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Video Australia's heritage, 2009: Wattie Creek

TLF ID M008478

'Wattie Creek' is an episode from the series 'Australia's heritage - national treasures with Chris Taylor', produced in 2009. In the clip, Taylor talks about the Wave Hill walk-off. He asks the viewer to imagine being asked to work for little or no money while being given only flour, sugar and tea for food, and only a tin shed for shelter. This was the situation for Aboriginal cattle workers. In 1966, Vincent Lingiari led 200 Aboriginal workers and their families in a strike against the poor conditions at Wave Hill station, which was on Gurindji land. Taylor says that 'what started as a strike became a nine-year battle to reclaim their lands'. Taylor interviews Jimmy Wavehill, a Gurindji Elder who was a stockman at the time of the walk-off. Wavehill says he was tasked by Lingiari to pass on the story of the walk-off to younger generations. The clip cuts to footage of Gough Whitlam pouring earth into Lingiari's hand in 1975. Whitlam says: 'I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof in Australian law that these lands belong to the Gurindji people'. Lingiari says 'we're all friendly now. We're all mates'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In August 1966 Vincent Lingiari led 200 Gurindji workers and their families off Wave Hill station, demanding the same pay and conditions as non-Indigenous workers. The immediate impetus to the walk-off had been the March 1966 decision by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to delay the payment of award wages to male Indigenous workers in the cattle industry until 1968. At Wave Hill, Gurindji people worked for basic rations such as beef, bread, salt and tobacco and received little or no money. They were housed in corrugated-iron huts with no power or running water. Wave Hill was on Gurindji land.
  • Wave Hill station was run by Vesteys, an English pastoral conglomerate headed by Lord Vestey. Like many in the NT cattle industry, Vestey built an empire while exploiting the company's Indigenous workforce. These workers had criticised conditions on Wave Hill for many years. Between 1944 and 1946, anthropologists Catherine and Ronald Berndt had surveyed Aboriginal labour on Vestey's pastoral leaseholds in the NT. The Berndts documented appalling working conditions, squalor and poverty in many of the camps, and endemic malnutrition and high infant mortality rates. They reported widespread dissatisfaction and resentment of working and living conditions on pastoral stations. Indigenous accounts of ill usage, extremely limited life chances, degrading treatment, racial and sexual abuse were documented. Further, in the 1950s, it was found that in the NT Aboriginal stock workers received less than 15 per cent of the basic wage.
  • The strikers' plan was to establish a pastoral operation and community under their own leadership, on their traditional lands, to be owned by them. This model combining Aboriginal autonomy and land rights shaped Australian government policy following the 1967 referendum.
  • The strike eventually resulted in the first successful land rights claim in Australia. In 1967 the Gurindji's petition to the governor-general for 1,295 sq km of their land was rejected. The Gurindji held out for eight years until they were granted land rights. In 1975 the then Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam handed 3,236 sq km of Wave Hill station back to the Gurindji people, and ceremonially poured earth into Vincent Lingiari's hands.
Learning area
  • Civics and citizenship
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Video
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Film and Sound Archive, 2011 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out and copy this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.