Australia in the 1970s

Significant events

In 1970, the Victorian government announced that ownership of reserves on land at Lake Tyers and Framlingham would be returned to their local Koorie communities.

The Northern Territory Supreme Court rejected the land rights challenge of the Yirrkala Aboriginal people opposing the mining companies' development of the billion-dollar bauxite deposits on the Gove Peninsula.

In May 1971, Neville Bonner became the first Indigenous Australian elected to sit in the federal parliament.

Harold Thomas, a Luritja man, designed the Aboriginal flag. The elements of the flag, the black, red and yellow represent the Sun, the Earth and Aboriginal peoples.

In July 1971, Evonne Goolagong won the women's title at Wimbledon.

On Australia Day 1972, three Aboriginal men set up an umbrella on the lawns of what is now Old Parliament House with a sign that read 'Aboriginal Embassy' to highlight their sense of dispossession. The structure has become known as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Pastor Doug Nicholls became the first Aboriginal person to be knighted in 1976 and became governor of South Australia. 

In 1978, Patricia O'Shane was the first Indigenous Australian to graduate in law and become a barrister. A year later, the Aboriginal chairman of the Northern Land Council, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, was named Australian of the Year.


A snapshot of 1978

  • January
    • The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1978 (Cth) was proclaimed in federal parliament.
    • The Special Broadcasting Service, also known as SBS, was established.

  • April
    • The Migrant Services and Programs Report, also known as 'The Galbally Report', was presented to the prime minister.

  • August
    • The Malcolm Fraser conservative government announced the end of maternity allowances.

  • November
    • The West Gate Bridge over the Yarra River and Port Melbourne was opened. It is the second-largest single span bridge in Australia.
    • The Ranger Uranium Agreement was signed by the Northern Land Council and ratified by the traditional owners, allowing uranium mining in Arnhem Land.


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