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Vincent Lingiari tutorial presentation

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Kim Price

on 4 September 2014

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Transcript of Vincent Lingiari tutorial presentation

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners, and pay our respect to Elders both past and present.
It is a privilege to be standing on Country.

The story of Vincent Lingiari continues to be celebrated through popular culture in the song
'From Little Things Big Things Grow'
written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody.

Vincent Lingiari was the son of Gurindji parents who were employed on the Wave Hill Cattle Station owned by British pastoral company, Vesteys, the largest cattle company in the world.

Vincent received no formal education and worked on the station from the age of 12 and eventually became head stockman.

Amongst his people he was a leader and holder of cultural authority.

(National Museum Australia, 2014)

On 23 August 1966 at age 47 Lingiari led the Wave Hill strike. Two hundred of his people collected their belongings and quietly walked away from Wave Hill Station to camp in Victoria River and later moved to Wattie Creek.

Throughout the strike, Lingiari always maintained a quiet dignity as he confronted economic and political forces in the fight for the Gurindji's rights to their land, to practise their law, culture and language, this made him a national figure.

The strike lasted eight years, the longest in Australian history.

(National Museum Australia, 2014)

Aboriginal stockmen who walked off Wave Hill 1966
Source News Limited
Camping on the bed of the Victoria River 1966 Photo Brian Manning Collection
In 1975, in a now famously symbolic gesture, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured earth into Lingiari's hand to mark the giving of a lease of 3300 square kilometres to the Gurindji.
Today one of Australia's largest electorates is named after him, the Division of Lingiari encompasses nearly all of the Northern Territory.
The Vincent Lingiari memorial lecture is delivered annually in Darwin.
(National Museum Australia, 2014)

We want to live on our land, our way...
morally the land is ours and should
be returned to us.
Vincent Lingiari

The Gurindji started illegality squatting on land leased to Vesteys however they regarded it as their traditional land before the Vesteys arrived with their cattle and horses and being 'back on country' brought a feeling of pride and regained dignity

Methods, Actions and Achievements ?
Equal wages campaign Captain Major speaking to unionists in Sydney, Source National Library of Australia
Freedom Day, Photographer Bryan Andy
The Gurindji people endured squalid living, physical abuse, dispossession, discriminatory working conditions and economic injustice and were bound to their employers (the Vestey’s) by a system of institutionalised poverty.

In the beginning the walk-off was in response to their poor working conditions and treatment however the return of the Gurindji's tribal land soon became the primary motivation.

What was the philosophy behind this motivation?

Aboriginal people have a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to country. Indigenous philosophy is observation based, collective and community lead through participatory practice.

These holistic understandings challenge the Western philosophy which is individualistic and justified by measured and controlled rational thinking.

Western notions treat land as an economic and a social commodity where as Aboriginal people gain their whole identity from the land.

What motivated Vincent Lingiari to engage in the issues he worked on?
In what ways could the work of Vincent Lingiari be described as development practice?

The heurism 'land' means different things to non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people.

What other heurisms can you identify in the Gurindji's story for social justice?

Frank Hardy wrote a sign for the Gurindji and placed it at Wattie Creek and although the Gurindji could not read they knew the power of the words and how they gave the group credibility in the white man's world.

This was the start of the Gurindij peoples journey for social justice through a non-indigenous structure.
In pairs, using Buber's theory of dialogue categorise the Petition, Letter from School Children and Propaganda Flyer into first second and third movements.

• 1966 Wave Hill strike (walk off)
• Petitions to unions
• Petition to Governor General
• Contributed to song Guringi Blues with Ted Egan
• Spoke at Universities in support of scholarships for Indigenous students
• Liaised with Communist party and a variety of unions
• Liaised with Liberal and Labour party
• Mail outs
• Unwavering from his people’s request
Grounded in local culture, Lingiari started with the emic participation of the Gurindji and working from the 'bottom up' he moved towards the etic, challenging the Western neoliberal structures of disempowerment.

Lingiari was a community organiser who wanted a better deal for his people.

His work could be considered 'oppositional', seeking to build change through demonstrations, links with unions, politicians and propaganda.

His development practice is recognised as a post modern or socialist approach where action is needed to counteract systematic repression and build social capital and agency.

While implicate in his approach he also moved across mezza, macro and meta methods to achieve social justice thought a collective process.

He worked across the discursive slide of development practice.

He worked not only to empower his own people but also raise the consciousness of the Western world.


