Brian Manning, a social activist who co-founded the Northern Territory Council for Aboriginal Rights, made around 15 trips of the 16-hour journey to the strikers camped at the bed of the Victoria River and later Wattie Creek. This support helped pave the way for Aboriginal land rights.
Mr Manning’s son, also Brian, is leaving Darwin on Thursday August 18th and hopes to arrive at Kalkarindji the following day for the commemorations. The Transport Workers’ Union are funding the trip. Mr Manning said he wanted to bring the replica truck in memory of his father, who passed away in 2013. “If this encourages the current generation to become passionate about trade unionism and equal rights then it will be a great tribute to my old man,” Mr Manning said.
The original truck is to go on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The replica is the same model and same year as the original Bedford Truck and has been fixed up in recent weeks ahead of the journey by Darwin mechanic Kerry Gibbs, who joined Brian Manning on trips to the strikers 50 years ago.
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the presence of the replica truck and the son of Mr Manning at the commemorations was important in reminding people of the role of activism and trade unions in effecting social change. “This was just one man and his truck but the passion and determination Brian Manning brought to righting a terrible wrong shows what can be achieved,” he said.
TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ray Wyatt said: “The issues of equality and a fair go are no less relevant today as wealthy elites expect people to subsist on low wages, part-time hours and casual employment while they reap billions of dollars in profit.”
Brian Manning campaigned for equal pay for aboriginal stockmen and urged the NT Trades and Labour Council to address equal pay. In his 2002 Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture he told about his first trip to the strikers: “I could actually sense their relief in the realisation that they were no longer on their own… and the promise of support was now a reality,” he said.
Mr Manning subsequently used his truck as a May Day float, as a mobile radio communications unit with the East Timor Independence struggle led by Fretlin and was used by police to help collect bodies from the wreckage of Cyclone Tracy in 1975.