Gabi Hollows celebrates the birth of land rights

Gabi Hollows has just returned from the small township of Kalkarindji in the Northern Territory where she celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off. 

Gabi was joined by Australians from all over the country who came to mark the milestone at a three-day celebration, the Freedom Festival.

"The Wave Hill strikers laid the groundwork for the modern Indigenous land rights movement," says Gabi.

Many connections and old friendships were rekindled by Gabi during her visit to Kalkarindji. She reminisced about the time in 1981 that Fred operated on the eyes of Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji elder and the leader of the walk-off, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. 

"Fred was a big supporter of the Wave Hill strike. Early on in his work he screened the eyes of stockmen, including Vincent, who had walked off the station. The levels of avoidable eye disease Fred witnessed there had a profound impact and shaped the direction of his life.

"But I know if Fred were here today he would still be urging us all to keep working for a world where Indigenous Australians enjoy better health, life expectancy and land rights."

Gabi first visited Kalkarindji, 600km south of Darwin, in the mid-1970s when she worked alongside Fred Hollows on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program. Over three years, Indigenous people in 465 rural and remote communities were screened and treated for trachoma and other eye diseases.

At the Freedom Festival, the Black Arm Band, a musical group featuring some of Australia's finest Aboriginal musicians, put on a performance celebrating Indigenous culture and political life. The band is a Foundation partner and regularly tours regional areas of far-north Australia. Members also use music to deliver positive health messages by conducting writing and singing workshops with children and community members.

Jimmy Wave Hill was 27 years old when he walked off Wave Hill station in protest in 1965 with Vincent Lingiari, along with around 200 Gurindji people. They united in protest against their low wages, appalling living conditions and lack of authority over their own traditional lands. 

Jimmy says he was proud that the Wave Hill walk-off had kick started the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia.

"That Black Arm Band brought it all back to us. It was so good to hear all those old stories and to remind everyone what happened here at Kalkarindji 45 years ago," he says.

Learn more about the ground-breaking National Trachoma and Eye Health Program.

Find out about The Foundation's ongoing work to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.
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