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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

Timeline: Indigenous Voice, treaty and truth in Australia


The Australian referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is part of a long history of Aboriginal people fighting for their voice to be heard.

The referendum was called after Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders issued the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a petition calling for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Australian constitution.


The Uluru statement is the latest of many petitions and protests from Aboriginal people calling for three separate processes known as Voice, Treaty and Truth, in varying orders.

Australia has made limited progress on implementing any of the processes, and unlike neighbouring New Zealand and other similar countries, does not have any treaties with Indigenous people.

But, the authors of the Uluru statement say 60,000 years of ancestral ties between Indigenous people and the land are a “sacred link” that should not disappear from world history in “merely” 200 years.

As Australia heads to the polls on Saturday, October 14, here’s a look at some of the significant moments in that long history:

50,000 years ago: Murujuga rock art

The estimated one million petroglyphs at Murujuga in Western Australia are among many examples of Indigenous rock art recording Indigenous history around the country.

Since before the last Ice Age, Murujuga artists have been painting animals, many of which are now extinct, such as nail-tailed wallabies and thylacines, also known as Tasmanian tigers. But traditional owners fear the paintings could be the latest Indigenous heritage site to be damaged or destroyed, due to a gas project in the area.


30,000 years ago: the Story of Budj Bim

The Gunditjmara people’s story of their ancestral creation-being who revealed himself during a volcanic eruption that last happened 30,000 years ago has made some people say the story of Budj Bim could be the oldest living story on Earth.

A 6,600-year-old aquaculture system of weirs, channels and fish traps at Budj Bim received World Heritage listing from UNESCO in 2019.

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