• February 13, 2008: Gwenda Stanely comforts her Aunty Rita Shillingworth as Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivers his apology. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived in Australia since the Upper Paleolithic Period. For 65,000 years, our people have called these lands their homes. It means our people are part of the oldest continuous living culture in the world. NITV has chosen ten moments that defined our lives.
Myles Morgan

23 Feb 2016 - 10:33 AM  UPDATED 12 Aug 2017 - 3:11 PM

10. Tony Abbott and ‘lifestyle choices’, 2015

The man who appointed himself Australia’s first Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs offended many in 2015 with his take on plans to close down remote Aboriginal communities.

“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have,” Mr Abbott told ABC Radio in Kalgoorlie.

The comments sparked uproar, with many saying it showed Mr Abbott had no idea about the concepts of connection to land and country.

9. Mungo Man, 1974

Over 40,000 years ago, a man was ceremoniously buried on the shore of Lake Mungo in outback New South Wales.

His remains weren’t discovered until 1974.

Scientists say the care with which he was buried, and his very existence prove that Indigenous people have lived in Australia for millennia.

8. Day of Mourning, 1938

Many Australians treat Australia Day, the day the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson in 1788, as a celebration.

For many Indigenous people, the day is a solemn reminder of the destruction of their traditional way of life. It is more commonly known by First Nations peoples as Invasion Day or Survival Day.

On Australia Day 1938, the first organised gathering of Indigenous peoples from around the country marked an official day of mourning in Sydney.

7. Keating’s Redfern Speech, 1992

One of the greatest speeches in Australia’s history was delivered in Redfern in 1992.

Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered an uncomfortable history lesson that many Australians either didn’t know about or ignored.

“We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases, the alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers,” he told the crowd.

6. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 1991

In the 1980s, 99 Indigenous people died in custody.

It led to the Hawke Government establishing a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

The final report, released in 1991, made over 300 recommendations on how to care for Indigenous people in custody and preventative measures to keep them out.

Sadly, Indigenous people still make up nearly 30 per cent of Australia’s prison population, and deaths in custody still occur.

Only a handful of the Commission’s recommendations have been fully implemented.

5.  Whitlam pours soil into Lingiari’s hand, 1975

One of the most iconic photos in Australian politics shows Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically pouring soil into the hands of Gurindji man Vincent Lingiari. It ended a struggle which had started nearly ten years earlier.

Lingiari had led two hundred of his people in a walk off at Wave Hill Station in 1966. They protested over pay and conditions at the pastoral station.

The Hand Back was a seminal moment in showing Australians the Aboriginal connection to country, and was critical in establishing the 'Aboriginal Land Rights Act'.

4. The ’67 Referendum

The most successful referendum in Australia’s history saw the nation vote ‘yes’ to  including Indigenous people in official population counts, and allowing the Commonwealth to make special laws to benefit them.

On the other hand, by removing the overtly racist references to Aboriginal people in the Constitution, it meant Australia’s founding document didn’t acknowledge Indigenous people at all.

Today, it is the benchmark for successful referendum campaigns, and many are aiming to use its 50th anniversary in 2017, to hold another referendum to recognise our people in the Constitution.

3. Goodes war dance, 2015

Aboriginal athletes have been subjected to racism before. But in 2015, Australia confronted the question of racism more feverishly than ever before.

Over the course of a few games, AFL star Adam Goodes was booed and heckled whenever he went near the ball.

One night, in response to the crowd, the Andyamathanha and Narungga man performed a now infamous war dance.

Weeks of booing and more war dances ensued. And, Australians in pubs, kitchens, offices, loungerooms and even political institutions debated whether Australia still had a problem with its Aboriginality.

It divided the nation, with some calling it a proud celebration of his culture while others labelled it a threat to spectators that had no place on the footy field.

2. The Mabo Decision, 1992

Not many moments in Aboriginal history can be defined in one word.

But, ‘Mabo’ has become a byword across Australia in the continuing struggle for land rights, and the recognition of connection to country.

Eddie Koiki Mabo’s decade-long struggle for his peoples’ rights to the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait ended with a successful High Court challenge that made native title a legal reality.

It overturned the concept of 'Terra Nullius' - that Australia belonged to no one before the arrival of the British in 1788.

1. The Apology, 2008

It’s the word Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had been waiting decades to hear: sorry.

In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially apologised to victims and survivors of the Stolen Generation.

It’s estimated thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as part of various racist government policies.

The Stolen Generations left Australia with a legacy of lives destroyed, connections to country severed and cultures lost.

The Apology showed Australia’s best self and the way forward to true reconciliation.

Occupation: Native tells the story of Australia's history from a different perspective, an Indigenous perspective. Getting all historical and hilarious, filmmaker Trisha Morton-Thomas (with the help of Black Comedy's Steven Oliver), bites back at our country's accepted history. Part of NITV & SBS' #YouAreHere series airing on Sunday, 13 August at 8.30pm on NITV Ch. 34