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On 23 August 1966, Gurindji and associated Malgnin, Mudburra, Bilinarra, Ngarinyman and Warlpiri workers walked off Jinparrak (Old Wave Hill Station) in the Northern Territory. They were protesting against unequal pay and poor conditions. The walk-off sparked a 9-year struggle for the return of their land.

An old flatbed truck with rusted exterior and fitted with a bullbar on the front.
TJ Series Bedford truck, 1960s

When trade union activist and civil rights campaigner Brian Manning heard of the strike, he loaded his TJ Series Bedford truck with food and supplies and drove almost 800 kilometres along rough and unsealed roads from Darwin to Wave Hill. He repeated this gruelling journey at least 15 times over the next 7 years.

The supplies Manning carried were vital, but so was the information he brought about he progress of the Gurindji people's long campaign for recognition and rights.

Brian Manning, 2006:

So I loaded up this little Bedford with about 3 tonne of stuff. God, it took nearly 2 days. The roads were shocking.

Bedford truck conservation

A dedicated committee worked to help preserve the Bedford truck, which was placed on the Northern Territory Government Heritage Register in 2010–11.

The committee included Manning’s children, Brian Junior and Louisa, the NT National Tertiary Education Union’s Terry Lawler, his close friend and the truck’s custodian Kerry Gibbs and unionist Heinz Schmidt. The committee decided to donate the Bedford truck to the National Museum of Australia in 2016, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk-Off.

A large metal trunk with a hinged lid. There are two clips at the front and a loop to attach a padlock. The trunk is rusty, has handle on either side and contains cooking utensils. - click to view larger image
Brian Manning's tuckerbox, 1960s

When conservation staff collected the truck in late 2016, Brian Manning Junior donated his father’s tuckerbox to the Museum.

These objects reflect the unwavering determination of the Gurindji people in their fight for their homelands and the determination of their many supporters in Australia and overseas.

The Museum continues to consult First Nations representatives about the most appropriate ways to conserve and display this important vehicle.

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