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First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have been taken from their families since the start of colonisation in Australia. Children were stolen, taken for labour and removed from their families through government policies of the day.

This timeline looks at some of the events, trauma and healing that’s taken place in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over the last two and a half centuries. The dates in this timeline are a selection representing the breadth of events that have occurred. This is not intended to be a complete list.

Significant dates such as:

  • 60,000 BC - Archaeological evidence suggests that a rock shelter was used by people at a site in Arnhem Land, the earliest evidence of Aboriginal civilisation.
  • 1863 - The Corranderrk Children’s Asylum and Dormitory is established as part of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve near Healesville. Ramahyuck Aboriginal Mission is set up in Gippsland.
  • 1883 -The New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board is established to manage the lives of 9000 people.
  • 1904 - Torres Strait Islanders become subject to the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act. Their islands become reserves.
  • 1926 - Between 11 and 30 people are massacred and their bodies burned in the East Kimberleys, in what becomes known as the Forrest River massacre. The killings were believed to have been carried out by local police.
  • 1971 - Aboriginal people are counted in the Census for the first time. The Oodnadatta Hostel opens in South Australia, funded by the Commonwealth Government and run by Save the Children.
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