• Gagadju elder Big Bill Neidjie's book about his life, 'Old Man's Story', is launched with the help of his niece, Labor senator Nova Peris, at Parliament House. ((Image: Supplied))Source: (Image: Supplied)
The life and times of the masterful storyteller who helped establish Kakadu National Park, Gagadju elder Big Bill Neidjie, has been captured in a new book, which launched at Canberra’s Parliament House on Wednesday.
By
NITV News

9 Sep 2015 - 6:40 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2015 - 6:49 PM

Gagadju elder Big Bill Neidjie was a masterful storyteller and vital to setting up one of our national treasures - Kakadu National Park.

Before his death in 2002, he took the rare step of telling his stories to an outsider for a book.

Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris spoke about her great Uncle Bill at the launch of his book, 'Old Man's Story', at Parliament House on Wednesday.

“Big Bill Neidjie, he was a great man,” said Northern Territory Labor Senator, Nova Peris.

“It's just such an honour to be here today in 2015, 13 years on since his passing, launching his book, his story.

“I'm immensely proud as an Aboriginal woman to take this book back to my family and his family to say: 'look at what this old man's produced’.”

Ms Peris said ‘Big Bill Neidjie’ also allowed his bone ceremony to be filmed.

“He was a philosopher for many reasons: for life, connection to country, your spirituality,” said Ms Peris.

“He was a holistic man and when I first met him out at Cannon Hill, it was an incredible time in my life because it was before any of my sporting achievements and I truly believe I would not have done what I did if it wasn't for the time I spent with him.”

“I'm immensely proud as an Aboriginal woman to take this book back to my family and his family to say: 'look at what this old man's produced’.”

“He wanted those stories to be passed on because he'd always say if we don't have those stories, if we don't maintain them, then we'd have nothing.”

Photographer and author of the book, Mark Lang, said the simple eloquence of his words in his previous books, Kakadu Man and Story About Feeling, demonstrated the depths of his wisdom.

“[His words] revealed so much about the wisdom of looking past tomorrow, taking care of country and, most importantly, passing on this caring philosophy to the next generation in the hope that they will do the same and care for their ancient land,” said Mr Lang.

The elder was called Big Bill Neidjie because of his ‘big’ physique and physical strength.

Big Bill Neidjie was the last surviving speaker of the Gaagudju language, an Indigenous language from northern Kakadu after which Kakadu National Park was named.