From little things, big things grow
Last year my family and I took a road trip, a pilgrimage.
We had some unfinished outback business to attend to.
There was sacred ground to stand on in the birthplace of aboriginal land rights.
We dragged our teen and tween half-way across the country for this significant show and tell session.
And we were signing ourselves up for new knowledge and appreciation too.
Gurindji Country is the birthplace of land rights and inspires welcome to country words of acknowledgement.
Together we were here to learn more about an important Australian who advocated for change and against oppression.
Vincent Lingiari inspired the Wave Hill Walk Off on 23 August, 1966.
200 Gurindji stockmen, domestic workers and their families initiated strike action at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory. Negotiations with the station owners, the international food company Vestey Brothers, broke down, leading to a seven-year dispute before Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically handed their land back in 1974
The event became a catalyst for the Aboriginal land rights movement.
I'd always wanted to visit this sacred site
Ever since I first heard Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly’s song “From little things, big things grow.”
I wish I could say I’ve wanted to visit since I learned about it in school, but I honestly can’t recall if I did. The Eureka Stockade and Early settlement were dominant in my 1970-1980 homework, and it’s possible Vincent’s story was relegated to sub-chapters of our text-books. I can’t recall, and for that I am sorry.
But cultural awareness and understanding have shifted, and we know this is one lesson that our kids won’t easily forget.
We drove towards recognition and respect, and into the dusty, distant community of Kaljarinji, a national heritage listed site
What we found is that the residents here have gone to great effort to share the story of this moment in history through The Walk Off Trail.
For our family, it was a living classroom that stepped beyond books and grainy documentaries, and into our consciousness.
We didn’t need to reinforce this lesson with too much discussion, it was a respectful wander through dusty tracks and along dry waterholes, quietly reading the detailed and creative interpretive plaques sharing the timelines of The Walk Off.
Back in town, my ranger fella Kris had a great chat to local fella Richard.
He’d beckoned to us from his shady Sunday sitting spot outside the Art Cooperative. Richard was waiting to move the sprinkler from his beloved trees he’s been nurturing carefully.
The kids and I watched them – just two blokes having a quiet chat, squatting on haunches, looking back towards town. We’d had a few of these moments like this, and on our previous outback trip 5 years ago, and I recall my own dad pulling up a rock for similar chats in my own childhood travels.
While chatting Richard told Kris what it’s like living in Kaljarinji, the pride the locals feel for their place in history, how they capture storytelling through artwork, the encouragement of local kids to stay in school, plans for next month’s festival*, when the petrol tanker comes through and the best camping spots up the road. Just two blokes shooting the breeze, growing connection and understanding.
Yapakayi-nginyi Jangkarnik – from little things, big things grow.
Traditional owner acknowledgement wording
As for my part as a copywriter, speechwriter and event MC, I’m regularly asked about acknowledging traditional owners. There are some terrific guidelines out there to recognise communities and elders past and present.
For helpful ideas for incorporating this acknowledgement check out Creative Spirits
If you’re after a respectful scripts for gatherings and events I regularly use the following:
“<Insert your organisation> acknowledges the <Insert > people of the <Insert> nation, the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and work, and all Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ continuing connection to land, place, waters and community. We pay our respects to their cultures, country and elders past present and emerging.”
*Wave Hill Freedom Day Festival
Just one month after we visited, on 23 August the community would go on to celebrate the landmark with a special Wave Hill Festival.
The Freedom Day Festival, commemorates the Gurindji, Wave Hill Walk Off and the birth of Aboriginal Land Rights in Australia.
It’s one of the most unique and remote festival experiences Australia has to offer, people from all walks of life make the pilgrimage every August to celebrate in the spirit of unity and pride. Put it on your event radar for understanding and connection.
Thank you to the communities and indigenous peoples who have shared their stories and lands with our family on our travels.