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Agenda for racial equality 2012-2016 - Timeline

Agenda for racial equality 2012-2016


  • 1606 – First recorded contact between Aboriginal peoples and Dutch
  • 1788 – The First Fleet arrives, marking the start of European
    colonisation of Australia on the basis that the land belongs to no-one
    (‘terra nullius’).
  • 1839 – The first refugees arrive in Australia – Prussian
    Lutherans – who settle in South
  • 1850’s – The first gold rush brings large-scale immigration from
    Europe and Asia. By 1861, there were over 38 000 Chinese living in Australia,
    3.4 per cent of the total
  • 1855 – Laws in Victoria require Chinese arrivals to live in designated
    ‘Chinese Protectorates’. Other states soon follow with similar
  • 1863 – South Pacific Islanders are brought to Queensland (some
    forcibly) to work as labourers in cane fields. It is estimated around 46 000
    arrived between 1863 and
  • 1868 – An Australian cricket team travels to England to play a series
    of matches for the first time– all16 players are
  • 1869 – The Victorian Aborigines Protection Act is passed, which allows
    the authorities to remove Aboriginal children from their families. Similar laws
    are later passed in other states. Aboriginal peoples start to be moved onto
  • 1870’s – ‘Afghan’ camel drivers arrive to help with
    inland exploration and the development of infrastructure projects across
    Australia. Between 1870 and 1900, it is estimated around 2000 cameleers from
    Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, India and Turkey worked in
  • 1901 – Federation of Australia. The new Constitution gives the
    Commonwealth Government the power to make laws for all Australians except
    Indigenous peoples, who are left in the control of the states. The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 is introduced. The Pacific Island
    Labourers Bill
    is also introduced to deport all South Sea Islanders from
  • 1914 – World War I begins. Australian residents and citizens of German
    and Austrian origin are held in camps during the war.
  • 1937 –The Commonwealth Government holds a national conference that
    agrees that Aboriginal people 'not of full blood' should be 'assimilated' into
    the population.[89]
  • 1939 – World War II begins. Australian residents who were born in
    enemy countries are interned in
    camps.[90] Jewish refugees fleeing
    Europe were also interned as ‘enemy aliens’.
  • 1945 – Post-war migration program is set up under the policy of
    ‘populate or perish’. Assisted Passage Schemes are implemented
    across Europe. 200,000 new arrivals settle in Australia by
  • 1947 – Australia signs an agreement with the International Refugees
    Organization to accept 12 000 displaced people per year from
    Europe.[92] This marks the start of
    Australia’s official humanitarian program.
  • 1962 – Indigenous Australians are given the voluntary right to vote in
    Federal elections.[93]
  • 1966 – Australia signs the International Convention on the
    Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    (which it ratifies in
  • 1967 – 92 per cent of Australians support the national referendum to
    remove discriminatory references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    peoples in the Constitution.
  • 1973 –The Government announces that the national immigration policy
    will not discriminate on the basis of
  • 1975 –Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) passes, prohibiting
    discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic
  • 1976 – Refugees from Vietnam begin arriving in Australia following the
    war. By the 1981 census, the Vietnamese population had grown to over 121
  • 1978 – The first federal multicultural policies are implemented. These
    include the establishment of SBS as the national broadcaster for linguistically
    diverse communities.
  • 1985 –The Federal Government releases the Access and Equity Strategy
    to ensure equitable access to government services for migrants.
  • 1987 –The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
    established. Its report, released four years later, made 339
  • 1991 –The Report of National Inquiry into Racist Violence is tabled in
    Federal Parliament.
  • 1992 –High Court overturns the doctrine of Terra Nullius, finding that
    all Aboriginal peoples have the right to claim ownership of their traditional
    land (the Mabo decision).
  • 1992 – Mandatory immigration detention is introduced for all
    unauthorised arrivals.
  • 1995 –The Racial Hatred Act is passed, amending the Racial
    Discrimination Act 1975
    (Cth) to make racial vilification unlawful.
  • 1998 – The One Nation party wins 22 per cent of votes in the
    Queensland state election on a platform of immigration restrictions, and the
    repeal of multicultural policies and the Racial Discrimination
  • 1998 – The Federal Government's 'Living in Harmony' program is
  • 2000 – Corroboree 2000 is held. Hundreds of thousands of Australians
    across the country show their support for reconciliation between Indigenous and
    non-Indigenous people through events such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk.
  • 2001 –The United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial
    Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is held in Durban, South
  • 2005 – Violence against people of ‘Middle Eastern
    appearance’ in Cronulla, New South Wales escalates into riots involving
    5,000 people[98]
  • 2007 –The National Emergency Response Act is passed in response
    to the Northern Territory Government's Inquiry into the Protection of
    Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse
    , or 'Little Children are Sacred'
    report. The legislation and its related activities are exempt from the Racial
    Discrimination Act 1975
    (Cth). The Act is reinstated in December 2010.
  • 2007 – The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is adopted
    by the United Nations.
  • 2008 – The Australian government formally apologises to Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander peoples for the Stolen Generations.
  • 2009 – The Australian government formally supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • 2009 – media reports of suspected racially-motivated attacks against
    Indian students gain international attention.
  • 2011 –The Australian government’s most recent multicultural
    policy, The People of Australia, is released, making a commitment to the
    development of the National Anti-Racism Strategy.
  • 2011 – China overtakes the United Kingdom as Australia’s largest
    source of migration in the annual migration program for the first time. In the
    2011-2012 program, India becomes Australia’s largest permanent migration
  • 2012 –The National Anti-Racism Strategy is


[83] Refugee Council of
Australia, History of Australia's refugee program, (viewed 5 August 2012).
[84] Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration: Federation
to Century’s End 1901-2000
(2001), p48. At
[85] Australian Broadcasting Corporation, A Form of Slavery, (viewed 10 July 2012).
[86] National Museum of Australia, The Australian Eleven: The first Australian
, (viewed 10 July 2012).
[87] Department of Finance and Deregulation, Afghan cameleers in Australia, (viewed
10 July 2012).
[88] Department of
Immigration and Citizenship, Fact Sheet 8 – Abolition of the 'White
Australia' Policy
, (viewed 5 August 2012).
[89] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing them Home: Report of
the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Children from Their Families
[90] National Archives of
Australia, Wartime internment camps in Australia,
10 July 2012)
[91]Department of
Immigration and Citizenship, Fact Sheet 4 – More than 60 Years of
Post-war Migration
, (viewed 5 August 2012).
[92] Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration: Federation
to Century’s End 1901-2000
[93]Australian Electoral
Commission, Electoral Milestones - Timetable for Indigenous Australians, (viewed 1 August 2012).
of Immigration and Citizenship, Fact Sheet 8 – Abolition of the 'White
Australia' Policy
[95] Department of
Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration: Federation to
Century’s End 1901-2000
[96] The full report can be
found at
[97] One Nation, Policy Booklet, (viewed 7 August 2012)
[98] Author unknown, ‘Mob violence envelopes Cronulla’, The Age (11 December 2005). At:
[99] Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘India now Australia's largest
source of permanent migrants’ (Media release, 19 July 2012). At