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Timeline - Contact History 1500 - 1900
1837 - 1845

Drought on the north-west plains of NSW. Drying up of creeks and waterholes, forces Aborigines to kill sheep and cattle on European holdings, and move towards settlements looking for food.


January, Major Nunn's campaign. Mounted police, mostly European volunteers, set out in response to conflict on the Liverpool Plains, north central NSW. At Vinegar Hill, a site on 'Slaughterhouse Creek', 60 - 70 Aborigines are reported killed. The only European casualty is a corporal, speared in the leg.

11 April, "Faithful Massacre" at Owens Creek, Victoria. Ten Europeans travelling south from NSW with G. P. Faithful, killed by Aboriginal people.

'The Bushwack' or 'The Drive', against Aborigines, is initiated by squatters and their stockmen to clear the Myall Creek area, near present day Inverell, NSW.

On 10 June, the 'Myall Creek Massacre' occurs. 12 heavily armed colonists rounded up and brutally kill 28 Aborigines from a group of 40 or 50 people gathered at Henry Dangar's Station, at Myall Creek. The massacre was believed to be a payback for the killing of several hut keepers and two shepherds. But most of those killed were women and children and good relations existed between the Aboriginal people and European occupants of the station. 15 November, 11 Europeans were charged with murder but are acquitted. A new trial is held and seven men are charged with murder of one Aboriginal child. They are found guilty and hanged in December.

Competition between Aborigines and colonists develops for water on Bogan River, west of present day Dubbo. Seven Europeans and their overseer are killed on William Fee's outstation. Border Police formed after the Myall Creek Massacre, arrive from Bathurst and almost all men of the group involved are killed.

Reports of poisoning of Aborigines on 'Tarrone' near Port Fairy, West Melbourne and 'Kilcoy' north-west Moreton Bay. Flour is poisoned and left in shepherds' huts on 'Kilcoy' in the expectation that Aborigines now dispossessed of hunting ground would take it.


Governor Bourke of NSW ordered the establishment of the Native Police, in the Port Phillip district. They are trained to disperse groups of Aborigines. This force is disbanded in 1853.

Native Police forces operated punitive expeditions and attacked and killed many station Aborigines. The force was lead by European officers. The force played a significant role in later years, in 'settling' hostilities in the Macleay and Clarence River regions of NSW. Native Police were used extensively against Aborigines in Queensland. They were later disbanded and replaced by civil police, following increasing concern within non-Aboriginal communities concerning the forces' activities. The force was finally disbanded in Queensland in 1897.


A number of squatters abandon their stations because of continued resistance of Aboriginal people in defence of their land which includes attacks on properties.


About 50 remaining Aboriginal people from the Sydney and Botany Bay peoples are living at a camp on Botany Heads.


Native Police are used to 'settle' hostilities on the northern plains of NSW. Hostilities lessen in the area.


The Board of National Education, established in NSW states "It is impractical to provide any form of education for the children of blacks".

Native Police are introduced into northern regions with headquarters at Callandoon near present day Goondiwindi, on the Macintyre River.


A select committee of the NSW Government claimed that protectors of Aborigines serve no purpose and should be abolished.

Land Commissioner McDonald reported widespread food shortages among Aborigines in the Murray District after their displacement by pastoralists who took their land for sheep stations.

December, Flinders Island Protectorate in Bass Strait abandoned after most Aborigines have died from various diseases.


The Colony of Victoria established.


27 October The Jiman people kill 11 Europeans at Martha Fraser's Hornet Bank station on the Dawson River, central Queensland. Local squatters with the help of the Native Police later shoot several Jiman men.


A Board of Protection is established in Victoria and continues until 1957. During the next 20 years nearly 11 000 hectares of land are 'temporarily reserved'. By 1900, most Victorian Aborigines are placed on reserves.


17 October, a party of settlers led by Horatio Spencer Wills, is attacked by Aborigines at the new Cullin-la-ringo station, near Emerald, Queensland. Wills and 18 Europeans are killed. Native Police deserters are said to be the ringleaders. A punitive party set out immediately and numerous Aborigines were slaughtered.


