Unions Honour Wave Hill anniversary

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12 August 2016

Unions will next week honour the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant milestones in the fight for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, the Wave Hill walk off in the Northern Territory.

The Gurindji people, the traditional owners of Wave Hill Station, will celebrate the walk off, a landmark industrial action which led to better conditions for Aboriginal workers and their right to their ancestral lands being recognised.

The union movement supported the walk off and the struggle of the Gurindji people in 1966 and will be among the many friends and supporters who will attend the Freedom Day Festival from 19-21 August.

Coming at a time before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were officially recognised in the census, the struggle inspired Indigenous Australians and sparked a national debate about Indigenous rights and land rights in particular.

It all began with a simple act of defiance fifty years ago this August, when about 200 Gurindji stockmen and homestead workers, who were being paid far less than their white co-workers, stopped work in their fight for fair wages.

They walked away from Wave Hill to set up home at Daguragu (known as Wattie Creek ) – a special place for their people.

The Gurindji refused to concede until they had gained recognition of the ownership of their traditional lands. In 1975 the Whitlam Government handed back a portion of their land to the Gurindji people – 3300 square kilometres of the area around Daguragu.

This August, the Gurindji people will be joined by many friends to celebrate 50 years since the stopwork, and to re-enact the walk off. For more information click here http://worksite.actu.org.au/wave-hill-walk-off-50-years-ago/.

Trade Unions have been long-standing supporters of Indigenous rights and the fight for justice for Indigenous Australians.

The AEU has campaigned for education in the Northern Territory, to ensure that Indigenous Australians in remote communities can get access to quality schools and an education which respects their culture.

Recent events in the Northern Territory, and the treatment of young Indigenous people in juvenile detention centres, show that the struggle for Indigenous rights has not ended, and the trade union movement still has a vital role play in ensuring justice and equity for Indigenous Australians.