NT government to lay charges over Wave Hill site damage

Neve Brissenden |

The NT government is set to lay charges over allegations the Wave Hill walk-off has been damaged.
The NT government is set to lay charges over allegations the Wave Hill walk-off has been damaged.

The Northern Territory government will lay charges over allegations a nationally heritage-listed Indigenous historic site along the route of the Wave Hill walk-off has been significantly damaged.

The NT Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities launched an investigation in September, finding significant damage to the site including the demolition of a historic windmill and fence marking the walk-off route.

Other alleged damage includes the installation of a large solar panel system, fences blocking access and removal of interpretation markers.

The historic route marks the path taken by Aboriginal rights leader Vincent Lingiari as he led striking Aboriginal workers off nearby Wave Hill Station in a bid for improved pay and conditions in 1966.

At the time many Indigenous workers were paid only in rations, tobacco and clothing.

His action prompted families working on Limbunya and other stations to also walk off.

Charcoal on paper of Vincent Lingiari by Frank Hardy
Vincent Lingiari led workers off Wave Hill Station in a bid for improved pay and conditions in 1966. (HANDOUT/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Negotiations with the station owners broke down, leading to a seven-year dispute and eventually resulting in a portion of Gurindji homelands being returned in 1974, paving the way for further Aboriginal land rights legislation.

The site attracts thousands of tourists per year and was heritage-listed in 2007.

Singer songwriter Paul Kelly’s 1991 protest song From Little Things Big Things Grow tells the story of the walk-off and ensuing struggle for land rights and reconciliation.

Wave Hill station, a 1.25 million hectare cattle property, was bought by Jumbuck Pastoral group for $104 million in 2021 partly backed by former AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan.

An NT government spokesperson said the route is of national significance and is important to NT traditional owners.

“We are committed to ensuring the preservation and integrity of all heritage-listed sites across the Northern Territory,” the spokesperson said.

“Charges are expected to be laid this week in relation to alleged damage at the heritage-listed Gurindji Wave Hill Walk-Off Route.”

The government would not confirm which individuals or organisations had been charged.

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AAP