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Freedom Day Festival

52 years ago, a group of aboriginal pastoralists and their families walked off the Wave Hill Station into the unknown – the first powerful steps for Aboriginal land rights.

By Tamara Howie

Now known as the Wave Hill Walk-Off, the brave defiance of the exploited workers, led by Vincent Lingiari, pushed the battle for land rights onto the national political agenda.

Gurindji traditional owner Rob Roy says the annual Freedom Day Festival keeps this story of their elders alive.

“It brings us happiness to commemorate the walk-off with the festival every year,” he says.

“It happened for land rights, fair wages and better futures for our kids.”

“It makes us proud to preserve the legacy of Vincent Lingiari and the other 200 people who walked off the station.”

This year’s lead Friday night concert, featuring Baker Boy, Warren H Williams, Rayella, Janama, Robbie Mills, Mambali and Tjupi Band, kicks off a full weekend of music, art, sports and cultural events.

“We want to make the festival a successful event every year and make sure the history of what took place here is known right across the country and gets taught in schools,” Roy says.

“We want people to come for our festival to help us celebrate the movement that started off modern day land rights.”

The historic walk-off route is now heritage listed, with guided tours for visitors to the region. 

The festival is held in Kalkaringi, about 800km south of Darwin and is the southern gateway to the Judburra/Gregory National Park. 

Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation general manager Phil Smith says the community is working with Tourism NT to highlight the beauty in the area and create more experiences for tourists – including a tag-along 4WD adventure.

“The vision is to invite people for the festival but also to showcase the re-gion as the entry to Gregory National Park, which comes with stunning country,” he says.


See the event listing.

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