Aboriginal cricket team tours England. Some members of the team find it difficult to adapt to the climate and have to return home. One team member dies.


150 Aborigines are killed resisting arrest in the Kimberley.


A settlement is established in Darwin.

Punitive expeditions are common in the north and north-west until the 1930s.

Act for "Protection and Management of Aboriginal Natives" is passed in Victoria.


The Maloga Mission is established as a refuge for the 9 000 surviving Aborigines in NSW.


8 May Truganini dies in Hobart aged 73. The Tasmanian Government does not recognise the Aboriginal heritage of people of Aboriginal descent and claims the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person has died. A falsehood many still believe today.


In the early 1870s the first Aboriginal children are enrolled in the public schools in NSW. By 1880 there are 200 Aboriginal children in school in NSW.


The Hermansburg Mission in established on the Finke River, Northern Territory by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and the Hermannsburg Mission Society of North Germany.


South Australia introduces a Protection Policy.


A Protector of Aborigines is appointed in NSW. The Protector has the power to create reserves and to force Aboriginal people to live on them.

The Minister for Education establishes separate schools for excluded Aboriginal children. The Protector attempts to provide reserves with a building where a school can be run by the Department of Education. Where this is not possible, Aboriginal children can attend the local public schools providing they are "habitually clean, decently clad and that they conduct themselves with propriety, both in and out of school".


The Aboriginal Protection Board is established in NSW. Aborigines at Maloga Mission on the Murray River are moved to Cumeroogunga. By the end of the 1880s several reserves have been established in NSW. Reserves are set up far enough away from towns so that contact with Europeans is limited. Segregation is a key part of Aboriginal Protection Policy.

White parents object to about 16 Aboriginal children attending a public school at Yass. The Minister for Education, George Reid, stops the children from attending school stating, in general that although creed or colour should not exclude a child "cases may arise, especially amongst the Aboriginal tribes, where the admission of a child or children may be prejudicial to the whole school".


Western Australian Aborigines Protection Act provided for a Protection Board.

The Victorian Aborigines Protection Act excludes "half castes" from their definition of an Aboriginal person. As a result nearly half the residents of the stations have to leave their homes.


Jandamarra, an Aboriginal resistance fighter, declares war on European invaders in the West Kimberley and prevents settlement for six years.

In the 1890s Western Australia gives increased law enforcement powers to its justices of the peace who can sentence Aborigines to three years gaol or 24 lashes for offences such as sheep stealing. However, no Western Australian jury convicts a European for killing an Aboriginal, even though in one case a European had tied an Aboriginal person to his horse and dragged the man along the ground to his death.


2 May - a man hunt lasting almost three years followed the spearing by Aborigines of S Murskiewicz at Dora Dora Creek, 68km from Albury. The two Aborigines responsible were finally caught in Queensland.


The Queensland Aboriginals' Protection and Restriction of Sale of Opium Act established reserves and provides for the appointment of protectors. Europeans are permitted to employ Aborigines but Chinese people are not. This Act with some amendments in 1901 and 1934 remains the chief statement of Queensland Policy until 1939 when a new Act is passed.

Jandamarra, Kimberley's resistance fighter is shot and 19 former Aboriginal prisoners, who he had freed and were fighting with him, are also shot and killed.


During 1900 Jimmy and Joe Governor, and Jackie Underwood kill seven Europeans in NSW because Jimmy Governor took offense at slurs passed upon his European wife. Joe was later shot dead and Jimmy and Underwood were arrested.

The following references were used in compiling this timeline.

Bostock, Lester, 1990 The Greater Perspective, Special Broadcasting Service

Fraser, Bryce, (ed) 1983 The Macquarie Book of Events, Weldon,

Directorate of Special Programs, NSW Department of Education, 1982 Aboriginal Australia, a Preliminary Chronology

Jonas, Bill and Langton, Marcia 1994 The Little Red, Yellow and Black (and Green and Blue and White) Book, AIATSIS

Horton, D (ed) 1994 Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press

Butler, Kevin, Cameron, K & Percival, B 1995 The Myth of Terra Nullius, Invasion and Resistance -the early years, Board of Studies

Info found on
Indigenous Australia