Big Bill Neidjie, custodian and elder of the Gagadju

Kakadu Man
Cover from Kakadu Man

When you are a reporter you sometimes come across people with a clean vision of what they want to do, and how they want to do it.

Rarely however have I come across some-one like Bill Neidjie, who not only had a clear vision of what he wanted, but had the strength of personality to buck tradition and carry it through.

Most often Bill Neidjie is known as a traditional owner of what became Kakadu National Park, but it was in dealing with the future rather than the past where he made his mark.

Bill was well an truly in his 60s when I met up with him in the mid 1980s, an achievement in itself when you consider the low life expectancy of indigenous Australians in the 20th century.

The links below will give some idea of his colourful and open-hearted life, his role in creating one of the world’s great national parks, Kakadu, and his ability to deal with conflicting mining and environmental pressures.

What impressed me most, was his decision to break taboo and talk about his culture and his traditional lore.

Bill realised that he was getting old and was concerned his traditional stories may be lost in the oral tradition of his people. At some personal cost, he documented the traditional stories and laws of his people in the book Kakadu Man

I give you this story
This proper, true story
People can listen
I’m telling you this while you’ve got time
time for you to make something
you know
history
book
~ Bill Neidjie

The story below contains one of many interviews I did with Bill, this one while he was recovering in hospital in 1986. At the time Clyde Holding, then federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had flown to the Northern territory to hand over 400 square kilometres of stage 2 of Kakadu for the Jabiluka Land Trust. Holding had formally handed the title deeds to Bill Neidjie.

[flv:https://www.raeallen.net/video/bill-neidjie-land.flv 660 494]

 

Talent: Bill Neidjie
To air: ABC-TV News, 16 November 1985, Duration: 1:30

One of the places I went with Bill, Ubirr Rock in Kakadu

Links

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