Land Rights: Labor’s lost letter, lost promise

Lost Promise - Land Rights letter[Publisher’s Note: Thirty three years ago, in September 1982, Senator George Georges sent a letter to the Secretaries of all ALP branches in the metropolitan area and surrounds.

The letter asked that people attend a march and rally timed just before the commencement of the 1982 Commonwealth Games here in Brisbane.

The letter promised Land Rights to aboriginal people.

The rally took place and the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Federal Parliament, Susan Ryan, repeated the promise from the platform in Roma Street Forum with the words:

“…parliamentary Labor party and a very large group of people standing shoulder to shoulder with you here today and the federal leader of the labor opposition, Bill Hayden. We are here to say one thing, we (will use) the constitutional power of the commonwealth when we are in goverment to secure  land rights for Queensland aboriginal and Islander people in Queensland “

In 1983 the ALP won power and Susan Ryan duly became the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The Hawke government never kept her promise or that of George Georges so many years ago.

Nowadays the Labor Party don’t even make such promises. Curtis Pitt, the new minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, back in 2011, issued  ‘Just Futures’ – a strategy to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Good, if Labor can deliver. I suggest start by increasing home ownership, fund traineeships so that aboriginal people can build their own homes, grow their own food. Introduce aboriginal languages in schools, aboriginal culture, song and dance.
But you would still be a long way from the ALP Land Rights promise of 1982.

– Ian Curr, Feb 2015.]

Sent to the Secretaries of all ALP Branches in the metropolitan and near-metropolitan area.


15 September 1982

Dear Branch Secretary,


You will by now have received advice from the Party Office of the Land Rights Rally which has been organised by the Black Protest Committee for Sunday 26 September in Brisbane.

The Rally has the full endorsement of the Party both State and Federally and I believe it is essential that ALP members, their families and friends, give the Rally and March their maximum support.

A police permit has been obtained for the march, and it is therefore a lawful activity in support of Aboriginal land rights, which is a cornerstone of ALP policy [publisher’s emphasis]. There will accordingly be no confrontation on the day, but instead an excellent opportunity will be provided for us all to voice our support for land rights.

The day will commence at 11 am with a rally in Roma Street Forum followed at 1 pm by a march through city streets to Musgrave park at South Brisbane. Activities are being organised in the Park at the conclusion of the march.

Food and drink stalls will be set up in Musgrave Park , and I strongly suggest that you bring your own lunch and make a picnic day of it.

A number of Federal Labor politicians will be in Brisbane for the R ally and March, including the Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Susan Ryan, and Tom Uren, Peter Milton, Brian Howe, Clyde Holding, and Senator-Arthur Gietzelt. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Whitlam Government, Gordon Bryant, and Senator Neville Bonner, will also be taking part.

I know there are numerous calls on Branch Secretaries to contact members, but I sincerely hope you will see this occasion as a extremely high priority, and make the necessary arrangements to contact each and every member of your Branch to invite them to the Rally and they should be encouraged to contact their friends over the next week.

The ALP has long championed Aboriginal land rights – we have a first class opportunity on the 26th September to make sure that the merits of this just cause are brought home to every Australian [publisher’s emphasis]. I look forward to seeing you on that day, and thank you for your help.

Yours in solidarity,
George Georges
Senator for Queensland

Please comment down below