Explore the timeline and discover how January 26 is a day of both pride and pain and why, for many, “Australia Day” is a difficult day.
Pride and Pain
Pride and Pain
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Our story doesn’t start on January 26, 1788 Information icon - Pride and Pain

First Nations people have called this continent home for thousands of years, making them custodians of the world’s oldest living cultures.

Illustration of a tall ship

When Captain Cook arrived, the continent was home to over 500 First Nations groups


More than 500 First Nations groups inhabit the continent - about 750,000 people.

1770 Play icon - Pride and Pain

Captain Cook declares the land terra nullius - nobody’s land.


The First Fleet anchors in what is now called Sydney Cove on January 26.

Illustration an indigenous man

Colonisation was not a peaceful process

1800s Information Icon - iconPride and Pain

1800s - First Nations population is diminishing: mass shootings, people driven off cliffs, food laced with arsenic, frontier wars and the introduction of disease.


It’s estimated the First Nations population has been reduced by 90%.

Illustration of a scroll

In 1901, politicians wrote First Nations people out of the story

1901 Information icon - Pride and Pain

Australia officially becomes its own nation. Parliament introduces the White Australia Policy.


First Nations people are referenced twice in the Constitution: to state they won’t be counted in the census and that they need “special laws”.

1910 - 1970 Information icon - Pride and Pain

Many First Nations children are forcibly taken from their families.

Illustration of a raised fist

January 26 protests are not new – they started almost 90 years ago


The Australian Natives Association (white Australian men) campaigns to make the Monday closest to January 26 a public holiday for Australia Day.


A ‘Day of Mourning and Protest’ is organised as Sydney celebrates 150 years of colonisation.

Illustration of an Aboriginal Flag

Australia had its own civil rights movement

1965 Information icon - Pride and Pain Play icon - Pride and Pain

Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) organises a bus tour of outback NSW, uncovering racism in rural communities.

1967 Information icon - Pride and Pain

90% of Australians vote “Yes” to amend two parts of the Constitution that exclude First Nations people.

1972 Information icon - Pride and Pain

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established on the lawns of Parliament House.

Illustration of the Australian flag

Our national symbols came late in the story - and they don’t embrace First Nations culture


The Aboriginal flag becomes widely adopted.


Australians cease to be British subjects. 'Advance Australia Fair' replaces 'God Save the Queen' as the national anthem.

1988 Information icon - Pride and Pain

The arrival of the First Fleet is re-enacted for the bicentennial in Sydney. This is labelled offensive and hasn't been allowed since.

Australians march together in Sydney to celebrate the survival of First Nations Peoples and cultures.

Illustration of black and white shaking hands

January 26 only became a national holiday in 1994.


The first national Australia Day public holiday is observed.

2017 Information icon - Pride and Pain

Certain local councils try to change the date of their citizenship ceremonies. They are forced by the government to change them back. Some are even stripped of their rights to hold citizenship ceremonies.

Record numbers of people attend Invasion and Survival Day protests around the country.

2021 Information icon - Pride and Pain

Several councils around the nation have stopped celebrating Australia Day on January 26.

A majority of people surveyed in the Australia Talks National Survey 2021 agree that Australia Day shouldn’t be celebrated on January 26, given the historical significance of the date for First Nations people.