Finding Common Ground:
Towards a Document for Reconciliation

A brief timeline of Reconciliation

Saxe Bannister, first Attorney General of New South Wales, makes a submission to the Select Committee of the House of Commons arguing that treaties should be entered into with Aboriginal people and that their rights to land should be respected.

January 1938
The Aborigines Progressive Association declared a Day of Mourning on Australia Day and held the first Aborigines Conference in Sydney. The Conference resolved to appeal to the nation to give Indigenous Australians full citizenship rights.

Referendum sees 92 per cent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth government power to legislate for Aboriginal people and to allow them to be counted in the Census.

Prime Minister William McMahon makes an important statement signalling a major change from the old assimilation policy. The statement sets out a number of policy objectives, including the equal right of Aborigines 'to hold effective and respected places within one Australian society'. At the same time, they were to be encouraged to preserve and develop their own culture.

The Whitlam Government establishes the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and makes a firm commitment to the policy of self-determination. The new Government also sets up the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.

The Australian Senate unanimously endorses a resolution put up by Senator Neville Bonner acknowledging prior ownership of this country by Aboriginal people and seeking compensation for their dispossession. Federal Parliament passes the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Fraser Government effects the passing of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and brings the new legislation into operation.

Dr H.C. Coombes initiates movement towards a treaty with Indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal Treaty Committee is formed and the National Aboriginal Conference calls for a treaty between the Commonwealth government and Aboriginal people. The Hon. Fred Chaney, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, welcomes the initiative and funds a nationwide consultation process.

Pope John Paul II visits Alice Springs and makes a public statement saying 'There is a need for a just and proper settlement (with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) that still lies unachieved in Australia.'

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gerry Hand presents to the Parliament the statement Foundations for the Future, aimed at progressing the idea of a compact with Indigenous Australians.

Australian Heads of Churches issue a statement, Towards Reconciliation in Australian Society -Reconciliation and Aboriginal Australians, arguing for just and proper settlement of differences and the healing of division.

New Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Robert Tickner announces Government's intention of seeking greater cross-party agreement on Aboriginal Affairs.

January 1991
Minister Tickner releases discussion paper outlining proposals for advancing reconciliation, including an education campaign and the establishment of a council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

May 1991
Minister tables Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which inquired into the deaths of 99 Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. The final recommendation supports the concept of a process of reconciliation, with Commissioner Elliott Johnston commenting that 'All political leaders and their parties recognise that reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in Australia must be achieved if community division, discord and injustice to Aboriginal people are to be avoided.'

February 1991
Robert Tickner appointed as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

June 1991
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act is passed in the House of Representatives with unanimous support.

August 1991
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act is passed in the Senate with unanimous support.

February 1992
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation holds its first meeting in Canberra.

June 1992
High Court hands down its Mabo decision, recognising special relationship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with the land.

September 1993
First National Indigenous Business Conference in Alice Springs.

International Year of the World's Indigenous People.

September 1993
First national Week of Prayer for Reconciliation with support from all major religious groups.

October 1993
Meeting at Fitzroy Crossing of representatives of the Kimberley Land Council and Aboriginal pastoralists, the Pastoralists and Grainhandlers Association, and the WA Farmers Federation - the first wide ranging meeting in 100 years between these groups.

December 1993
Native Title Act passed by Federal Parliament recognising native title and providing a process by which native title rights can be established.

March 1994
First meeting of the Joint Council on Aboriginal Land and Mining (J-CALM), representing the first occasion when senior mining company executives and senior Aboriginal leaders have come together to discuss issues of mutual concern.

July 1994
The Uniting Church National Assembly formally apologises for past wrongs and pledges to work in solidarity with the Aboriginal and Islander Congress.

July 1994
Council holds its first cultural awareness training for journalists in the Kimberley region of WA.

November 1994
Walking Together: The First Steps is presented to Parliament, documenting the lessons learned during the first term of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

The Australian Football League releases a new code of conduct on racism which receives strong endorsement from the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

March 1995
Council presents Going Forward: Social Justice for the First Australians to Prime Minister Paul Keating. This major document contains 78 recommendations covering a range of issues including access to land, protection of culture and heritage, and the provision of adequate health, housing and other services.

July 1995
Government amends the Flags Act to give official recognition to the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag.

February 1996
Aboriginal, pastoral and environmental organisations on Cape York sign the Cape York Land Use Heads of Agreement, showing that organisations representing disparate interests can agree on diverse land uses. The agreement is seen as the first step towards a possible Regional Agreement as defined in the Commonwealth Native Title Act.

May 1996
CAR launches the first National Reconciliation Week at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister John Howard, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley and Democrats Leader Cheryl Kernot.

June 1996
CAR announces grant to the Deans of Australian Medical Schools for the development of a cultural awareness training module for medical students.

June 1996
CAR convenes Key Stakeholders Meetings on Native Title with representatives from indigenous organisations and from the pastoral, farming, mining and exploration industries, to exchange views on native title issues and discuss possible agreed positions.

May 26-28 1997
Australian Reconciliation Convention, convened by the Council. Attended by 1,800 participants, this event becomes an historic landmark in the reconciliation process and stimulates a grassroots people's movement around the country.

December 1997
Considerable growth in the number of local reconciliation groups and strengthening of the peoples movement for reconciliation in the six months since the convention.

February 1998
Council identifies three major goals for its final term: a Document of Reconciliation; Partnerships to achieve social and economic equality for Indigenous people; and a people's movement to sustain the reconciliation process beyond 2000.

June 3 1999
Launch of Council's Draft Document for Reconciliation.

July–Dec 1999
Public consultations on the draft document.

May 2000
Council will present final proposals on a Document at major national event.

January 1 2001
Centenary of Federation and the end of the life of the Council.

Top of the Page

Home Page