January 26 Day of Mourning – An Historic Moment for Modern Australia

25 January, 2021

25 January 2021                     

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council would like to acknowledge with respect, the leaders of the historic 1938 Day of Mourning.

On January 26 in 1938, some of the most prominent Aboriginal leaders of the day held the inaugural Day of Mourning in the Australian Hall at the-then Cyprus Hellene Club in Sydney, attended by more than 100 people.

They included Jack Patten and William Ferguson from the Aborigines Progressive Association and William Cooper and Margaret Tucker from the Australian Aborigines’ League.

The Chair of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Anne Dennis says those leaders laid an important foundation in the fight for civil rights and Land Rights in Australia.

“The Day of Mourning challenged the mainstream Australia Day celebration and drew attention to the 150 years of discrimination endured by the First Peoples of this continent.

They were an inspiring group of people, who had to enter Australian Hall through the back door, to issue a manifesto for a new deal based on Aboriginal self-determination and equality,” she said.

Cr Dennis says their leadership created a groundswell of support for the Freedom Riders in the 1960’s, as well as the many Land Rights legends in NSW who secured the best Land Rights system in Australia.

“Let’s make it our responsibility to ensure the significance of the Day of Mourning remains in our hearts and in the public realm, that we remember those who went before us and created opportunities for us, as we continue to advocate for justice and true self-determination for Aboriginal people,” she said.

The January 26 Day of Mourning continues to be commemorated at Australian Hall, organised by the Land Rights network’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.