We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory

printed 1984


Mervyn Bishop


1945 –

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Wave Hill Station Northern Territory Australia
    printed 1984
    Media category
    Materials used
    type R photograph
    76.0 x 50.7 cm image / sheet
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated

    Purchased 1994
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Mervyn Bishop/ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mervyn Bishop

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The political struggle that led to the affirmation of native title enshrined in the Mabo and Wik decisions is the subject of this momentous photograph. Appropriately, it was taken by Mervyn Bishop, Australia's first Aboriginal press photographer and a noted recorder of customary and contemporary life in Aboriginal communities. Bishop caught the human as well as the historical significance of the transferral of soil from the hand of a white prime minister, the reformist Gough Whitlam, to that of a Gurindji elder, Vincent Lingiari. Both men seem awed, even humbled, by the power of their own gesture, enacted against a brilliant blue Australian sky. Land at the Vestey-operated Wave Hill Station was handed back to its traditional owners, the Gurindji people, in August 1975, after decades of servitude and a nine-year walkout. The centrality of the concept of land, or more properly of place, in Aboriginal culture and consciousness is here given expression in a modern medium.

    AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Another Country, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jul 1999–02 Apr 2000

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 5 publications

Other works by Mervyn Bishop

See all 25 works