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The song lyrics

The song lyrics

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A tribute to Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji

The exhibition title From Little Things Big Things Grow comes from the song of the same name by Australian artists Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. Written in the 1980s it tells the inspiring story of the Gurindji people's struggle for equality and land rights after their 'walk off' at the Wave Hill property in 1966.

Gurindji strikers at Wattie Creek, next to the sign that they had made to assert their claim over their lands. The sign reads: 'GURINDJI, MINING LEASE AND CATTLE STATION'
Gurindji strikers at Wattie Creek, next to the sign that they had made to assert their claim over their lands. Photo: Brian Manning.

Song lyrics

From Little Things Big Things Grow
by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody

Gather round people I'll tell you a story
An eight year long story of power and pride
'Bout British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiarri
They were opposite men on opposite sides

Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Gurindji were working for nothing but rations
Where once they had gathered the wealth of the land
Daily the oppression got tighter and tighter
Gurindji decided they must make a stand

They picked up their swags and started off walking
At Wattie Creek they sat themselves down
Now it don't sound like much but it sure got tongues talking
Back at the homestead and then in the town

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Vestey man said I'll double your wages
Seven quid a week you'll have in your hand
Vincent said uhuh we're not talking about wages
We're sitting right here till we get our land
Vestey man roared and Vestey man thundered
You don't stand the chance of a cinder in snow
Vince said if we fall others are rising

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Then Vincent Lingiarri boarded an aeroplane
Landed in Sydney, big city of lights
And daily he went round softly speaking his story
To all kinds of men from all walks of life

And Vincent sat down with big politicians
This affair they told him is a matter of state
Let us sort it out, your people are hungry
Vincent said no thanks, we know how to wait

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Then Vincent Lingiarri returned in an aeroplane
Back to his country once more to sit down
And he told his people let the stars keep on turning
We have friends in the south, in the cities and towns

Eight years went by, eight long years of waiting
Till one day a tall stranger appeared in the land
And he came with lawyers and he came with great ceremony
And through Vincent's fingers poured a handful of sand

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

That was the story of Vincent Lingiarri
But this is the story of something much more
How power and privilege can not move a people
Who know where they stand and stand in the law

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Copyright: Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody

Read more about the Wave Hill walk off, 1966-75 on the Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website

A brown metal and leather spur. The spur is made of a U-shaped strip of metal, with a folded metal strip protruding from the mid-point, with a seven point metal star attached between the two metal pieces by a metal rivet. The ends of the U-shaped metal piece have thick leather strips attached by metal rivets. One side has small holes along the centre, the other is folded over a silver coloured metal buckle.
A 'Wave Hill spur' owned by Sabu Sing, a well-known cattleman in the area.
Photo: Lannon Harley.