From little things big things grow


It was in one of the lectures in my college, Asian College of Journalism, that I first heard the song “From little things big things grow” by Australian musician, Paul Kelly; since then it has been stuck in my head.

[

Gather round people let me tell you’re a story
An eight year long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiarri
Were opposite men on opposite sides 

Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow 

Gurindji were working for nothing but rations
Where once they had gathered the wealth of the land
Daily the pressure got tighter and tighter
Gurindju decided they must make a stand 

They picked up their swags and started off walking
At Wattie Creek they sat themselves down
Now it don’t sound like much but it sure got tongues talking
Back at the homestead and then in the town 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow 

Vestey man said I’ll double your wages
Seven quid a week you’ll have in your hand
Vincent said uhuh we’re not talking about wages
We’re sitting right here till we get our land
Vestey man roared and Vestey man thundered
You don’t stand the chance of a cinder in snow
Vince said if we fall others are rising 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow 

Then Vincent Lingiarri boarded an aeroplane
Landed in Sydney, big city of lights
And daily he went round softly speaking his story
To all kinds of men from all walks of life 

And Vincent sat down with big politicians
This affair they told him is a matter of state
Let us sort it out, your people are hungry
Vincent said no thanks, we know how to wait 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow 

Then Vincent Lingiarri returned in an aeroplane
Back to his country once more to sit down
And he told his people let the stars keep on turning
We have friends in the south, in the cities and towns 

Eight years went by, eight long years of waiting
Till one day a tall stranger appeared in the land
And he came with lawyers and he came with great ceremony
And through Vincent’s fingers poured a handful of sand 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow 

That was the story of Vincent Lingairri
But this is the story of something much more
How power and privilege can not move a people
Who know where they stand and stand in the law 

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
]

It is a rare example of simplicity that can inspire a flood of emotions without the reverberating violin strings and the high-pitched opera. Though it talks about a simple man named Vincent Lingiari and his struggle for reclaiming his land, it covers the whole expanse of struggle by the indigenous Australian sect called gurundji to acquire the land which was rightfully theirs.

The lyrics also help us picturise the poor conditions offered to the workers(which included Vincent among others) in the Wave hill cattle station where a man named Vestey reigned as the employer. You realise that you are singing along when it comes to the part where Vincent takes a stand and decides to stop work unless the land is returned. Though the Britishers try to convince the newly born rebel group with their offers for a better living and wages, the group stays with its decision.

What grew as a need for dignity in a labourer’s mind brought the then prime minister of Australia, Gough Witlam to personally meet Vincent and perform the act (which later would be remembered as an important emotional act in history) of pouring the sand, scooped in from the grounds of wave hill, into Vincent’s palm and proclaiming the land as theirs in public.

The strike sustained for 9 years, at the end of which the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 came into existence.

From little things big things grow indeed

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