Aboriginal timeline: Arts

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  1. The oldest dated rock painting is believed to come from the 1620s. The rock painting depicts a sailing boat and is proof of Aboriginal people’s early contact, possibly with Macassars from Indonesia fishing for trepang .


  1. Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Fanny Cochrane Smith is recorded singing in her native tongue, the first and only recording of Tasmania’s Aboriginal language.


  1. First stamp of Australia showing a reference to Aboriginal culture.

    Stamp: Centenary of the exploration of the Murray River.
    1930: Note the boomerang at the foot of Captain Charles Sturt’s portrait.


  1. Central Australian Aboriginal painter, Albert Namatjira, holds his first exhibition in Melbourne. All 41 works are sold in three days. He combines European painting techniques (mainly watercolours) with subject matter from his native land.


  1. Stamp showing a crocodile.
    Designed by a non-Aboriginal artist, this 2-shilling stamp is the first to show an Aboriginal art theme.

    Australia Post releases the first Australian stamp that features an Aboriginal art theme. The 2 shilling stamp represents a crocodile in the style of a rock painting and is part of the Australian Animals definitive stamp issue of that year. But the artist, Gert Sellheim, is not Aboriginal.


  1. Stamp: 8 1/2d Gwoya Jungarai, often known as 'One Pound Jimmy'.
    Gwoya Jungarai

    The portrait of Gwoya Jungarai (ca.1895-1965) of the Warlpiri people, Central Australia, appears on the 8 1/2 pence (8 1/2d) and two shillings and sixpence (2s.6d, issued 1952) definitive stamps. The stamps become widely known as “One Pound Jimmy” because when asked the price of his artefacts for sale he always replied “One Pound”.


  1. Melbourne stages its first Moomba festival. Approached about naming the festival, Aboriginal people suggest “Moomba”, telling the officials it means “Let’s get together and have fun!” Actually meaning “up your bum” the name was adopted and is still used.


  1. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) becomes the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse. She goes on to become one of the best known and most respected authors in Australia and overseas.

  2. The Legends of Moonie Jarl is the first Aboriginal children’s book published in Australia. It is also the first Aboriginal children’s book in schools. It is republished more than 50 years later, in 2015.


  1. Albert Namatjira.
    Stamp celebrating Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira.

    First named Aboriginal person honoured on an Australian stamp. Albert Namatjira was also the first Aboriginal person to be accepted as a citizen of the Commonwealth in 1957.

  2. Desecration of the Weebo sacred site in central Western Australia through pegging of mineral claims eventually leads to the Western Australian Heritage Act being proclaimed in 1972.

  3. First Aboriginal debutante ball at Sydney Town Hall. Prime Minister John Gorton was one of the guests.


  1. Jack Charles and Bob Maza found the first Aboriginal theatre company Nindethana.

  2. Two stamps showing the bark painting of a turtle and two men wearing body decoration.
    The first issue showing Aboriginal art did not mention the artist but avoided culturally sensitive material.

    Australia Post releases the first stamp issue to focus on traditional, authentic Aboriginal art forms, titled "Aboriginal Art". While focusing on traditional arts forms, the stamp does not yet name the artist (which started with the 1988 issue). The 25 cent stamp shows decoration used in the final mourning ceremony by the Warramunga people, from the Tennant Creek area in the Northern Territory. The artist modified the image of two men in the act of painting each other which the Warramunga people considered a sacred ceremony to be only witnessed by men. The final design can also be viewed by women.


  1. Bruce McGuinness and Martin Bartfeld shoot “Blackfire” which focuses on Aboriginal communities in Melbourne. It is the first film known to have been made by an Aboriginal Australian.


  1. Galarrwuy Yunupingu, a leader of the Yolngu tribe in the Northern Territory, receives the Australian of the Year award. Famous Aboriginal people


  1. The first Survival Day concert is held in Sydney.


  1. Elaine George on the Vogue Australia cover, September 1993

    In a first for Vogue, Aboriginal model Elaine George of Brisbane becomes the cover girl for the September issue of Vogue Australia 1993, leading to a career as an international model. Elaine was discovered as a 17-year-old at Dreamworld, a Gold Coast amusement park, by freelance photographer Grant Good.
    The issue became the highest selling Vogue in the then 34-year history of Australian Vogue.


  1. Richard Frankland becomes the first Aboriginal director to win an AFI Award for his documentary No Way To Forget.


  1. 16-year-old Daniel Walbidi, from Yulparija, walks into Broome’s Short Street Gallery and asks owner Emily Rohr for painting supplies, inspiring his Yulparija elders, aged in their 70s and 80s, to start painting the stories of their ancestral desert lands they had left more than 40 years prior, and thus sparking an art movement. He went on to become one of Australia’s finest contemporary artists.


View article sources (2)

[1] 'Rock art shows early contact', Sun Herald 18/7/2010
[2] 'Aboriginal artwork represented on stamps', Australia Post 26/10/2017

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2021, Aboriginal timeline: Arts, <https://stage.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/arts>, retrieved 12 May 2021

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