Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Gather round people let me tell you're a story

An eight year long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiari
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
Gurindji 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 Lingiari 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 Lingiari 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 Lingiari
But this is the story of something much more
How power and privilege cannot 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

These are the lyrics to an extraordinary song, a collaboration between two great Australian songwriters (Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody), about an event that was a landmark in the granting of land rights to the indigenous people of Australia. It is lyrical, haunting and beautifully simple. It is the story of Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji strike.

Last week I received an email asking me to buy a remixed version of the song, which incorporated other significant landmarks of our journey towards reconciliation; current Labor PM Kevin Rudd's apology and former Labor PM Paul Keating's Redfern Speech. (And let's not forget that the tall man in the song who poured the earth into Vincent's hand was former Labor PM and my first hero, Gough Whitlam, yes all right I'm a leftie, out and proud. But would we have even this much reconciliation without those 3 governments?).

I bought the remix without thinking about it too much - $1.69 is not a big ask to help reconciliation, is it? And I already knew I liked the song.

But as I listened to it whilst folding washing today, I got tears in my eyes and shivers down my spine. Because the music of the song is beautiful. The story in the song is amazing, And add in some stirring speeches about such an important matter ... Well, look, I admit it doesn't take much to make me cry since the arrival of the rugrats, but all the same. According to GetUp, if the song goes to Number One then we will keep reconciliation in the hearts and minds of Australia. I don't know if that is true but I don't mind trying.

If you want to try too, go here. Profits from the song will go to GetUp's Reconciliation Fund and the following charity organisations:
  • Link Up - assisting Indigenous people who have been fostered, adopted or raised in institutions to find their way home.
  • Mums and Bubs Program in Townsville.
  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)


  1. Oh, gosh..... that is powerful and beautiful. Thanks for posting this Stomper.

  2. All of us are we because we are all human.

    It finally feels good to be Australian again.

  3. Okay, so now I can't get that song out of my head. I'll be singing it in my sleep. From little things big things grow, from little things big things grow.

  4. For J (who incidentally is a card carrying leftie) this is one of his favourite songs. The chorus in particular means a lot to him atm.

  5. Yeah, that one will have me sniffling every time. Thanks for the link.
    Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody have given this country so much.

  6. Fooey, I can't listen to this at work, because I'm already bawling just with your description, so I'll be a total mess if I actually go listen. Now I have to wait. I don't like waiting!!

  7. It's wonderful isn't it?

    And have you been downloading PK's free songs each month from his site, alphabetically? We're up to E as of today.

  8. that song gives me shivers - heading off to check out your link, ta


Don't let the cat get your tongue.