Wave Hill striker’s camp in the bed of the Victoria River, 1966

“We, the leaders of the Gurindji people, write to you about our earnest desire to regain tenure of our tribal lands in the Wave Hill-Limbunya area of the Northern Territory, of which we were dispossessed in time past.”

On this Day in April 1967, the Gurindji stockmen and their families, frustrated at the lack of progress with their call that a small parcel of their traditional lands be returned to them, petitioned the Australian Governor-General Lord Casey.

The Gurindji had walked off the Wave Hill Station, a massive pastoral lease operated by the notorious Vesteys family, nine months earlier, in August 1966.

The January 1977 edition of Land Rights News, published by the Northern Land Council, recorded the anniversary of the petition in the following terms.

On 19 April 1967 the Governor-General of Australia, Lord Casey, received a petition from the Gurindji people asking that he assist them to regain tenure of their tribal lands of which they were dispossessed in time past, and for which they received no recompense.

Some segments of the Australian public were quick to respond, but the Government was slow. Unions and students lent support to the long struggle. It was not until 16 August 1975 that negotiations with Vesteys, owners of the Wave Hill lease, were completed, and the lease for the Gurindji tribal land at Wattie Creek was handed to Vincent Lingiari, leader of the Gurindji, by Mr Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister of Australia.

The story of Wattie Creek began in August 1966 when the Gurindji stockmen and their families walked off Wave Hill Station and set up a camp at Wattie Creek, on the Wave Hill lease.

From Land Rights News, A Newsletter for Aboriginals and their Friends. Number 7, January 1977 at page 8. Published by the Northern Land Council.