(Petition Page 1)
This is Our Land
The British settlers took our land. No treaties were signed with the tribes. Today we are REFUGEES.
Refugees in the country of our ancestors. We live in REFUGEE CAMPS – without land, without employment, without justice.
The British Crown signed TREATIES with the MAORIS in New Zealand and the Indians in North America.
We appeal to the Queen to help us, the Aboriginal people of Australia.
We need land rights and political representation now. SIGNED:
About this record
This set of three images shows the petition to Queen Elizabeth II organised in 1972 by the Larrakia people of the Kulaluk area (near Darwin) in the Northern Territory. The first image shows the damaged three-metre-long petition signed by hundreds of Aboriginal people appealing for help to achieve land rights and political representation. The second and third images show in close-up the top of the petition, which contains a hand-printed statement of its argument, and the first page of signatures and thumb prints.
- The Larrakia petition seen here is one of the most important documents of Aboriginal peoples’ struggle for land rights in the early 1970s. Signed by people from all states in mainland Australia, the petition argues that the land was ‘the country of our ancestors’; that it was taken by the British; and that there was no treaty to acquire it. Without their land, the Larrakia people state that they are refugees in their own country.
- The Larrakia people did not believe that a petition would actually lead to royal intervention, but they were determined to use the petition as a strategy to publicise their struggle for land rights and to put pressure on the Australian Government. When Princess Margaret visited Darwin in October 1972, the Larrakia people camped outside Government House where she was staying and attempted to deliver the petition to her.
- Damage to the petition occurred when the people carrying it tried—but failed—to break through police barriers outside Government House to present it to Princess Margaret. The petition was then patched with adhesive tape and mailed to the Queen. From Buckingham Palace it was forwarded, via the Australian Governor-General, to the Australian Government. The following year, still in the same condition, it was placed on file in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
- The petition opens with ‘Gwalwa Daraniki’ which means ‘our land’ in the Larrakia language. This was the name of a movement organised in 1971 to demand the return of land at Kulaluk, a stretch of coastal land in what was then the outskirts of Darwin. Gwalwa Daraniki organised a series of marches, sit-ins and demonstrations to publicise their demands. By 1979 they succeeded in gaining a special-purpose lease for Kulaluk, later converted into a Crown Lease in perpetuity. In March 1972, seven months before the petition seen here, Gwalwa Daraniki had sent a petition to the Prime Minister seeking a government commission to negotiate treaties with Aboriginal peoples.
- This was not the first petition organised by Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory. In 1963 the Yolngu people of Yirrkala presented a bark petition, unsuccessfully seeking rights to their land.
- The year 1972 was an important one in the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples land rights. After the McMahon coalition government refused to recognise land rights, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was set up on Australia Day that year and attracted a blaze of international publicity. In October the Gurindji strikers learnt of an initial victory in their land rights campaign, when Vestey’s agreed to allow 90 square kilometres to be excised from its Wave Hill pastoral lease and leased to the Gurindji people.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.