Activity 2

A story in song: Vincent Lingiari


You may already be familiar with the Paul Kelly and Kevin Carmody 'From Little Things Big Things Grow'. (You can watch the video below and find the lyrics here.)


In the following activity, you will analyse how Kelly and Carmody's appropriation of the story of Vincent Lingiari compares to two documentary versions of the Gurindji strike. You will be invited to evaluate both texts in terms of their audiences, purposes, contexts and effectivness.


At the end of the activity, you should reflect: in what ways did these two texts manipulate me as a responder? What can I take away from my study of these different texts that will help me to create an effective digital poem or song? How can I create a multimodal text which is emotionally moving and politically powerful?



Play this video if you don't know the song (or haven't heard it in a while).

2. In a documentary called Blood Brothers, Paul Kelly and Kevin Carmody discuss the inspiration for the 'From Little Things....' song. Follow this link to play an extract:

3. Now watch this documentary clip (stills and voice over) on the Gurindi (Wave Hill) strike.

You should find the documentary on the 'Gurindji Strike' on this page:


After viewing the documentary, answer the following questions:

  • In what ways do the documentary clip and Kelly and Carmody's song treat the story of Vincent Lingiari differently? Which do you think is more effective and why? How can poetry or song assist in the telling a narrative? Do you see any advantages of the documentary form? If so, what are they? Did you need to read the lyrics of the song to fully grasp the story? Justify your response.
  • Kelly and Carmody's song refers to ‘a tall stranger', while the documentary shows a picture of the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. What are the effects of these two textual choices in relation to who is telling this story? How does the Kelly/Carmody phrase position the reader? What is the effect on your as a responder? Whose point of view do you think each text takes? Justify your view.


  • Compare the still shot of the documentary with one taken by Aboriginal photographer Mervyn Bishop: see link. What do the sepia tones of the first shot convey? Notice how the viewer's gaze is drawn to Lingiari's eyes in the documentary still shot, whereas the viewer's attention in Bishop's photograph is drawn to the ‘handful of sand'. What difference in meaning is created by these two angles? Consider how you can exploit equally subtle differences in your own text. Other stills capturing Whitlam and Lingiari can be found at: (Scroll down to Gough Whitlam and Vincent Lingiari at Wattie Creek 1980: A8598, (AK6/5/80/11) and From a visual literacy point of view, if our western cultural tendency is to read from right to left, what is the effect of the images' reversal? What implications in terms of meaning might this have for the audience of the second photo's website?


  • Notice the shift in usage of the term ‘Aboriginal' (Lord Vestey) and ‘Aborigine' (interviewer) in the Blood Brothers clip. What do you understand to be the importance of this shift in terminology? (For more on this subject, look here.)
  • What do you make of Lord Vestey's comment about Aborigines and Sydney's Macquarie Street at the end of the Blood Brothers extract? (For more information on Sydney Aboriginal tribes, see here). What is the effect of his rhetorical question on the viewer?
  • At the end of the Blood Brothers extract, Vincent Lingiari says, ‘I said, well, what was before the Vestey born and I born?' What meaning is achieved by ending the clip with these words? What effect is achieved by contrasting Lord Vestey's spoken English and Lingiari's?

  • Carmody mentions how the Gurindji strike was linked by the media to the threat of communism (part of the social context of the 1960s), whereas, he maintains, the Gurindji tribe's struggle was about land. What parallel is there between European Australians' perception of this struggle and the French explorers' views of nineteenth-century Aborigines? How might an understanding of how our cultural heritage shapes the meaning we make of events (as well as texts) influence your what choices you make in composing a text inspired by indigenous issues?

Extension actitivity: for another Paul Kelly collaboration, this time with indigenous song-writer and singer, Archie Roach, performing the indigenous poet Jack Davis's poem, 'John Pat' see here.