• Nation marks 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk Off
  • A defining moment for Indigenous labour and land rights
  • Trade union activist, Brian Manning, made 15 trips of the 16-hour journey to support strikers camped at Wattie Creek

Fifty years ago, Vincent Lingiari and 200 fellow workers walked off the Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory, thrusting the labour and land rights of Aboriginal workers into the national spotlight.

A protest sparked by working for rations became a successful nine year struggle for land rights, one of Australia’s most compelling stories of social change.

As it unfolded, trade union activist Brian Manning was a regular visitor to the strikers’ camp at Wattie Creek, regularly driving the 16-hours from Darwin in a Bedford truck to deliver parcels of food and letters of support from the trade union movement.

Manning passed away in 2013, and this week his son, also Brian, retraced his father’s footsteps, driving from Darwin to attend the 50th anniversary at Kalkarindji, bringing along an exact replica of Bedford truck used to run the supplies.

 “If this encourages the current generation to become passionate about trade unionism and equal rights then it will be a great tribute to my old man,” Brian said.

Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary, Tony Sheldon, said the presence of the replica truck and the son of Mr Manning at the commemorations was important in reminding people of the role of activism and trade unions in effecting social change.

“This was just one man and his truck, but the passion and determination Brian Manning brought to righting a terrible wrong shows what can be achieved,” he said.

Brian Manning described his experience about his first trip to the strikers in his 2002 Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture: “I could actually sense their relief in the realisation that they were no longer on their own… and the promise of support was now a reality.”

 

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Replica Bedford truck with TWU flag

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