Gough Whitlam
1972-1975

Excerpts from Whitlam’s speech at Wattie Creek, giving back the land to Vincent Lingiari and his people.

"Vincent Lingiari and men and women of the Gurindji people. On this great day, I, Prime Minister of Australia, speak to you on behalf of the Australian people-all those who honour and love this land we live in. For them I want to say to you: First, that we congratulate you and those who shared your struggle, on the victory you have achieved nine years after you walked off Wave Hill Station in protest. I want to acknowledge that we Australians have still much to do to redress the injustice and oppression that has for so long been the loss of Black Australians. I want to promise you that this act of restitution which we perform today will not stand alone-your fight was not for yourselves alone and we are determined that Aboriginal Australians everywhere will be helped by it. I want to promise that, through their Government, the people of Australia will help you in your plans to use this land fruitfully for the Gurindji. And I want to give back to you formally in Aboriginal and Australian Law ownership of this land of your fathers. Vincent Lingiari, 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."

Daguragu, 16 August 1975

Indigenous perspective

I, Senator Neville Bonner, an aboriginal man, move: That the Senate accepts that the Indigenous people of Australia were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing. I urge the Aus­tralian Government to admit prior ownership and to introduce legislation to compensate the people for dispossession of their land.

The motion was passed unanimously in the senate but no action was taken.