This documentary uncovers the extraordinary history around three land-mark Yirrkala Bark petitions that sparked the flame towards recognition of Aboriginal rights in the 60s.
Whilst researching the journey and impact these petitions had on our shared history, historian, Professor Clare Wright discovered that a fourth bark petition may have been lost from the story. What can this missing bark panel add to the significance of the occasion?
For the community this is a reminder of the long history the Yolngu have in fighting for recognition; the Bark Petitions were the first such documents to be recognised by Parliament and two panels still have pride of place at Parliament House.
For Yolngu woman Yananymul Mununggurr the repatriation of the missing panel has personal significance as her father was one of the original signatories when he was a teenager. She describes what happened in the lead up to the historic bark petitions. Yolngu people became aware of mineral prospecting in the Gove Peninsula. Shortly after, the Menzies government reproclaimed land from the Arnhem Land Reserve so that mining leases had been taken out over a considerable area of traditional lands.
These petitions shared the fears the Yolngu had for their traditional Land and Sea country which contained sacred sites, Cultural locations, hunting and food gathering places. Their message was simple. No arrangement would be entered into without consultation with any company who would destroy the livelihood, culture, history, traditions, ecology, independence and health of people and Country.
They continued to argue for the rights of First Nations people presenting further petitions to subsequent governments and inspiring other communities to advocate for the recognition of Indigenous law. Their actions are the inspiration and backbone to the modern day call for recognition and their part in this history needs to be told.