Video Talkback Classroom, 2007: Yirrkala bark petition

TLF ID M008414

In this clip Franchesca Cubillo (senior curator at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory) talks to secondary students about the significance of Aboriginal artwork and the Yirrkala bark petition of 1963. She says that when a bauxite mine was proposed on the Gove Pensinsula, the Yolngu people at Yirrkala had no legal land rights. The Elders of the community produced what became known as the 'bark petition' - a petition embedded in a painting on bark that expressed the people's title deeds to their country. Cubillo says the claim was not presented in a legal document as a non-Aboriginal claim might have been, but on the Yirrkala people's own terms. She says that Aboriginal art has always been connected to ceremony and land, and so an Aboriginal person painting in traditional style is asserting their native title rights.

Educational details

Educational value
  • In 1963 the Yolngu people of Yirrkala presented a bark petition to federal parliament, seeking rights to their land following a proposal to build a bauxite mine on the Gove Peninsula. This led to a court case in 1971, the Gove Land Rights Case, in which Australia was declared legally 'terra nullius', or empty land, negating native land rights. The Woodward Commission into land rights ensued in 1973, and eventually a form of native title was recognised in the 1992 Mabo case.
  • The Talkback Classroom program enables panels of secondary students to interview leading decision makers on important current issues. The panel members participate in a 'learning journey' to explore the issues and prepare for the forum. This involves researching the issue and interviewing relevant people in the community. Panellists also develop interview techniques in workshops.
  • This clip comes from a 2007 forum on 'Indigenous representation' run by the National Museum of Australia. Year 12 students from Casuarina Senior College in Darwin interviewed the former Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough. The learning journey involved students exploring the collection of Aboriginal art and material culture at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin and interviewing Franchesca Cubillo. They also interviewed: George Taylor of the National Museum of Australia's Repatriation Centre; Douglas Bon, skin group brother of Eddie Mabo; and Marion Scrymgour, member for Arafura in the Northern Territory Parliament. The learning journey also included a visit to the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) Aboriginal community in western Arnhem Land and an interview with the local Elders.
Learning area
  • Civics and citizenship
  • The Arts
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Video
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Film and Sound Archive, 2011 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out and copy this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.