Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam

Merv Bishop1975

Head On Foundation

Head On Foundation
Sydney, Australia

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of Gurindji Elder and traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari. Northern Territory, 1975.

Mervyn Bishop, Australia's first Aboriginal press photographer was encouraged by his mother to take his first photograph. After witnessing the 'magic' of the developing process, he became passionate about photography.

As a cadet at the Sydney Morning Herald (1963), he completed a Photography Certificate Course and later won News Photographer of the Year (1971).

Bishop started work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (Canberra, 1974), an important era in Indigenous self-determination. He captured this historical moment in 1975 when then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari. This image represented the Australian government's recognition of Aboriginal land rights and became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography.

Bishop taught photography in Sydney at Tranby Aboriginal College and the Eora Centre TAFE. In 2000, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council awarded him the Red Ochre Award to recognise his pioneering work and ongoing influence.


  • Title: Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam
  • Creator: Merv Bishop
  • Date Created: 1975
  • Location Created: Northern Territory, Australia
  • Type: Photograph, artwork
  • Rights: Courtesy of National Indigenous Australians Agency, Mervyn Bishop and Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney.

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