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Naku Dharuk The Bark Petitions

Naku Dharuk The Bark Petitions: The Extraordinary Story of How the People of Yirrkala Changed the Course of Australian Democracy

Clare Wright

In 1963—a year of race riots in the United States and explosive agitation for civil rights worldwide—the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory were yet to be recognised as full adults. Almost to a person, they were classed as wards of the state, unacknowledged as having any ownership over the land on which they had lived for tens of thousands of years.

In 1975 Gough Whitlam poured a handful of sand into the palm of Gurindji Elder Vincent Lingiari to symbolise the granting of deeds to his ancestral country—and the land rights movement was unstoppable. That journey towards legal recognition of native title started in 1963 with the Yirrkala Bark Petitions: Naku Dharuk.

The background was a four-cornered contest for mastery of the land and its resources between the Menzies government, the mining industry, the Methodist Church and the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land, under whose country was discovered a blanket of bauxite.

Throughout the tumultuous year of 1963, leaders of the Yolngu clans worked with white allies on the unprecedented political strategy that culminated in the presentation of four Bark Petitions to Federal Parliament. It was a key moment in the formation of a uniquely Indigenous engagement with Australian politics.

This is the story of a founding document in Australian democracy and the people who made it. It paints a vibrant picture of the profound and ancient culture of Australia’s first peoples, in all its continuing vigour.

Clare Wright’s groundbreaking Democracy Trilogy began with The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (workers’ rights) and continued with You Daughters of Freedom (women’s rights). After a decade of research and community consultation, it concludes, fittingly, with a fascinating and compulsively readable account of a momentous but little-known episode in our shared political history.


Conversation (op-ed)     

Clare Wright
About the Author

Professor Clare Wright OAM is an award-winning historian, author, broadcaster and public commentator who has worked in politics, academia and the media. Clare is currently Professor of History and Professor of Public Engagement at La Trobe University. In 2020, Clare was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘services to literature and to...

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Text publication date:
1 October 2024
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Praise for Clare Wright
andNaku Dharuk The Bark Petitions

‘Brilliantly researched and fun to read. An exhilarating new take on a story we thought we knew.’

‘Fascinating revelations. Beautifully told.’

‘A thrilling tale, superbly told, of brave Australian women with a passion for politics.’

‘An exciting history of a trailblazing campaign.’

Other editions ofNaku Dharuk The Bark Petitions
  • Naku Dharuk The Bark Petitions
    ISBN: 9781922459312
    1 October 2024
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