their Country is now also known as Singleton). This book is considered a significant first in Wonnarua publishing.

1985

ULURU HANDOVER TO TRADITIONAL OWNERS

The handover of Uluru was a historic milestone for Aboriginal land rights in Australia. On 26 October a crowd of hundreds – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people - attended the ceremony when Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen handed over the title deeds to Anangu traditional owners.

1985

1986

ABORIGINAL JUNIOR RUGBY

The first NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Junior Coaching Clinic is held on 1 January.

1986

WOLLOTUKA BEGINS

The College of Advanced Education accepts a Bi-Centenary Grant to build Wollotuka Centre in In September. The Wollotuka Institute is now a unit within the University of Newcastle. It is a strategic and operational body which is responsible for all Indigenous activities of the University.

1986

1986

PARIS FASHION PARADE

Worimi artist, Mini Heath is one of five Aboriginal designers to exhibit in Paris.

1987

ROYAL COMMISSION INTO ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY

Hawke Government announces Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody on 10 August in response to a growing public concern that such deaths were too common and poorly explained. The Royal Commission was also to make recommendations as to how to prevent such deaths in the future. Hearings began in 1988 and ended in 1991. The Commission investigated 99 cases of Aboriginal deaths in between 1 January 1980 and 31 May 1989. The final report of the Commission was published in April 1991. The Commission concluded that the 99 deaths investigated were not due to police violence.

1987

1988

WOLLOTUKA OPENS

THE Wollotuka Centre, which was completed in 1986, was officially opened for the Bicentenary - with no Gooris in attendance.

1988

SYDNEY BICENTENARY PROTESTS

Newcastle Gooris join in Sydney Bicentenary protests on 26 January. More than 40,000 Aboriginal people and non-Indigenous supporters, staged what was at the time the largest march ever held in Sydney. The Bicentenary celebrated the arrival of the 11 ships of the First Fleet in Botany Bay, on Bidegal and Gadigal Country. This event signified the founding of the colony of New South Wales, the first colony in what would become the nation of Australia. To Aboriginal people this was celebrating the injustice, suffering and dispossession of Aboriginal people caused by colonisation.

1988

1988

AWABAKAL PEOPLE PROTEST QUEEN

Awabakal Co-op organises demonstrations for Queen’s visit. Queen Elizabeth II visited Newcastle in 1988 to open Queens Wharf.

1988

FIRST WORIMI WORK OF PROSE PUBLISHED

Norm Newlin publishes ‘Where There’s Life There’s Spirit’ - the first Worimi published work of prose. Norm was a soldier for the Royal Australian Regiment during the Korean War. He also sat on numerous boards including membership of the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service and the Campbelltown City Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee. In 2006 he was recognised and received the Campbelltown City Council Heritage Award. Norm had also been committed to regularly visiting and working with inmates at Long Bay Jail. (Source: My Father My Brother: Stories of Campbelltown's Aboriginal Men [2008]) He is now an Elder on Campus at the University of Western Sydney, where he assisted in developing the Aboriginal Studies Program, working with Aboriginal students and teaching the teachers.

1988

1989

CLEM RITCHIE DEATH

September sees the death of Dunghutti boxer Clem Ritchie (Sands), one of the leading 'Fighting Sands Brothers' - ref. younger brother, Dave Sands, who died in 1952.

1989

WORIMI DUX

Marilyn Kong, of the Worimi people is Dux of Nelson Bay High School. Along with her twin sister and brother, she is later to graduate in Medicine.

1989

1989

ABORIGINAL GRADUATES IN MEDICINE

Sandra Eades from WA and Louis Peachey from QLD become the first graduates from Newcastle University’s Aboriginal Students Medical Program which commenced in 1985.

1990

CORROBOREES IN HUNTER

Corroborees are held at Wollombi and Newcastle University by Gooris who have embraced traditional law to take up responsibilities as traditional custodians in the region.

1990

1991

RECONCILIATION COUNCIL ESTABLISHED

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established by the Commonwealth Parliament, with unanimous cross-party support, as a statutory body under the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act 1991. The Council comprises 25 members drawn from the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and wider Australian communities.

1992

PhD IN TRADITIONAL LAW

Uncle Lennie de Silva of the Gumbaynggir people is awarded an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in recognition of his scholarship in Traditional Law.

1992

1993

HIGH COURT DECISION ON MABO

On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia changed the nation’s common law when it brought down its decision in Mabo & Others Versus the State of Queensland. In upholding the claims of the plaintiffs, from Murray Island in the Torres Strait, the Court held that Australia was not terra nullius (‘land belonging to no one’) when settled by the British in 1788, but occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who had their own laws and customs, and whose ‘native title’ to land survived the Crown’s annexation of Australia.

