From Point A to Point Cook

Words by: Suzanna Telai
Art by: Sally Ann Gething

When people talk about the history of Australia they often just talk about the history of white people who have lived in Australia. 

Yet Australia’s historical narrative did not begin in 1770 with the voyaging of Captain James Cook, or even in 1788 with British colonisation. Instead, it began tens of thousands of years earlier with Australia’s Indigenous population.

65,000 years ago 

The earliest confirmed evidence of human occupation in Australia came from an Aboriginal rock shelter, Madjedbebe in the Northern Territory. Some archaeologists and historians disagree on the matter, arguing the settlement should be dated at 50,000 years before contact. 

40,000 years ago 

Evidence shows Aboriginal ancestors reached South-Eastern and South-Western Australia.

30,000 years ago 

Archaeological evidence at Bluff Cave site points to Aboriginal occupation in Tasmania. Historians suggest that most of the continent would be occupied by an estimated 100,000 people at this point.

20,000 years ago 

Aboriginal peoples dispersed across the entire continent, with archaeological digs indicating habitation in places as remote as rock shelters on the Franklin River in South-West Tasmania.

7,500 years ago 

Earliest evidence of tooth avulsion (initiation rite). Archaeologists argue it is one of the first pieces of evidence showing the development of cultural traditions.

2,000 years ago 

Rock carvings at Mount Cameron West, show the beginnings of X-ray style art and the development of art styles. 

1770 

Captain James Cook sails up the east coast of Australia and takes possession of New South Wales. The land is claimed as terra nullius, or uninhabited despite several encounters with Aboriginal people.

1778 

British colonists and the First Fleet establish the colony of Port Phillip.

1789 

An outbreak of smallpox devastates the Aboriginal population. Nearly half of the Indigenous population in Sydney dies as a result. 

1804 

Eora man Pemulwuy leads a campaign of resistance against British settlers on the land of the Dharug people. Colonists are authorised to shoot Aboriginal people in response to resistance to settlement.

1838 

Myall Creek Massacre
Settlers near Inverell New South Wales shot an estimated 28 Aboriginal people along the Myall Creek River.

Waterloo Creek Massacre
Up to 50 Kamilaroi people were killed by 26 mounted police under the command of Major James Nunn, whose orders were to expel Aboriginal people from Moree in New South Wales, which was being opened up
for farmland.

1901 

Australia becomes a Federation. The Constitution states that it will legislate for any race except for Aboriginal peoples. 

1915 

The New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board is given powers to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families. 

1925 

Australian Aborigines Progressive Association is formed to oppose New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board. 

1940 

The New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board loses its power to remove Aboriginal children.

1965 

‘Freedom Ride’ by Aboriginal people and students is led by Charles Perkins into North Western New South Wales in support of Aboriginal rights.

1967 

Constitutional Referendum on Aboriginal Rights is held and passed. 

1976 

The Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act is passed by the Federal Parliament.

By the early 1990s 

Steps to repair the damage caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for abuse under past governments began to be taken.

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