From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920 – 1970

The Australian Aboriginal League float in the 1947 May Day processionClick to expand
The Australian Aboriginal League float
in the 1947 May Day procession.
Photo: Australian War Memorial
Identified, left to right: Miss Leila Lord, Mr Tasman Dotti (holding a sign which reads 'Burn our welfare board'), Miss Alice Groves (holding a sign which reads 'United war divided peace'), Miss Delys Cross, Mr Herbert Groves, wearing his Second World War uniform as protest (holding a sign which reads 'Free to fight but not to drink'), and Mr Athol Lester (holding a sign which reads 'Our famous 1947 Australian All Blacks').

National Museum of Australia

From Little Things Big Things Grow, a National Museum of Australia travelling exhibition, follows the struggle to gain political and social equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It tells the story of a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who banded together in the fight to end discrimination.

Some of these activists are well-recognised, others obscure or forgotten. Some had personally experienced discrimination, others took up the cause as a question of justice.

The story of the struggle
The exhibition reveals the story of these activists as they brought unwelcome truths to Australia's attention. They battled to be believed.

Their personal lives were sacrificed in the fight and some were victimised for taking a stand. A few were even spied on by ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation).

From Little Things Big Things Grow also uncovers the injustices of racism and discrimination that inspired the activists in their struggle for change by revealing what life was like for Indigenous people in this time.

The exhibition features a mix of photographs, objects, personal stories and protest material to tell this largely unknown or forgotten story.

Key events explored in the exhibition
From Little Things Big Things Grow focuses on key events in the struggle for Indigenous civil rights, including:

Aboriginal activists including Bill Ferguson (left) and Jack Patten (right) at the 1938 Day of Mourning and Protest in SydneyClick - slightly larger
Aboriginal activists including Bill Ferguson (left) and Jack Patten (right) at the 1938 Day of Mourning and Protest in Sydney.
Photograph: AIATSIS

1938 Day of Mourning and Protest
On 26 January 1938, while most Australians celebrated, a group of Aboriginal activists held an Aboriginal-only protest in Sydney to mark the 150th Anniversary of British colonisation of Australia.

They appealed for equality and protested against the 'callous treatment of our people by the white men'.

More about the 1938 Day of Mourning and Protest Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website

1958 Albert Namatjira jailed
At this time, the artist Albert Namatjira was probably the most well-known Aboriginal person in Australia. Because of his success, he was freed from the strict legislation which applied to almost all Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, including his family. In 1958, he was charged with supplying alcohol to a family member, which was an illegal act. He was sent to jail for this crime and died soon after his release.

More about Albert Namatjira Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website

1965 Freedom Ride
In February 1965, a group of Sydney University students toured northern New South Wales towns to investigate and expose the discrimination faced by Indigenous Australians in places like cinemas, pools and cafes. They received much publicity and prompted broader recognition of the problems faced by Aboriginal people.

More about the 1965 Freedom Ride Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website

Vincent Lingiari being spoken to by the manager of Vestey's Australia, the day after the 1966 Gurindji 'walk-off'Click - slightly larger
Vincent Lingiari being spoken to by the manager of Vestey's Australia, the day after the 1966 Gurindji 'walk-off'
Photograph: The Herald & Weekly Times Ltd

1966 Gurindji 'walk-off'
In August 1966, Gurindji man Vincent Lingiari led Aboriginal workers on a walk-off at Wave Hill pastoral station in the Northern Territory. They were protesting against discriminatory working conditions, but they also demanded the return of their traditional land. At the time, this land was leased from the Government by a British pastoral company, Vesteys. The protest eventually led to land being granted to the Gurindji. The Gurindji walk-off inspired the song From Little Things Big Things Grow.
The Song: Video & Lyrics

More about the 1966 Gurindji walk-off Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website

1967 Referendum
On 27 May 1967, ninety per cent of Australians voted in a referendum in favour of removing references in the Australian constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal people. The referendum gave the Federal Government the mandate to make special laws for Aboriginal Australians, and enabled them to be counted in population statistics. It also marked a symbolic step forward towards addressing inequality and discrimination in Indigenous communities.

More about the 1967 Referendum Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website


Travelling Exhibition - Venues and Dates

Victoria:
12 June to 07 November 2010 - Bunjilaka, Museum Victoria
South Australia:
11 December 2010 to 6 February 2011 - Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide
New South Wales:
21 February to 19 June 2011
Museum of Sydney, Sydney
Western Australia:
July to September 2011
Wanneroo Cultural Centre
Queensland:
1 October 2011 to 19 February 2012
Queensland Museum
March to May 2012
Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville

Associated Press Article

The fight for Aboriginal civil rights

Emma Young Australian Geographic May 27th 2010

Banner made by Bill Onus for the Australian Aborigines League, c. 1940sClick to enlarge
Banner made by Bill Onus for the Australian Aborigines League, c. 1940s
Photo: National Museum of Aust

The "unsung heroes" of the Aboriginal civil rights movement are detailed in a new exhibition.

Banner made by Bill Onus for the Australian Aborigines League, c. 1940s (National Museum of Australia)

Most Australians are aware of the fight for Aboriginal land rights - but the fight for civil rights is much less well known. Now the stories of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who worked together to fight for justice for Aboriginal people are being revealed in a Melbourne exhibition.

"These are the unsung heroes," says Kim Moulton, project officer at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, where the exhibition, which covers the period 1920 to 1970, is being held. "While they and their stories are very well known in certain communities, their history hasn't been taught to the broader public, and people just don't know about it. Yet these people made huge waves of change."

A painting of Anthony Martin Fernando, an Aboriginal man from Sydney, is one of the exhibits. After being prevented from giving evidence in a trial, Fernando left Australia in disgust. He travelled to Europe to write and talk about the status of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Push for change
In the 1920s, he stood outside Australia House in London wearing a coat covered in toy skeletons. "His message was that this is what the Australian government has done to his people," says Jay Arthur, curator of the exhibition.

Fernando wasn't well received, and he died in home for destitute old men in London. But an Australian woman named Mary Bennett who heard him talk decided that she had to do something. She travelled from England back to Kalgoorlie in WA, and began to campaign for Aboriginal rights.

"This exhibition is about how ordinary people changed things," Jay says. "It wasn't the government who decided the situation wasn't good enough - it was these mixture of people, indigenous and non-indigenous, who said we don't want Australia to be this way."

As well as legal discrimination, social discrimination was common. Even into the 1960s, in many areas Indigenous people were expected to sit in certain seats in buses, and in separate seating in cinemas. Returned Indigenous servicemen couldn't enter RSL clubs, and women who went into dress shops were often expected to buy the first dress that they tried on.

National day of mourning
"Australia was a bit like Alabama. But there were no signs, so most Australians these days don't realise how bad it was," Jay says.

Gradually, thanks to the efforts of people including those documented in the exhibition, things changed. On January 26, 1938, on the 150th anniversary of colonisation, the Aboriginal leader William Cooper led a national day of mourning, to protest at the treatment of his people. "It really raised awareness of the struggles of Aboriginal people," says Kim, who is related to William.

Eventually, in 1967, after ten years of campaigning, 90 per cent of Australians voted in a referendum in favour of removing references in the Australian constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal people.

"This is the kind of exhibition that makes you proud and ashamed to be Australian at the same time," Jay says. "You're ashamed that things were so bad. But you're proud of all these people who were so courageous."

From Little Things Big Things Grow was created by the National Museum of Australia and is on at Melbourne Museum, Nicholson Street, Carlton (Victoria) from 12th June, 2010.

Comments

From little things big things grow!

Hi i am john and i think that this song has meaning and NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD OK!

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