Indigenous Land Rights

Izzy Wilson-

The pursuit of Indigenous Land Rights was 100% successful and fully supported by the Australian population.

Please be aware this flyer contains images of deceased people and may be upsetting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island (er) people.

Background Information

  • 1788 Aboriginal people inhabited the whole of Australia, population reached 750,000 making up small and large communities across Australia.
  • Each community or group had different beliefs, customs, traditions and languages.
  • 1st of January 1901 Australia Federates (Commonwealth of Australia)
  • 1910 Aboriginal Protection Board Act passed, this gave legal control over all Aboriginal people on stations and reserves but not missions.
  • In New South Wales and Victoria Protection Board brings in the act 'illegal for half casts' to live on serves. (Australian Museum, 2013)
  • 1920 population of the Aboriginal people decreased to 60,000 'dying race'
  • 1930s change in attitude towards the Aboriginal people, policies becoming more passive.
  • 1957 Advancement of Aboriginal Federal Council Rights is set up. (containing civil right and welfare organisations)
  • 1962 Commonwealth Electoral act passed, gave the 'Vote' to Aboriginal people.
  • 1966 South Australia Lands Trust Act, providing ownership to Aboriginal people.
  • 1967 Commonwealth Referendum passes through government.

(Australian Museum,2013)

Land Rights- Key Figures

Vincent Lingari

In 1966 Vincent Lingairi was a Kadijeri man but was also Gurindji. He had worked for the Vestey Company at Wattle Creek in Wave HIll. (Pearson, 2013) He led himself and his fellow employees to walk-off the property because the owners refused to pay. In the past Wave Hill had complaints from other workers but these were ignored. The twenty five dollar wages per week the owners refused to pay them led Lingari and others to go on strike for seven years. (Australian National Museum, 2013)

This issue became nation wide due to the growth and support from the Gurindji population. This was being led and promoted by Vincent Lingari. Lingari states ' Morally the land is ours and should be returned to us' (National Museum of Australia, 2013) protest resulted in return of the traditional land that Lingari and the Gurindji people had been fighting for over the past seven years.

'He wasn't only fighting for the Gurindji people he was fighting for all Aboriginal people, for the way the white man treated us.'' spoke the Gurindji People (Treaty of Republic, 2013)

A famous gesture was made on August the 26th 1975 Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured earth (soil) into Lingiari's hand. This symbolic moment returned the traditional 3300km worth of land back to the Gurindji people. (Australian National Museum, 2013)

Vincent Lingari was one of the key people in the petition during 1967. He continued to be a leader and today is still recognised for the Land Rights of Aboriginal people.

Paul Kelly - From Little Things Big Things Grow

Video displaying: Paul Kelly - From Little Things Big Things Grow

Eddie Koiki Mabo

Eddie Mabo was born in June, 1937 on Mer Island. Mabo was a Toress Strait Islander and worked as a young boy on sugar canes. In 1960 later in his life he was a gardener at the University in Townsville. Here he was not enrolled as a student but took part by sitting in classes and reading in the library. (Pearson, 2013) He married at the age of twenty three to Bonita Neehow in 1959 and had ten children.

All Mabo's life he believed against the Australian government and he fought to change these laws and rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 1974 Mabo was having a discussion with a Professor at the University and this was Mabo's turning point in his life. "...we were having lunch one day in Reynold's office when Koiki was just speaking about his land back on Mir, or Murray Island. Henry and I realised that in his mind he thought he owned that land.' (ABC,2013)

In 1981 Mabo attended the Land Rights Conference at the University. A lawyer let Mabo speak at this conference and said you should take your arguments to high court."Koiki made a very important speech where he spelt out clearly land ownership and land inheritance in Murray Island." (ABC,2013) Eddie Mabo then decided that he would fight for his claim of terra nulluis to the high court.

Mabo being the leader travelled to high court and after a ten year battle, the court (being the government) was not convinced that he was the son of Benny Mabo and therefore had no rights to the Mabo land. The Torres Strait Islander people that were with Mabo were devastated and they kept on fighting for the rights of the Land.

On January 1992 Eddie Mabo dies of cancer, he was in his late fifty's. (ABC, 2013)

Photograph taken of Eddie Mabo

John Howard, Ten Point Plan

In may 1997 followed on from the 'Native Title Act in 1998.' Howard Decided to reduce the amount of native title land being claimed by the Aboriginal People.

This involved by placing limitation on the say that aboriginal people had gained and had in the past. (Keating, 2011)

"The fairest, best, most practicable way of delivering certainty and security to farmers and justice to the Aboriginal community". John Howard states. (Brennan, 2013)

An Article Written by Paul Keating stating that by Howard introducing the ten point plan was a step backwards in making the land rights successful for the population of Australia.

