Why did Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody write a song about aboriginal land rights?



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Why did Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody write a song about aboriginal land rights?

By Hannah

The song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ was written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody and performed by Paul Kelly for its original recording it in 1990. They wrote this song in response to the fight for aboriginal land rights and equal pay for black and white workers. A man named Vincent Lingiarri stood up for his people in the hope of getting his land back.


The first verse introduces the theme of the song. The line ‘An eight year long story of power and pride’ is saying that the song’s story went on for eight years long and that it’s a story about power and pride, meaning what the government’s power can do

to a man (Vincent Lingiarri’s) pride.

The second verse is about the two main characters Vincent Lingiarri and British Lord Vestey and what their lives were like and their personalities. The lyrics ‘Vestey was fat with money and muscle. Beef was his business, broad was his door’ shows how British Lord Vestey had a lot of money and his business was cattle farming. The line ‘Vincent was lean and spoke very little. He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor’ is talking about how Vincent Lingiarri had no home and was very poor. This makes you feel sympathetic for Vincent Lingiarri.

The chorus ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ is repeated after every second verse. The little things refers to the action of the protesters. The big thing was that the aboriginal people got granted their land back.

The third verse refers to how the aboriginals were working for nothing and then they decided to ‘make a stand’ meaning they needed to do something about it and stand up for themselves. The line ‘Where once they had gathered the wealth of the land’ refers to the fact that the land used to support their families because they gathered food from it.

In Australian history, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act established the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory could claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. The act, the first of the Aboriginal land rights Acts, was signed by the Governor-General of Australia 16 December 1976. It was the first Australian law which allowed a claim of title if claimants could provide evidence of their traditional association with land.

The fourth verse is the most important verse because it is about the eight year long story. The lines ‘They picked up their swags and started off walking. At Wattie Creek they sat themselves down’ is about Vincent Lingiarri and the Gurinji people actually taking a stand refusing to work, changing history and saving their people.

Verse five is when they were offered more money but it wasn’t the money they wanted it was the land. And that’s what the lines ‘Vestey man said I'll double your wages. Seven quid a week you'll have in your hand means.


Verse six is Vincent going down to Sydney to get support on the land rights issue.


Verse seven is about Vincent talking to politicians to try and get their help.
The second last verse is when Vincent Lingiarri did succeed. Nine years later, after the walk-out, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured sand into the hand of Vincent Lingiarri symbolizing giving him and the Gurinji people back their land.

‘From Little Things Grow’ was written in response to Australia’s first big push for aboriginal land rights and equal pay for black and white workers. It shows how Vincent Lingiarri stood up for aboriginal people and changed history.






This is a picture of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring sand into Vincent Lingiarri’s hand symbolizing him giving the land back.






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