Percy Haslam and president of Lake Macquarie Historical Society, D R Blakemore, begin their research into Awabakal language, culture and history. They interview old residents aged 90 to 100 years in the Swansea, Martinsville and Cooranbong areas. The last pockets of tribal Awabakal people lived on here. Haslam and Blakemore speak to elderly people who as children either spoke Awabakal or heard it spoken. (Maynard, Awabakal voices, p82).

As children, Christine and Stephen Lewis regularly visit the house on Marramarra Creek built by their great grandfather, Henry Lewis, grandson of John Lewis/Ferdinando and Sarah Wallace. Christine and Stephen know they have ancestors and relatives buried in Bar Island cemetery. They sometimes row over to the island to explore and play all day. The children also row to the remote upper reaches of Marramarra Creek to where Sarah and John farmed their land. (see video)

American Black Power Movement . Bruce McGuinness founds the Black Power movement in Australia. Bruce is part of a new movement in which Aboriginal seek to take control of their own lives and their own community, making decisions for themselves rather than governments and mission managers making decisions for them; especially in areas of education, health, children and women. The movement also seeks to restore to Aboriginal people recognition and pride in their own identity.


Native Welfare Conference develops a statement on the policy of Assimilation. Hon Paul Hasluck MP presents it to the House of Representatives on 20 April 1961: “all aborigines and part-aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians.”

An unnamed Sandgate resident remembers a native song that Awabakal children taught her when she was a child: Ah me-bing-a-young, me bing-a-young Me did-gee bid-gee, cut-ra-bid-gee Ah bud-ger-bar-a-me Ah bar-an-bungel You gar-bra (Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 May 1961, Newcastle Library)

Joe McGuiness becomes the first Indigenous president of FCAATSI. He holds this role for 17 years.


Federal government grants Aboriginal people the optional right to vote. State laws, however, still classify ‘natives’ as ‘wards of the state’ and as such they are denied the right to vote in state elections.


Newcastle University forces Gooris off land. In acquiring the land in 1963 it participates in the forced removal of Gooris from the site. In April, the Newcastle City Council orders the removal of nineteen squatters, mainly Aborigines. It takes eighteen months of effort by the City Council, the University, the Department of Education, the Crown Solicitor and the Aborigines Welfare Board (they have to provide alternative housing) to reach a solution (Wright, 1992: 84; Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ACRA)


Article published by Rye Douglas “Massacre of Aborigines” (Newcastle Herald, in Newcastle Library).


Robert Punton born at Waratah.

Trustee of the Aboriginal Children’s Advancement Society, Bert Groves is tireless in fundraising to build for children the Kirinari hostel at Sylvania Heights and hostels at Newcastle and Manly. (ADB; Gary Foley, Koori History)

Charlie Perkins brings methods of the US civil rights movement to Australia. In his capacity of President of Sydney University’s Student Action for Aborigines, Perkins co-organises a “Freedom Ride” with 30 white students. He takes a bus ride into many country towns, including Moree, exposes racism and forces the nation to confront an issue many want to ignore. The Freedom Ride awakens media interest in Aboriginal affairs and marshals it in favour of the Aboriginal cause to the embarrassment of many in rural NSW.

Towards the end of the bus ride after visiting Kempsey, Taree, and the Purfleet Mission, freedom riders drive to Newcastle for a meeting with the parliamentary secretary to suggest ways to address some of the problems they witness. (NMA, Foley Koori History, Bronwyn Powell, Diary of a Freedom Rider)


Gurinji Walkout at Wave Hill Station. Following a decision of the Arbitration Commission in 1965 that industrial law applies equally to all Australians, and thus Aboriginal stockmen are entitled to full wages, a lobby group from the pastoralist industry in the NT convinces the Commission that immediate implementation will have a disastrous effect on the industry. The Commission agrees to defer its ruling for 3 years. This leads to the August 1966 walk-off (strike) of Gurindji stockmen and their families from the Wave Hill station run by the Vestey company in England. This spurs on wider land rights and civil rights campaigns. This includes Gurindji participation in the Sydney May Day March in 1971. The return of Gurindji to their traditional land at Wattie Creek leads to the first Land Rights legislation in the NT. (Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ACRA)

Establishment of Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs in Sydney.


The Aborigines Advancement League elects Bill Onus as Chairman. He plays a crucial mentoring role for his nephew Bruce McGuinness (born Cootamundra) who becomes a significant Aboriginal leader during the 1970s.

Federal Referendum. In 1961 a Senate Committee on Aboriginal voting rights recommends that all Aborigines should be given the right to vote in federal elections and uses its powers to provide voting rights to Aborigines in the NT. This leads to the states providing the right to vote by the mid-1960s. On 27 May 1967 the Commonwealth government holds a referendum asking voters to decide whether the Australian Constitution should be changed to (1) enable the federal government to assume responsibility for Aborigines in each state (the Constitution had been written to enable the federal government to make laws for “the people of any race other than the [A]boriginal race”); and (2) enable the federal government to include Aborigines in national censuses (the Constitution is worded “In reckoning the number of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a state or other part of the Commonwealth, [A]boriginal natives shall not be counted”). Approximately 90% of all voters in the Referendum are in favour of the changes and many people see this as a positive acceptance of Gooris. The Referendum leads to many positive changes, especially the movement of official government policy away from assimilation towards self-determination. Joe McGuinness with Faith Bandler are joint national campaign directors of the Referendum campaign. Chicka Dixon (born Wallago Lake mission) is a central campaigner. In his role as President of the Aborigines Advancement League, Bill Onus helps to create positive support among wider Australians for the referendum. (Indigenous Rights Net, Foley Koori History, Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association)


Kevin Gilbert (born Condobolin 1933) writes The Cherry Pickers while in gaol. The play is a brutally honest story about seasonal workers, focusing on Aboriginal people pushed into refugee situations, condemned to wander the margins of their own continent in pursuit of whatever work they can find.

The Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship is formed in the late-1960s. It is the product of Aboriginal leaders influenced by AIM who want to take ownership in forming a Black Christian movement. Pastor David Kirk at Singleton Bible College and Rev Bill Bird at Moree react against the limits of AIM’s Indigenous training structure. They help to found an evangelical alliance solely run by Aboriginal leaders in 1970. (Long. In the Way Of His Steps, 1936; Inkpin, "Making Their Gospel Known, 14).

Bill Onus dies in Deepdene, Melbourne.

Lionel Rose is the first Aboriginal to win a World Professional Boxing Championship.

Introduction of Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme (secondary school). Aboriginal identity becomes more critical throughout Sydney. (video, Darug TL p39).

Birth of Shane Smithers (mother Robyn Janson), descendant of Mary Thomas born Freeman’s Reach camp 1830.


The Aborigines Act, NSW dissolves the Welfare Board. It makes significant change in direction of government policy. Aboriginal children become wards of the state and their care comes under an Advisory Council made up of Indigenous representatives. The Act also vests reserve lands in control of Aboriginal Affairs who may dispose of them to Indigenous communities. [Darug TL]

March. Robert and Bill Smith borrow six dollars from their brother Roy and open a company bank account. From this humble beginning, their company in its first full year of operation turns over a million dollars. Initially the company concentrates on small contracts for railway maintenance. However, Smiths General Contracting Pty Ltd goes from strength to strength. From 1972 the fortunes of the company accelerate. Larger contracts are successfully carried out in the construction of railway lines for the coal industry. They then gain the contract to lay the railway track to the Port Waratah Coal Loader (John Maynard)