'The 10-point plan that undid the good done on native title' , I knew there was a massive potential loss here for Aboriginal people - because in 1993 a very large proportion of the land mass of Australia was subject to pastoral leases.' (Keating, 2011)

Land Rights - Key Events

1. Aboriginal Tent Embassy 2nd January 1972;

- Set up on the lawns of Old Parliament House

- Protest began by four Aboriginal men

Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Tony Koorie and Bertie Williams.

- Started because of McMahon's (prime minister at the time) refusal to land rights.

-'Instead, McMahon had offered to lease stolen land back to Aboriginal people.' (Mclloroy, 2012)

- The protest was successful and was famous across Australia and around the world due to the large Media coverage.

- Showed the conditions Aboriginal people were being put through.

It is evident that in the Image below during the Tent Embassy, posters, Banners, Flags, colours and quotes. This impacted the Government to have an understanding of the Aboriginal Land Rights.

2. Wreck Bay Land Rights

- A community located on the south coast of New South Wales. (Australian National Museum, 2013)

- The first community of Aboriginal people to have their traditional land returned not including Queensland and Northern Territory.

-1987 the Aboriginal community were successful in have full ownership being returned to them.

- 1995 the Council took over Jervis Bay National Park and is leased to all Australians today

3. Uluru Land Rights

- To the Aboriginal people Uluru is the 'central desert' (Australian Museum, 2009)

- Returned to the owners in 1985

- Uluru was named 'Ayres Rock' by explorer William Grosse 1875.

- In 1958 Uluru was declared a National Park.

- October 26th 1985 an agreement was made with the Aboriginal land owners and government that it was part of the 'Uluru Kata Tjuta Land Trust' (Australian Museum,2009), meaning they would lease the park to the National Park Services.

-This marked and showed a symbol in the relationship between the government of Australia and Aboriginal people.

- Uluru today is one of Australia's biggest tourist attractions and has plans to keep its heritage value strong for the future. (Australian National museum, 2013)

Goals- Land Rights

The aim of the Land Rights that the Aboriginal People were try to achieve were;

- Equal Wages across the whole population of Australia.

- To have the right to speak up and say suggest their opinion towards the government.

- To have their traditional land returned.

Key Political Moment - Land Rights

Redfern Park Speech-

- December 10th 1992 the Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating made the Redfern Speech in Redfern Park, Sydney. (ABC, 2012)

- This speech was based on the past problems dealt by the Aboriginal People living in Australia.

- Speech itself was written by Don Watson

'The speech put reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians firmly on the political agenda, and some say it paved the way for the formal apology to Indigenous Australians.' (ABC, 2012). This is evident that opinions of the Redfern Speech were a way of saying 'sorry' for how the government treated the Aboriginal people in the past.

- This Speech is still remembered today with the 20th Anniversary in 2012 thousands of people gathered in New South Wales to reflect back on it.

- Below is a Youtube Video of Part One of the Redfern Speech.

Paul Keating's Redfern Park Speech [PART 1]

In conclusion the sources above and research into key events during the Land Rights movement was not 100% Successful. It is evident different opinions were shown in campaigns held to achieve the goals of the Aboriginal Land Rights. In some situation it was indicated that the Land was returned to the traditional Aboriginal Owners but other situations the Land Rights were not convinced. Investigating into the pursuit of Land Right issue that happened in Australia. There were different opinions in favour and against the movement of Land Rights being 100% successful.


ABC, n.d. Eddie Mabo, Australians, Australia, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.

Aboriginal activists speak on Tent Embassy 40-year milestone - See more at:, 2012Greenleftweekly, accessed 2 September 2013, <>.

Brennan SJ, F n.d. Grading John Howard's 10 Point Plan, Australian National Univeristy, accessed 2 September 2013, <>.

45 yrs since the sand poured into Vincent Lingiari's hand, 2010 Treaty republic, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.

John Howard, 2013, Photograph,, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.

Jones, J 2009 Paul Kelly - From Little Things Big Things Grow, online video, 27 September, accessed 4 September 2013, <>.

Keating, P 2011 The 10 point plan that undid the good done on native title,Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.

Return of the land to traditional owners, 2013 Commonwealth of Australia, accessed 1 September 2013, <>.

Social, R 2011 Paul Keating's Redfern Park Speech [PART 1], online video, 8 January, accessed 1 September 2013, <>.

The Land, 2009 Australian Museum, accessed 2 September 2013, <>.

Vincent Lingiari, 2008 Australian National Museum, accessed 3 September 2013, <>.