Wollombi “1970 Bi-Centenary” commemorates Aboriginal history. As their contribution to a local parade celebrating Wollombi’s colonial history, a young teacher and her students paint their faces black, adorn their bodies and carry traditional Aboriginal weapons to represent the region’s ancient Aboriginal past. In seeking to recognise its rich Aboriginal history, this is perhaps a respectful and even progressive gesture. It did however also perpetuate the mistaken belief that there is no living descendants of local Aboriginal clans.

Movement for autonomy and self-determination. Kath Walker supports the Pittock amendments to FCAATSI constitution, seeking to increase the Aboriginal power on the federal council. After their efforts fail, Kath Walker with Doug Nicholls establish the National Tribal Council.


Evonne Goolagong (Wiradjuri) wins Wimbledon. Evonne Goolagong beats Margaret Court in the first all-Australian final in the 87 year history of Women’s Singles at the Wimbledon Open in London The match takes just 63 minutes and propels Evonne to the same heights scaled some years earlier by Lionel Rose. Evonne repeats the triumph when a mother in 1980. She wins her second Wimbledon title and becomes the first mother in 66 years to do so

Neville Bonner is appointed to Senate vacancy

The Whitlam government introduces a policy of Aboriginal Self-Determination.

From the early 1970s, there is an upsurge of Indigenous cultural pride.


January 26. The Tent Embassy campaign. Aboriginal people from NSW set up the Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra to express their sense of exclusion from the nation and their own land. Activists demonstrate the authority for the Tent Embassy by making a journey through eastern NSW to record the desire for cherished lands held by their elders and community leaders. This signals the start of an organised and united Aboriginal political movement for land rights and increased autonomy of Aboriginal people on their own lands. Prominent protesters include Billy Craigie, Kevin Gilbert, Bob Maza, Chicka Dixon, Gary Williams, Gary Foley, Roberta Sykes, and Isobel Coe. (Goodall, Invasion to Embassy; Maynard, Fight for liberty and Freedom)

Jodie Ambler is born at Waratah.

Article written “Swansea Heads Midden, believed to be 8000 years old” by Len Pyall.


Wallarah Hotel licensed to Dot and Ted Wotherspoon.

Rebekah McLean is born to Suzanne McLean. She is raised in a little single-fronted attached house in an “old shanty town” in Carrington, Newcastle. This house has been home to four generations of her family. As a youngster Rebekah walks around the wharf with her grandfather. He teaches her how to fish for survival during the “difficult times”.

Brian Taplin born in Newcastle.

Gooris and non Aboriginal supporters establish the Newcastle Aboriginal Advancement Society with a federal government grant. They run cultural awareness programs in Newcastle. The society is formally registered in 1977 and later superseded by Awabakal New Aboriginal Co Operative Ltd. The inaugural chairperson is Bill Smith. Early board directors include: Clem Sands, Lillian Sands, Aunty Amy Ridgeway who lives at Platts Estate; Jack Thorpe who fought at the Stadium, June Thorpe, Ted and Dot Wotherspoon, Robert and Shirley Smith, Zelma Moran, Victoria Matthews, George and Anne Ritchie. Field Officers include: Amy Trindall, John Ferguson, Wayne Nean and George Griffiths.

There is a resurgence of a vibrant, proactive Aboriginal community in the Newcastle region after the 1967 Referendum and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Aboriginal people of the Hunter Valley are fuelled with hope and pride in the future. Demands for self determination and land rights become the vocal catch cries. Newcastle has always afforded a viable alternative to paternal government policies. Its heavy industries look beyond racism. Anyone walking through the gate at BHP, for example, seeking work gets a job. (Maynard, Awabak Voices, p83)


The resurgence of Aboriginal pride in the Newcastle region gives rise to growing public interest in local Aboriginal history. From the early 1970s, a series of articles appear in Newcastle and Hunter Valley newspapers focusing on local Aboriginal history. They focus on a diverse range of topics including frontier relations, customary medicine, firestick farming, Aboriginal health and commemoration of notable individuals. Here are some of them:

Four Aboriginal students enrol at Newcastle Teachers College.

L E Threlkeld’s book Australian Reminiscences and Papers. Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-59, 2 vols, republished by AIATSIS.


Monument erected to the Awabakal and Threlkeld at Belmont. As part of 150th anniversary celebrations, a monument is erected at the site where Threlkeld established his first mission in 1825.

Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act.


Gavi Duncan “comes in” from Moree to Sydney trade school and studies carpentry. It is a “melting pot” for boys from the bush. (descendent of William Bird (“Little Breeches”, Gavi Duncan. See video)

Black Theatre. Gavi Duncan works as a DJ with Radio Redfern. He joins NAISDA (Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island contemporary dance company) during the second intake of students. During 2013, Gavi assists to bring NAISA to the Central Coast of NSW. (Gavi Duncan, descendent of William Bird or “Little Breeches”. See video)


Anti-Discrimination Act NSW includes Indigenous Australians and relates particularly to discrimination in employment and housing.

Cultural camp is held at Rathmines.

Many important Aboriginal community organisations based in Newcastle are a direct result of the Aboriginal family resettlement scheme. The Newcastle Awabakal Co-operative is one of the major achievements of the time. It is established to provide empowerment to Aboriginal communities throughout the Hunter through the delivery of health and social services. The Awabakal Co Operative announces its intent to bring about wide sweeping social reforms for all Gooris. This includes establishing an Aboriginal Health Centre, a permanent resource and cultural centre, an Aboriginal school, an Aboriginal Legal Service, a home work centre, a club, and a housing Co Op. They also reclaim sacred sites including within the Wattagans. (Maynard, Awabakal voices, p83).

The co-op also plays an important role as the incubator of other organisations. Because some “younger” organisations are incubated there is a “genealogical connection” between groups of organisations who support each other’s work and goals. Yarnteen is an influential node in this network. (see Yarnteen 1991). (Smith, The Business of Governing, c2012).

In February 1977, the Co-op is registered as a Community Advancement Cooperative Society. In 1982, it obtains a second registration as an organisation under the Charitable Collections Act. The decision to register under the Cooperative Societies act is based on the belief that the spirit of cooperative societies better reflects the philosophies of traditional Goori societies than that of other incorporated bodies which largely reflect competition. While Bill Smith is the inaugural chairperson, the setting up of the organisation and its continued success is the result of the work of a great number of Goori and non-Aboriginal people in paid and unpaid positions.

After its inception more than fifty persons serve on its Board of Directors. Early directors include Clem Sands (of the boxing Sands brothers) and his sister Lillian, Aunty Amy Ridgeway of Platts Estate, Jack Thorpe who fought at the Stadium and his wife June, Ted and Dot Wotherspoon, Robert and Shirley Smith, Zelma Moran, Victoria Matthews, and George and Ann Ritchie. Victoria Matthews and Zelma Moran later work for the Co-op as secretary and field officer respectively. Among the other early field officers are Amy Trindall, John Ferguson, Wayne Nean and George Griffiths. Wayne is instrumental in the setting up of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service in 1984, while George is a member of the NSW Aboriginal Lands Trust prior to the handing over of reserves to communities through the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.

The cooperative’s objectives are broad and centre around providing for members’ needs in areas of employment, culture, health, welfare, sport, housing and education. These objectives inform initiatives for the forthcoming year:

1. Hold a cultural camp for 9 to 15 year olds at Rathmines before Christmas.

2. Establish an Aboriginal Health Centre.

3. Reclaim Sacred sites in the Wattagans and establish a permanent reserve and cultural centre.

4. Establish an Aboriginal Pre-school

5. Obtain an Aboriginal legal service field officer to work from the Co-op.

6. Set up a loaning and Homework Centre which would include such teaching programs as the Awabakal dialect.

7. Establish our own club 8 Set up our own housing Co-op.

By 2000 many of these programs are achieved by the Newcastle Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community. Some by the Awabakal Co-op, and others independent of it. Most grow out of initial negotiations and support of the Co-op. (Minutes, Awabakal AGM 1977; Heath, 1998:66 )

Percy Haslam becomes actively involved with the Awabakal Co-op. He works with people including Tommy Sales from the Darkinung people on the Central Coast and Kenny McBryde, a Bundjalung man who lives at Toronto, Jimmy Wright and Ray Kelly. At this time, he retires from the Newcastle Morning Herald and studies local Aboriginal language and culture at the University of Newcastle and in the UK. Haslam values and seeks to revive interest in Threlkeld’s work (Maynard, Awakabal voices, p85).

Eddy Sales becomes a performer with sideshows at rural showgrounds and adopts the stage name of “Tomahawk”. He becomes known as Tommy Sales. Tommy gives talking performances on Darkinung culture and goes to La Perouse where he sells boomerangs made near Tuggerah Lake. He calls his grandfather (mother’s father Edward Newman) Katala, the last Aboriginal Chief of the “Karkinoong”. (Ford p305-7).

Tommy Sales and the late Eric Taggart are friends. With Tommy as his tout, Eric emerges from the Wollombi bush in the ranges as a “wild Aborigine” complete with wooden weapons. Eric Taggart works casually as a farmhand around Singleton district. His story telling is legendary. The journalist Percy Haslam frequently arrives at Eric’s home with newspaper driver and photographer George Steele to inquire about Aboriginal culture. (Ford 310-11).

NSW Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee formed.


Newcastle All Blacks Football Club formed

Birubi Point Excavations.


Arthur Capell’s final publication on language writes: Darkinjung, Wonnarua (Wannarua, Wannerawa) and Awabakal are “hardly more than dialects” of the same language. People who speak the language identify this to Mathews as Darkinjung. (Ford)

Awabakal XI Cricket Club is formed.

John Nolan and Tony Hampton, aged 16 years, are encouraged to enrol in the plumbing course offered at Tighes Hill TAFE College.