The Institute Times

Whitlam returns Wave Hill Station to Gurindji people

Gough Whitlam pours dirt into the hand of Vincent Lingiari signifying the return of the Wave Hill Station to the Gurindji people.
Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia.

In 1975, nine years after Vincent Lingiari led 200 Gurindji stockmen and their families off Wave Hill Station, in what was originally a protest against pay and conditions, the Gurindji people were handed back their traditional lands.

The Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam met with the Gurindji at Daguragu and transferred leasehold title of 3236 square kilometres of land purchased from Wave Hill back to the Gurindji. At a ceremony, the transfer was symbolised by Whitlam placing a handful of soil in Vincent Lingiari hands.

"Vincent Lingiari," Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said. "I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hand this piece of the earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever."

This protest became known as the Wave Hill Walk Off and Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people became immortalised in Australia’s popular culture through the song written and performed by musicians Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, From Little Things Big Things Grow.

On 9 August 2007, the Wave Hill walk-off route the Gurindji people took was included in Australia’s National Heritage List.

Source: This piece of earth - The Australian Women's Weekly Wednesday 8 October 1975 p45 Trove