Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Wave Hill Walk-off anniversary

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off – the event that helped to kick start the land rights movement and elevated the situation of Indigenous Australians in the national consciousness.

Today is a day of celebration for the decedents of the Aboriginal stockmen and their families, mainly Gurindji, but also Mudbura, Bilinarra, Ngarinyman and Warlpiri peoples, who in 1966 walked off Wave Hill Station as a protest against work and pay conditions.

Their determination to explain their position and argue for their rights set in train a process that culminated in bipartisan support for the recognition of the rights of Aboriginal people to land, a fair wage and to the right for a brighter future for their children.

For non-Indigenous Australia it was a wake up call – a time to look into the mirror and ask ourselves who we were as a nation.

Less than a year later, the historic 1967 referendum to include all Indigenous Australians in the Census count and enable the Commonwealth Government to make laws for all Australians was passed with an unprecedented 90 per cent support.

The efforts of the Wave Hill stockmen and their families changed the lives of all Australians forever.

In 1975, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured red soil into the hand of Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari, searing into our nation’s collective consciousness an acknowledgement and respect for Aboriginal rights – to land, work and a stronger and secure future.

Ten years after the walk-off, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was passed by the Australian Parliament.

The legislation was drafted by the Whitlam Government and enacted under the Fraser Government and remains a symbol of national unity on the issue of Indigenous rights.

Today is a reminder of the spirit of the people involved in the Wave Hill walk off and their supporters, their determination to build better lives for all Australians and of our capacity as a nation to achieve this together.

The Australian Government is proud to be supporting the anniversary celebrations of this event through funding of $656,692 from the Aboriginals Benefit Account.