‘Today we are refugees in the country of our ancestors’

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The National Archives of Australia presented a copy of the Larrakia petition to the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation on Wednesday 13 June. Advisory Council members and National Archives State Director Phyllis Williams gifted the copy at the Corporation offices in Darwin.

The petition was signed in 1972 by 1,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from all states in mainland Australia – some with their names, others with thumb prints, all of which are recorded and preserved on the record.

The petition 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 has been preserved in the National Archives’ collection since 1975.

Descendants of Dolly Garinyi Batcho, who signed the petition, were present at the ceremony – Mrs Mary Raymond and Director of the Archives’ Northern Territory office, Ms Phyllis Williams.
‘We recognise that the petition holds great historical significance for Australia and rich local meaning for Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the Darwin area,’ said Ms Phyllis Williams.

 

Republished with permission from National Archives Australia

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