25 September 2023

Indigenous land petition finds new home

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The National Archives of Australia has formally presented a copy of the historic 1972 ‘Larrakia petition’ in which 1,000 signatories appealed to Queen Elizabeth to help the Aboriginal people of Australia gain land rights and political representation, to the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation in Darwin.

The petition was signed by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from all States in mainland Australia.

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.”

Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker said the petition was one of the most important documents of Indigenous Australians’ struggle for land rights in the early 1970s.

“It is important for the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation to have its own copy of such a significant document,” Mr Fricker said.

“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.

He said that in October 1972 the Larrakia people attempted to hand the petition to Princess Margaret during her visit to Darwin but after waiting 24 hours without being given the chance to do so, unsuccessfully tried to break through a police barricade. In the process the 3.3-metre long petition was torn.

Not deterred, the group patched the document up and sent it to Buckingham Palace with a letter.

The palace sent it on to the Australian Government via the Governor-General and it has been preserved in the National Archives’ collection since 1975.

Director of the Archives’ Northern Territory Office, Phyllis Williams said the Archives recognised that the petition held great historical significance for Australia and rich local meaning for Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the Darwin area.

Members of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation with Archives’ Advisory Council members and Director-General David Fricker.

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