Aboriginal Day Of Mourning

Aboriginal Day Of Mourning


Aboriginal Day Of Mourning

In 1938 Australians marked the 150th anniversary of British settlement with the landing of the First Fleet. This was a day that some celebrated and others mourned.


To coincide with the celebrations in Sydney on 26 January three Australian Indigenous leaders organised an Aboriginal Day of Mourning. They were William Cooper, William Ferguson, and Jack Patten.

The Aboriginal Day of Mourning was first held on 26 January 1938. This was a day of protest.

This protest was organised earlier that January by the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) which was formed in 1937. It was based in New South Wales and was led by its founders Jack Patten and William Ferguson.  

They announced a public meeting to be held on Australia Day to mark a Day of Mourning.

Public meeting


Only Indigenous Australians could attend the meeting. Speakers included Patten, Ferguson, Pearl Gibbs and Sir Douglas Nicholls.

At the meeting they moved the following resolution:

“WE, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th Anniversary of the Whiteman’s seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian nation of today to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, we ask for a new policy which will raise our people TO FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.”

A number of decisions were made at the meeting. The decisions were published in the daily press and were submitted to the state and federal governments.

The Day of Mourning was not a day to rejoice or celebrate. It defined 150 years of misery, degradation, and mistreatment by British colonists.

The Day of Mourning represented a turning point in modern Aboriginal Australian history highlighting the Australian Aboriginal fight against injustice.


Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) https://aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/day-mourning-26th-january-1938

Barlow, Alex & Hill, Marji The Macmillan Encyclopedia Australian Aboriginal Peoples.South Yarra, Vic., Macmillan Education, 2000.



Marji Hill  

First People Then And Now: Introducing Indigenous Australians