Aboriginal Day of Mourning, 1938

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Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.


Resource title: Aboriginal Day of Mourning, 1938

Digital resource identifier: R6802-4

Resource description

Three resources – a poster advertising the occasion and two photographs taken during Aboriginal Day of Mourning, 1938.

Stage of schooling: Lower Secondary

CCE focus: Historical Perspectives


The Aboriginal Day of Mourning Conference in 1938 was the first national conference of Indigenous Australians, protesting against their treatment and calling for full citizenship and equality. The conference, held on the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet, was an important step in the development of Australia's Indigenous civil rights movement. Students are able to explore the historic importance of the Aboriginal Day of Mourning and consider how civic participation can bring about political change.

Opportunities for Civics and Citizenship learning

‘Aboriginal Day of Mourning, 1938’ provides opportunities for students to:

  • investigate Indigenous peoples’ struggle for civil and political rights

  • recognise that Indigenous peoples’ political participation has contributed to Australia’s democracy

  • become familiar with significant Indigenous figures in Australia’s history

  • understand how peaceful protest is one means of participation in democracies to bring attention to injustice

  • explore the origins of a significant social movement in Australia’s democracy

  • analyse the effectiveness of the political strategies of social movements in raising awareness and changing attitudes

  • investigate how campaigns for social justice have been important catalysts for democratic change 

Ideas for the classroom

  • Provide students with a brief background to the 1938 Aboriginal Day of Mourning.

  • Ask them to look at all three resources and describe the information provided by each.

  • Ask students to identify the many aims of the protest and the strategies used to achieve them.

  • Ask them to describe the values being contested and consider the significance of calling the protest on 26 January 1938.

  • Ask students to form groups to share their knowledge about other protests for Indigenous people’s rights and to compare the aims, values and strategies of those protests to the Day of Mourning.

  • Ask students to consider and discuss other ways that Indigenous people have struggled for their rights, and to consider the effectiveness of those strategies.

  • Organise a class debate, or allow students to present their views in other ways, on the topic ‘The Aboriginal Day of Mourning in 1938 was an important milestone in the development of Australia’s Indigenous civil rights movement’.