• Jimmy Wavehill. (Bob Gosford)Source: Bob Gosford
Gurindji Elder Jimmy Wavehill was laid to rest on the Country he loved and fought for in Australia's longest ever industrial dispute.
Guy McLean

19 Oct 2021 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 27 Oct 2021 - 12:31 PM

Hundreds have gathered in the remote Northern Territory outback to farewell a much-loved pioneer of the land rights movement.

Jimmy Wavehill was buried at Kalkaringi, almost 500km south-west of Katherine, at the weekend - laid to rest on the Country he and others fought to win back during the Wave Hill Walk-Off of 1966.

He was one of the last remaining workers who walked off the property in 1966, owned by Briton Lord Vestey, in a fight for equal pay which also became a struggle for land rights.

A Mudburra man, Mr Wavehill moved to Wave Hill Station to work as a horse breaker aged just 17. He met his wife Biddy and fell in love, building a life and a family on Gurindji country.

Mr Wavehill's son Phillip was a baby when the Walk-Off happened, but his father's stories about the famous struggle stay with him.

"My dad was a horse breaker. He told me stories as well, when he used to work with my grandad, on Dalamere (Station)."

"He was breaking horses for the Vesteys... sending them out here for all the Vestey stations. 

"On his job as horse breaker, he wanted to check out all the other places himself too, and work out there.

"That's when he came out here this way... and that’s when he met mum."

"From there on, Dad just loved his work. He worked on many stations out here for the Vesteys, and took Mum with with him everywhere. I was born then at Limbunya Station in 1966.

"There was the struggle then from the Walk-Off and we went out there just across the border to WA. Everyone met out there, all the Vestey Station mob who worked out there, all the countrymen as well.

"That’s when the news got out there there’s going to be a strike (and) that's when Mum and Dad, they came back to Wave Hill Station, and joined the rest of them countrymen."

A seven year struggle ensued - still Australia's longest running industrial dispute.

The Gurindji won their fight for equal pay, and also eventually won back some of their land.

At his funeral service he was remembered as a strong lawman, master stockman, renowned artist and human rights campaigner. He was a friend to many and a guiding figure among his people.

"(He told) every story with a big smile. He always had a smile... I loved his smile," Phillip said.

"Underneath the stockman he was (a) man of many talents."

While Mr Wavehill's passing has caused great sadness for the community, there was also a sense of celebration for a wonderful life well-lived. 

Phillip says his father and the others who walked off Wavehill Station have left a lasting legacy, one which must continue. 

"In our community now we have the next generations and being put into that next step is a challenge - it's going to be a big one. 

"Now, we've just to show the younger generations, that's the next step.

"I'm part of the (Gurindji) Corporation and we are trying to push again to the younger generation telling them 'This is yours. Start making choices for the community and your people now.'"  

Watch The Point story here:

Native Title rights recognised over famous Wave Hill Station
The station at the centre of the Wave Hill walk-off that kicked off the Aboriginal land rights movement now recognised under Native Title for the Gurindji peoples and families of those striking workers.