The iconography of Indigenous land rights in Australia is fundamentally deceptive. Take, for example, the famous photograph of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring red sand from his hand into that of Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari on 16 August 1975. In the image, the white emissary from Canberra – pink-fleshed in a wool suit and Windsor knot – appears to bestow something substantial. Lingiari’s left hand holds papers which, moments before, Whitlam described as ‘proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people’, while the earth that fills Lingiari’s right hand, Whitlam avowed, is ‘a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever’. The whole scene, for good reasons, resembles the ancient European ritual of ‘livery in deed’ in which the transfer of soil or a branch stands in as material testimony to the transfer of more ethereal legal rights.
Timothy Neale reviews 'A Handful of Sand: The Gurindji struggle, after the walk-off' by Charlie Ward
A Handful of Sand: The Gurindji struggle, after the walk-off
by Charlie Ward
Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 384 pp, 97819253771613
Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month. We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen. If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Leave a comment
Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.
NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to email@example.com. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.