'Today we are refugees in the country of our ancestors'

Media release: Monday, 11 November 2013

The National Archives of Australia today presented a copy of the Larrakia petition from its collection to the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

The petition – signed in 1972 by hundreds of Indigenous Australians across the nation – appealed to Queen Elizabeth to help the Aboriginal people of Australia gain land rights and political representation. It read, in part:

Today we are refugees in the country of our ancestors. We live in refugee camps – without land, without employment, without justice.

'This is one of the most important documents of Indigenous Australians' struggle for land rights in the early 1970s,' said Director-General of the National Archives, David Fricker. 'It is important for the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation to have its own copy of such a significant document. The original is very fragile but our conservators have created a display copy, as well as an album of copies of the original smaller pages (which were pasted together to make the long document) and an index to the signatures.'

In October 1972 the Larrakia people attempted to hand the petition to Princess Margaret during her visit to Darwin. After waiting 24 hours without being given an opportunity to do so, they unsuccessfully tried to break through a police barricade. In the process the 3.3-metre petition was torn.

Not deterred, the group patched the document and sent it off to Buckingham Palace with a letter. The palace sent it on to Australian government via the Governor-General and it eventually became part of the National Archives' collection.

The presentation took place on the same day as the official co-location launch of the National Archives of Australia and the Northern Territory Archives Services. Both organisations now share premises and a reading room at Kelsey Crescent, Milner.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
  • Shaun Rohrlach (Director, Communications and Programs)
    t (02) 6212 3990 m 0434 664 621 e shaun.rohrlach@naa.gov.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014