Old Man's story: The last thoughts of Kakadu Elder Bill Neidjie
Bill Neidjie as told to Mark Lang
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There are many great Australians, past and present who have shaped our views of Australia. But for me, the voice of Old Man remains the most insightful and dignified measure of what makes the land so vital. He understood what country means and how important it is to sustain our tradition. Big Bill spoke for the Earth. Ma, Bor Bor. — Senator Nova Peris OAM
One of Bill Neidjie’s legacies is the creation of the world-heritage listed Kakadu National Park, now a resource for all. Old Man’s story is another. Neidjie broke with tradition and committed his knowledge to book form where his words are complemented by Lang’s beautiful landscape photos. It is a powerful contribution to the history of northern Australia, told by an iconic figure.
As the last remaining speaker of the Gagudju language, Bill Neidjie recorded aspects of his life for younger Gagadju, to help them look after their country and remember its stories — and for non-Aboriginal people.
This beautifully nuanced, impressionistic account allows Neidjie to gently emphasise his passion for the land, the significance of traditional practices and the hope that his culture would flourish and be passed on. Shaped by the seasons, Old Man’s story provides readers with insights into the annual transformations of landscape so integral to his story.
Bill Neidjie is perhaps best known for being central to the establishment of the world-heritage listed Kakadu National Park: now a resource for all. Old Man’s story is his third book. For thirty-five years Mark Lang has used his panoramic camera to record the varied extremes across Australia. On his travels he met Big Bill Neidjie. For over two years Mark worked with Old Man Bill, recording his story and photographing his country. This book is the result of the time that they spent together.

Further pictures can be found on his website: www.marklangscapes.com

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