The story behind an iconic Australian protest song

BY NICK HENDERSON

Released 25 years ago today, From Little Things Big Things Grow has become an iconic Australian protest song, paying tribute to the Gurindji people, and becoming symbolic of the broader movement for Indigenous equality and land rights in Australia.

Written by prominent Australian singer-songwriters Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, the lyrics chart the Gurindji people’s struggle for land rights. The song tells the story of the Wave Hill Walk-Off in 1966, through to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically handing their land back eight years later – an event which become a catalyst for the Aboriginal land rights movement.

Excerpt from Blood Brothers – From Little Things Big Things Grow (Trevor Graham, Australia, 1993) in which Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly discuss the song. NFSA title: 250884.

Following its initial release in 1991 by Paul Kelly and The Messengers, and Carmody’s version in 1993, it has been covered and reinterpreted by many performers and groups, including John Butler, The Waifs and The GetUp Mob.

In 2010 ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ was added to the NFSA’s Sounds of Australia registry. In 2014 we received a donation of Paul Kelly’s master audio material from the 1970s to the present.

The following playlist is a selection of the many versions of this song that have been recorded over the years: