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Calwell Memorial Lecture: South Australian Premier Don Dunstan Announces Land Rights For The Pitjantjatjara People

Last updated on January 27, 2024

The South Australian Labor Premier, Don Dunstan, used a speech in Melbourne on July 24, 1978 to announce that his government would legislate for land rights for the Pitjantjatjara people.

Dunstan delivered the A.A. Calwell Memorial Lecture, named in honour of Arthur Calwell, leader of the ALP from 1960 to 1967. The lecture was hosted by the Monash University ALP Supporters Club and delivered in the Robert Blackwood Hall.

Legislation was introduced after this speech to recognise the traditional land rights of the Pitjantjatjara people. The government lost office before the Bill was passed. The Anungu elders negotiated with the Liberal government of David Tonkin and legislation was finally passed in 1981. South Australia was the first state to recognise land rights with a direct communal title.

At the time of the speech, Dunstan was in the ninth year of his second term as Premier. He retired, due to ill health, six months later. He died in 1999, at the age of 72.

Dunstan was a significant figure in the life of the modern ALP. Thirty-six years after this speech was delivered, it easily stands the test of time as an articulate, persuasive and impressive example of a Labor leader breaking new ground in an important and testing policy area.

Dunstan’s speech was introduced by Professor Ian Turner, the historian and Labor activist. A much respected figure in the ALP, he was a prominent factional player in the 1970s and contributed to keeping the party functional at a crucial time in its history. He died five months after this event, at the age of 56.

Turner was introduced by Nick Nikolaidou, the then President of the Monash ALP Supporters Club.

The vote of thanks was given by David Gray, the then President of the National Council of ALP Students (CALPS). Gray later represented the Monash area as the Labor member for Syndal in the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

To the best of my knowledge, the recordings on this page have never been available before. It is likely that brief extracts were used in contemporaneous news reports. The recordings were posted here on May 26, 2014.

  • Listen to Turner’s introduction (8m)
  • Listen to Dunstan’s speech (33m – transcript below)
  • Listen to Gray’s vote of thanks (2m)

A leaflet produced by the Monash University ALP Supporters Club as part of the advance publicity for the Dunstan speech.


Article from The Age, July 25, 1978.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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