1788 Colony of New South Wales established under the principle of terra nullius (literally "land belonging to no one").
- Estimates place Aboriginal population at 500,000.
1844-1862 Overland expeditions explore the Northern Territory, including parts of Arnhem Land.
1885 Government Resident reports on killings, disease, prostitution, and use of opium among Aboriginal people, with a steep population decline. It recommends setting up reserves.
1910 Aborigines Act passed, legalizing the confinement of Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal people in reserves or institutions.
1911 Aboriginal Ordinance gives Chief Protector of Aborigines legal guardianship of all Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal children. Children taken to compounds in Darwin and Katherine--first of the "stolen generations."
1927-1929 Bleakley Inquiry proposes use of missions in "segregating, protecting, training, and control" of the Aborigines.
1931 Arnhem Land declared Aboriginal Reserve.
1946 New Deal policy to improve conditions for Aborigines implemented, opening the way for Aboriginal settlements (Umbakumba 1946, Maningrida 1957, Ramingining 1966).
1953 Welfare Ordinance passed, making people of full Aboriginal descent wards of the state, and granting full citizenship to part-Aboriginal people (implemented 1957).
1962 Aboriginal people granted Commonwealth and Northern Territory voting rights.
1963 The Yolngu people of Yirrkala in northeastern Arnhem Land, concerned about mining on their land, protest to federal parliament through a bark painting petition, which articulates the clan-based system of land ownership. They lose the landmark Supreme Court case in 1970, but the need for revision of the law is established.
1967 Citizenship given to Aborigines.
1970 The Aboriginal Acts Advisory Committee established within the Australian Council for the Arts.
1972 Labor Party wins government pledging policy for self-determination for Aborigines. Department of Aboriginal Affairs established.
1973 First meeting of the Aboriginal Arts Board.
1975 First legally recognized Aboriginal lease granted to the Gurindji people.
- The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 aligns Australia with the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.
-Prime Minister Gough Witlam pours a handful of earth into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, an elder of the Gurindji people. This gesture concludes the first successful Aboriginal land rights claim, begun in 1966, as land is handed back to its traditional Gurindji owners.
1976 The Aboriginal Artists Agency established to protect the copyright interests of Aboriginal artists.
-The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 passed, allowing claims to be made on certain land in the Northern Territory by Aboriginal people claiming traditional or sacred rights to the land. This results in 36 percent of the total Northern Territory land area reverting to Aboriginal ownership under freehold title.
1977 The Central Land Council established as a statutory body under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976). The Council's mandate is to identify traditional owners of land and consulting them about the protection of sacred sites and negotiating and settling disputes.
1984 Charles Perkins appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He becomes the first Aboriginal person to head a federal government department.
1987 The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Return to Country: The Aboriginal Homelands Movement in Australia, examines the situation of Aboriginal people residing at outstations or homelands in Northern and Central Australia and shows that the Aboriginal arts and crafts industry is the major source of cash income apart from the public sector. The report recommends the formation of government policy that will further assist the arts and crafts industries in these communities.
1992 The High Court of Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo and Others v. the State of Queensland. It holds that Australia was not terra nullius at the time of British settlement and upholds the existence of "native title."
1993 The Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 passed. The act seeks to establish procedures and protective measures to ensure that equality before the law is extended to native title.
1996 Landmark Wik decision opens Native Title claims.
1997 Relase of Bringing Them Home, report of the "stolen generation" inquiry.