Egan, T. (2012), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lingiari-vincent-14178 [Viewed 3 August, 2014]

From Little Things - Part 1. (2006) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27TUaScXco8,Film. Producer Michael Berry, Production Alister Muiltimedia Broad Oak Productions, Editor Paul Alister. [Viewed 3 August 2014].

Gurindji strike-The Wave Hill Walk-off. (1966) 80 Days That Changed Australia, http://splash.abc.net.au/media?id=105332, [Viewed 3 August 2014].
Labor rights and Land Rights, University of Queensland (2014) https://www.library.uq.edu.au /fryer/1967_referendum/labour.html, [Viewed 19 August 2014].

Lingiari, V. (1966) http://splash.abc.net.au/digibook/-/c/618856/vincent-lingiari-the-leader [Viewed 8 August, 2014].

Manning, B. (2014) A Blast from the Past. The 6th Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, http://www.cdu.edu.au/indigenousleadership/previouslectures.html [Viewed 19 August, 2014].

National Archives of Australia http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs224.aspx [Viewed 8 August, 2014].

National Museum of Australia Online (2014) http://indigenousrights.net.au/land_rights/wave_hill_walk_off,_1966-75 [Viewed 19 August, 2014].

SBSLivingBlack, http://youtu.be/FEDFN-LKY10, [Viewed 24 August 2014].

Walk Off Painting, Graham Schofield National Gallery, Canberra

Briggs, J. & Sharp, J. (2004) Indigenous knowledges and development: A postcolonial caution, Third World Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 661-76.

Day, G. (2006), The Idea of Community , Community and Everyday Life, New York, Routledge.

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Ife, J. & Tesoriero, F. (2006), ‘Foundations of Community Development: A Social Justice and Human Rights Perspective’, Community Development: Community-based Alternatives in an Age of Globalisation, French Forrest, Australia, Pearson Education Australia.

Ife, J. (2013) Foundations of community development: Beyond enlightenment modernity, Community Development in an Uncertain World: Vision, Analysis and Practice, Melbourne, Cambridge University Press.
O'Connor, L. (1994) The legal and philosophical issues involved in Aboriginal land rights cases, Bulletin (Olive Pink Society), vol. 6, no. 1.

Riddet, L. (1997) Strike that Became a Land Rights Movement: A Southern ‘Do Gooder’ Reflects on Wattie Creek, Labour History,vol.14. pp.87-95.

Ring, G. (2006) The law of the land: [Failure of native title.], Eureka Street, vol. 16, no. 2.

Social and political environment effecting Indigenous Australians in the 1960’s/1970’s

What do we know about the social/political context of the 1960’s?

What was the discourse re Indigenous Australians, citizenship and Australia’s national identity?

Vincent Lingiari at Wattie Creek, Northern Territory, in 1977.
Source National Library of Australia
Mr Vincent Lingiari invested with the Order of Australia by Sir John Kerr in Darwin, Northern Territory, 1978
Source National Archives of Australia
Frank Hardy, a communist party member, George St Sydney
Source Australian National Archive
• Discourse of ‘Terra nullius’ informing citizenship discourse
• Colonialism; top down, charity focused welfare mentality to service delivery
• Paternalistic ideology effecting ‘child protection’ policy
• Essentialised notions of Indigenous Australians
• Institutional Racism; employment and wages, land ownership,
• Assimilation policy/cultural genocide
• Anglo dominance within government
(Hollinsworth, 2006 p.105-146)

Social and political environment effecting Indigenous Australians in the 1960’s/1970’s...cont...
What can we draw from Vincent Lingiari to improve our own development practice?
Persistence and patience, development takes a long time, stick to your principals
Give and take, Lingiari allowed his people to work for Vesties for the welfare of the cattle, he understood the importance of not burning bridges
Ongoing activism requires being ‘on all the time’, Lingiari created events that helped to sustain the
8 year long strike

Increase dialectic logic and move away from binaries
Develop thin relationships and form alliances (reaching a wide variety of people)
Development work is about relationship building, participation = empowerment
Use process and action relationships, you need to work across the discursive slide
Vincent Lingiari's approach to development was alternative or post-developmental and as Ife states, "it's important at this point...to turn again to those Indigenous understandings, as they are grounded in a much more sustainable, connected, interdependent and relational world view than the Enlightened heritage on which modern Western world views are based" (Ife, p95)
Once the strike achieved its aims Lingiari went on to be involved with other issues relating to indigenous self-determinism
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