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Larrakia Petition

Category: Event
Date To: 3 November 1972


State/Country:Northern Territory , Australia
Subject Matter:Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests
Summary Information:

The Larrakia petition was signed in October 1972 by over 1,000 Aboriginal People from all states and territories of Australia. While some signed the petition with their names, others used their thumb prints. The petition itself was over three metres long.

The petition calls for land rights and political representation for the Aboriginal people of Australia, and states that the land was 'the country of our ancestors' and was acquired by the British without rights under a treaty. The Larrakia People contended that without their land, they are refugees in their own country.

This petition is significant as it is an early example of Aboriginal Australian's using diplomatic avenues to assert their legal rights to land and political representation.

Detailed Information:


The first draft of the petition was documented in March 1972 by the Larrakia from Kulaluk of the Northern Territory. The document was titled 'Gwalwa Daraniki', which means 'this is our land' in the Larrakia language. It requested that the Federal Government establish a 'commission for the negotiation of a treaty.'

The petition that followed was signed by 1,000 people and presented the need for formal land rights and asked for recognition of a connection to the land. 

The petitioners aimed to present this document to Princess Margaret during her visit to Darwin in October 1972. They camped outside Government House, but police stopped their attempt to deliver the petition. While attempting to break through police-enforced barriers, the petition itself was torn. 

Following this scuffle, the petition and a letter were sent to the Aboriginal Government House on 17 October 1972.

Subsequently, the letter was sent to the Queen and was stamped by the private secretary's office at Buckingham Palace on 3 November 1972. The letter called for the adoption and approval of the petition, while also apologising for the poor condition of the petition. The petition was then sent to the Australian Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, in 1973. 


Although the Larrakia petition was unsuccessful in calling for a treaty, it did play a significant role in the political unrest amongst Indigenous communities and is seen as 'one of the most important documents of Indigenous Australians' struggle for land rights' (National Library of Australia, 2019). 

'The petition was an integral part of this campaign for Aboriginal rights and was intended as a national effort on behalf of all Aboriginal people' said Dr Bill Day who was involved with the creation of the petition. 

The petition was also a stepping stone to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth). 

Related Entries

  • Commonwealth of Australia
  • Legislation
  • Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)

  • Glossary

    Federal Government | Treaty

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