1993

WORLD INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ CORROBOREE, NEWCASTLE

1993

1993

NATIVE TITLE ACT

On 1 January 1994, the Native Title Act 1993 came into effect. The Act was part of the Commonwealth Government’s response to the High Court’s finding in the Mabo case. The Act sets up a National Native Title Tribunal and court processes to be used by people who want to claim native title to land. To claim native title people must prove: Your people owned the land under Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander customs and laws; You have not lost your traditional links with the land; and Governments have not used the land or given it to anyone else in a way which ‘extinguishes’ or takes away your native title forever.

1995

NEWCASTLE PRODUCTION OF ‘BRAN NUE DAE’, COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE

1995

1996

WIK PEOPLES V QLD HIGH COURT DECISION

In 1996 the High Court found that native title could only be extinguished by a law or an act of the Government which shows clear and plain intention to extinguish native title and thus pastoral leases granted in Queensland did not extinguish title. This decision established that native title and other interests in land (such as pastoral leases) can co-exist. Previously the Mabo case said that pastoral leases extinguished them. The finding led to a very significant increase in the area where native title could be claimed.

1997

WONNARUA MAN BECOMES PROF. AT UMULLIKO

John Lester who was brought up in Sydney but of the Wonnarua people (Country also known as Singleton) was appointed as Professor at the Umulliko Research Centre, University of Newcastle. The Umulliko Indigenous Higher Education Centre seeks a deeper level of framework, in which the past, present and future are combined to form a holistic Indigenous understanding. In the language of the Awabakal people, Umulliko means 'to create, to make, to do'.

1997

1997

1997 JIM WRIGHT BECOMES AN ATSIC COMMISSIONER

Jim Wright was representing the Eastern Zone at ATSIC. He worked tirelessly in the Land Rights justice for the Sydney-Newcastle region and in New South Wales generally. He played an instrumental role in the establishment of Local Aboriginal Land Councils in the region while also helping to set up a range of services including Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Legal Services. He was the first Administrator of the Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Co-op, founded Yarnteen ATSI Corporation as well as Youloe-ta Indigenous Development Association Incorporated.

1997

‘BRINGING THEM HOME’ REPORT

‘Bringing Them Home’ is the 1997 Australian Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. The report marked a pivotal moment in the controversy that has come to be known as the Stolen Generations. The report is a tribute to the strength and struggles of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by forcible removal. It acknowledged the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made.

The report made recommendations for addressing the needs of Stolen Generations members and their families, as well as other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people regarding language; culture and history; mental health; the contemporary removal of children; and self-determination.

1997

1998

NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL COMMITMENT TO ABORIGINAL PEOPLES

On 14 April, the Council of the City of Newcastle acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in this council area Awabakal and Worimi, were the first peoples of this land, and are the proud survivors of more than two hundred years of continuing dispossession.  As a vital step towards building a just, common future, Newcastle Council recognised the loss and the grief held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander caused by alienation from their traditional lands, the loss of their lives and their freedom, and the forced removal of their children. Newcastle City Council, in negotiation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, proposed to develop an action plan to redress disadvantages and attain justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this community.

1999

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: NATIONAL ABORIGINAL LEADERS

Three significant events occurred in 1999: (1) The death of former Senator Neville Bonner at Ipswich in February; (2) Bill Jonas’ appointment as Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; and (3) Senator Aden Ridgeway’s Maiden Speech (note: Aden is grandson of former Maitland resident, Pheobe Mumbler).

1999

2000

AUSTRALIAN DECLARATION TOWARDS RECONCILIATION

After a very extensive public consultation process, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation drew up two documents of reconciliation: the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the Roadmap for Reconciliation. At Corroboree 2000 on 27 May 2000, it presented these to the Prime Minister, other national leaders, and the nation as a whole.

2000

MYALL CREEK MASSACRE MEMORIAL

On 10 June the Memorial at the Myall Creek Massacre Site was unveiled, acknowledging the terrible events that took place at Myall Creek Station on 10 June 1838. Two basalt blocks mark the beginning of the memorial walkway which is a 600-metre winding path through woodland and grasses. At various stages along the walkway there are seven oval shaped granite boulders containing plaques with etchings and words in English and Gamilaroi, telling the story of the massacre. At the end of the walkway the memorial is set on a rise overlooking the site of the massacre between five spreading gumtrees. The memorial rock is a large granite boulder with a simple plaque surrounded by a circle of crushed white granite, edged in by stones. The massacre site was added to the Australian National Heritage List on 7 June 2008 and the NSW Heritage on 12 November 2010.

2000