Australia in the 1950s

Discriminatory government policies

In 1951, the federal government convened the Native Welfare Conference, with all states and territories represented except Victoria and Tasmania. At the time, Tasmania and Victoria claimed they had no Aboriginal 'problem' and therefore did not need to be part of the discussions. The conference officially adopted a policy of assimilation of Aboriginal people into non-Indigenous communities. Through a series of government policies and practices, many Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities in an attempt to 'assimilate' them into non-Indigenous society. These children and their families have come to be known as the Stolen Generations.

In 1957, the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders was set up. This group brought together a number of civil rights and Aboriginal welfare organisations, and its work played a large part in bringing about the 1967 referendum.

A snapshot of 1958

  • January
    • The first Opera House lottery is held in NSW to raise money for its construction.

  • February
    • The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals (FCAA) is established and later included Torres Strait Islanders.
    • Among its leaders are Faith Bandler and Chicka Dixon, and the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker).

  • August
    • Herb Elliott sets a world record in the mile distance race (3:54.5) at Morton Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

  • September
    • The ANZAC Day Act 1958 receives Royal Assent, making Anzac Day (25 April) a national public holiday in Australia.

  • October
    • Sir Douglas Mawson, Antarctic explorer and geologist, dies at the age of 76.

  • November
    • The first television episode of Bandstand, hosted by Brian Henderson, goes to air on TCN-9.


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