IN 2004 I drove to the Wave Hill area of the Northern Territory. I had been contracted to assist its Gurindji residents to develop a plan for their neighbouring communities of Kalkaringi and Daguragu, on the banks of Wattie Creek. A year with the locals was enough to evoke a continuing fascination with those communities’ inception mythology: the Wave Hill walk-off.
Subsequently associated with the national movement for Indigenous land rights, the Gurindji people’s strike of 1966 against their pastoral masters eventually accrued its own anthem, ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’.[i] The strikers’ vision after their protest was clear: to create their own homeland and run it with minimal interference. Their decision to squat illegally on the British beef baron Lord Vestey’s Wave Hill Station became a millstone around the neck of the federal government. A political brawl erupted, in which pastoralists and politicians claimed that the Gurindji’s communist supporters were puppet masters and had ‘stirred them up’ to strike.[ii] Sympathetic unionists and activists such as the writer Frank Hardy claimed the support they offered to the Gurindji was solicited by a group of tribal elders.
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