It is my intention today to talk about the electorate of Lingiari
As a result of a redistribution, I am now the member for Lingiari
is of 1.34 million square kilometres and encompasses all of the Northern Territory, with the exclusion of Palmerston and Darwin, which together total 330 square kilometres.The electorate is the second largest in Australia by area, but it is the largest geographically, as it is bounded in the east by Borroloola and the Queensland border and in the west by Christmas and Cocos Islands, in the Indian Ocean.It has a wide range of communities, but 40 per cent or thereabouts of the electorate are indigenous Australians.That is the highest proportion of indigenous Australians of any electorate.
What I want to talk about in particular is the man Vincent Lingiari
will not be known to many Australians, unfortunately.However, I believe he
should be.Under any objective view there is no doubt that he
is one of Australia's great leaders since settlement or, as indigenous Australians would argue, invasion by the British in the 18th century.Vincent Lingiari
was truly a great man.
It explains the life of Vincent Lingiari
and the struggle that he
went through to achieve the recognition of rights for his
Perhaps one of the most significant events as a marker in the life of Vincent Lingiari
was on 23 August 1966 when he
Gurindji people and other people off the Wave Hill station owned by the Vesteys
, situated 600 kilometres south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory, to a riverbed nearby.Most Australians, certainly indigenous Australians, would not have known of the event at the time and, if they did, would have paid little notice to it.Yet the fact remains that the ripples from the Wave Hill walk-off and strike were to keep travelling across Australian society, gathering the force of a wave which would eventually reshape the agenda of relationships between indigenous Australians and the wider community.
The immediate catalyst of the strike was the refusal of the Vesteys'
manager at Wave Hill to meet Vincent Lingiari
's request that Aboriginal stockmen be paid $25 a week.But what was apparently an industrial dispute over appalling working and living conditions soon revealed itself to be something strikingly different: it was a demand from the Gurindji people for the return of their traditional lands.Months after the original strike began Vincent Lingiari
people to establish a settlement at Wattie Creek, known to them as Daguragu, within the Wave Hill lease.When Lord Vestey attempted to get the Gurindji people to leave Wattie Creek and return to work on the station with inducements including money and wages, Vincent Lingiari
told him: `You can keep your gold.
We know that Vincent Lingiari
was an extraordinary man.He
was illiterate in the sense that he
could not read or write European scripts.English was not his
first language-as it is not the first language of a very large number of Australians who live on this continent now.They are not immigrants; they are the traditional owners of this country.English is a foreign language to them.It needs to be understood that even today for very large numbers of people English is not only a foreign language but a language that is very difficult for them to learn, because they do not have the wherewithal in terms of infrastructure to do so.
's vocabulary was very limited.He
described himself as a Kadijeri man, a man in charge of the secret and chief male ceremony of the Gurindji people.He
retold the Dreamtime story of the beginnings of his
people at Seal Gorge near Wattie Creek on the Gurindji tribal lands which were incorporated into the Wave Hill Station.The story is recounted in the corroboree dances of his
people.These lands were a vital part of the identity of Vincent Lingiari
and the Gurindji, by reason of their Dreamtime attachment, their traditional ownership of that country and more recent happenings.
There was a petition sent to a former Governor-General, Lord Casey.Vincent Lingiari
was its first signatory.
Many of those are in the electorate of Lingiari
was a very powerful communicator, despite the fact that he
had difficulty with English.But he
peoples' demands be known when he
Mr SNOWDON -Before being interrupted for question time, I was discussing the role of Vincent Lingiari
as the leader of Gurindji people and his role in ensuring that the nation addressed, after a seven-year strike, the needs of his community for land and the way in which they combated the then mighty forces of Lord Vestey to ensure they got access to country.
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 hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.
remarks, the then Prime Minister poured a handful of Daguragu soil through Vincent Lingiari
's hands.Vincent Lingiari
, having received the crown lease of his
ancestral land with the symbolic handover of the land itself, simply replied, `We are mates now.'
This is a great story in Australian history.It is one that all Australians should learn in order to understand the privations suffered by the Gurindji people during this struggle, this confrontation, with the might of Lord Vestey.Through a seven-year strike, the Gurindji people finally won not only recognition of the injustice that they had suffered but also ultimately the prize: the establishment of the 300,000 square kilometres.
It should be noted that it is not just me or, indeed, the former Governor-General who has acknowledged the heroic deeds of Vincent Lingiari
.It is acknowledged by the most notable of Australian commentators on indigenous affairs-perhaps the one for whom I have the greatest respect, someone with whom I worked for a number of years and co-authored a book-Dr H.C. `Nugget' Coombs.Nugget was a truly great Australian, and I have spoken to this House previously about him.As I said, I was fortunate enough to work with him.He
described Vincent Lingiari
as `a man who, among Aboriginal associates, appears to be recognised more fully than any other I know of as such a leader'.
Be that as it may, Vincent Lingiari
was a leader of his
people in every sense of the word.Vincent Lingiari
was doubtless a great man, and it is with great pride that I represent the community of Lingiari-that is, the people of the seat of Lingiari
, but particularly those descendants of Vincent Lingiari
at Daguragu and Kalkarindji in the Northern Territory.Proudly each year they record a celebration to commemorate the handover and the win, the great victory, that was theirs, which was led by Vincent Lingiari