The descendants of Gurindji workers who participated in the historic walk-off at Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory have used its 51st anniversary celebration to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and call for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice in parliament.
Community members retraced the steps of Vincent Lingiari, who led more than 200 workers and their families off Wave Hill Station in 1966, fed up with poor wages and working conditions. Their demand for the return of Gurindji land and seven-year sit-down protest on the banks of the Victoria River helped launch national movements for equal wages and land rights.
Kalkarindji Traditional Owner and Gurindji spokesperson Rob Roy read the endorsement on August 25. It said: "The Gurindji people today state our strong support for the Referendum Council recommendation for a constitutionally enshrined First Peoples voice to Parliament.
“Today on the anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk-Off, we re-enacted the walk-off that was the beginning of our struggle for land rights and fair working conditions. It was our actions that led to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam giving our country back to us in the symbolic gesture that is celebrated today in Australian history.
"The call of Voice, Truth and Treaty out of Uluru this year was another action that we will be a part of. Dr Yunupingu put down a challenge to our Prime Minister at Garma to see the call for a voice enacted.
"We join our voice with theirs with the vision of seeing a Gurindji speaking to Parliament, and the truth being told about our history.
"A settlement of our sad past can be resolved by Makarrata.”
Makarrata is a Yolngu word for a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice, particularly making peace after a dispute.
Lingiari attended the Gurindji’s annual re-enactment of the walk-off every year until his death in 1988. He was the undisputed leader and holder of the cultural authority of the Gurindji people and to Traditional Owner Roslyn Frith he was a role model for all Aboriginal people.
"He went from nothing to something; he didn't have the education, but he had within him the power to lead his people,” she said.
He confronted the vast economic and political forces arrayed against his people. His victory is one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of the struggle for the recognition of Indigenous people, their right to land and their ability to practice their law, language and culture.
Frith said it was important to mark the anniversary of the walk-off each year. "This is what we fought for, this is what we want to teach our kids.
"We just want to keep it alive every year, so our kids can continue on carrying that legacy on for our fathers, grandfathers and Mr Lingiari," she said.