• A lot of the younger generation took part in the re-enactment. (Kimberley Land Council)Source: Kimberley Land Council
The event included original demonstrators who took part in the march and descendants of others.
Rangi Hirini

24 Sep 2018 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2018 - 5:20 PM

The Kimberly Land Council used its 40th anniversary celebrations last week to stage a re-enactment of the Noonkanbah land rights protest.

Initiated after bulldozers damaged sacred sites, the march galvanised Indigenous resistance against oil drilling in 1978 and many demonstrators were arrested for attempting to blockade mining trucks.

Although their efforts were unsuccessful, the land council was founded shortly afterwards and continues to represent the region’s First Nations people.

Indigenous Senator Patrick Dodson, who lives in Broome, described the protest as one of the "greatest fights" for Aboriginal people. 

"For First Nations people, it is sometimes hard to keep up the struggle on the long road to justice," he said in a statement.

"But it is through honouring and celebrating our unity as a people, the unity that our old people gave to us that First Nations people can take on these new challenges of a Voice to Parliament, truth-telling and just recognition as the first people of this land."

Tyronne Garstone, the land council’s acting CEO, also used the event to call for government to commit to constitutional reform and a referendum.

“It is only by changing the systems, policies and structures that perpetuate the status quo that we will ever see progress for our people,” he said.

“In 2020, Australia marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Captain Cook. There is no better time for Australia to right the wrongs of the past and deliver real recognition and representation for our Indigenous brothers and sisters.”

More than 70 percent of the region comes under native title controlled by the land council.

The land council’s chairman, Anthony Watson, said the anniversary was historically important for the whole region, not just Aboriginal people. 

“The KLC has come from humble beginnings to become one of the strongest voices on Aboriginal issues locally, nationally and internationally,” Mr Watson said. 

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Ben Wyatt, applauded the KLC for its advocacy over the past four decades.

“Its work has shaped the modern Kimberley, and the political influence of the KLC's tireless work has been felt well outside this region,” he said in a statement.

The event, which was attended by approximately 800 people, concluded on Thursday with performance by the Julurru and Waanga communities.

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