50 Years since Wave Hill Walk-Off

Yesterday (16/08/16) was the forty-first anniversary of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam giving back land to the Gurindji people, pouring a handful of soil through Vincent Lingiari’s hand to symbolise that.

Next week, it’ll be the fiftieth anniversary of the event that started that: the Wave Hill Walk-Off.

For a brief overview, look here: http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2016/03/02/vincent-lingiari-gough-whitlam-story-behind-image

From the article:

“It was the unfair treatment of his fellow workers, his people and their families, that led Vincent Lingiari and other employees (some 200 hundred people), to stage a ‘walk-off’ at Wave Hill Station located approximately 600 kilometre’s south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory.

Wave Hill station was a cattle station run by Vesteys, a British pastoral company, which employed the local Aboriginal people from the area. Vincent Lingiari had noticed for quite some time that the working and living conditions for Aboriginal people were very bad, they were treated differently and were not paid equally compared to the non-Aboriginal employees.  Even Lingiari, who was a head stockman, initially received no cash payment. The first time he had received money was around 1953 when he lined up with the other stockmen at the Negri River races and was given £5 ‘pocket-money’.

Vincent Lingiari, who was the Gurindji spokesman, and his fellow 200-strong protesters – stockmen, house servants, and their families, walked along a fence line to Gordy Creek before setting up camp on the Victoria River near the Wave Hill Welfare Station. They camped on higher ground during the wet season and in early 1967 moved to Wattie Creek, where they established the community of Daguragu.

The protesters petitioned the Governor General in 1967 and the leaders toured Australia to raise awareness about their cause.

In 1973, Prime Minister Whitlam announced that funds would be made available for the purchase of properties that were not on reserves, and Lord Vestey, from Vesteys pastoral company, surrendered the land in question to the Gurindji people.”

The story was immortalised in song by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody in “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”. That’s where I first heard the story, actually. I distinctly remember that the song was part of a research project in Year Eight which I credit as the start of my “awakening” so to speak around First Nations’ issues.

I couldn’t resist sharing the song. I found this clip on YouTube – hope it works.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_ndC07C2qw&w=420&h=315%5D