A handful of sand

Today, 16th August, marks the 35th anniversary of the day Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of sand through the fingers of Gurindji man Vincent Lingiari, to symbolise the restoration of land ownership to the Gurindji people.

Source: National Library of Australia.

 

The story began on Wave Hill station, a large cattle station about 600 km south of Darwin in the Northern Territory. For many years after European settlement it was run by the British pastoral company called Vesteys. Vesteys employed the local Indigenous people, the Gurindji, to work on Wave Hill, but working conditions were very poor and the Gurindji people were paid much less than the other workers.

In 1966, Vincent Lingiari, a prominent Gurindji man who worked at Wave Hill, led a walk off of Indigenous workers as a protest against the poor pay and conditions. The protesters established the Wattie Creek Camp and demanded the return of some of their traditional lands.

The strike lasted for 8 years – “We know how to wait”, Vincent said. “We want them Vestey mob all go away from here. Wave Hill Aboriginal people bin called Gurindji. We been here long time before them Vestey mob. This is our country, all this bin Gurindji country … We want this land, we strike for that.”

Vincent Lingiari travelled all over Australia to address meetings and raise support for the strike. The protest eventually led to the Commonwealth Land Rights Act of 1976 which gave Indigenous Australians freehold title to traditional lands in the Northern Territory and powers to make decisions about mining and development on those lands. 

The story is told really well in “From little things, big things grow” by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody

An act of patience and bravery well worth remembering.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: australia, land, walking

Tags: ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: