Under the shade of the gums in the courtyard of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence legendary Gurindji man Jimmy Wave Hill shared his story.

“I came to Sydney to do something good for my friend,” he said as he leaned against the tree, and his eyes closed for a moment to reflect.

“That day mean so much to me and everyone. That’s why we are here in Sydney to pay respect to his family and share our story.”

The friend he speaks of is Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who on the 16th of August 1975 poured red desert soil through the hand of Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari to signify the return of land to the traditional owners.

“I was there on that day he gave Vincent Lingiari the sand and it fall through his hand,” Jimmy remembers the words from that historic moment. “This land is for you and your family forever,” he said.

Jimmy is one of a group of Gurindji stockman who waged a nine-year battle for the return of their traditional lands.

From his pocket he shares an old news article and points to a photo.

“This is my father and here,” his finger moves to a young man in a broad brimmed hat “this is me,” he said.

The article tells the story of the day the Gurindji stockmen and their families walked off Wave Hill cattle station in 1966. The historic protest known to many as the Wave Hill walk off, later led to the return of their traditional lands.

“I was a young man then,” he smiles.

Now almost 40 years later Jimmy and a group of Gurindji men and women, including Jimmy’s son Patrick have made the journey from Kalkaringi in the NT to Sydney, to share their story, pay their respects and remember jangkarni marlaka (big important man).

The breeze swirls through the leaves and the branches of the gum sway, Jimmy stands still, “When I speak tomorrow, the tears will come down,” he says referring to Kullum Whitlam’s state memorial in Sydney.

“He did real good, real good,” said Jimmy.

A leader and a story that paved the way for all land rights in Australia, never to be forgotten.