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Video Clip Synopsis:
In 1966 a few Aboriginal families were living nomadic lives in the heart of Australia’s Gibson Desert. Women would collect seeds from Woolybuck grass to make bread whilst their husbands searched for old spearheads and tools for hunting.

2min 2sec

Aboriginal People in the Gibson Desert is an excerpt from the film Desert People (51 mins), produced in 1966.



Desert People: When this film was made, there was still a handful of family groups living a nomadic life somewhere in the heart of the Gibson Desert. Desert People tells of a day in the life of two such families. Djagamara and his family were filmed where they had camped, beside an unusually plentiful supply of water in an otherwise dry creek bed at Badjar in the Clutterbuck Hills. Minma and his family were taken back to Minma’s country from Warburton Mission to record how they had lived until just a few months before. This extraordinary film offers a rich experience of Aboriginal culture as the families share their traditional knowledge. The footage is part of an extensive film record titled People of the Australian Western Desert.

People Of The Australian Western Desert: In 1965 and 1967, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies sponsored film trips by the then Australian Commonwealth Film Unit (now Film Australia) to the Western Desert region of Australia. The object of these trips was to film the daily life of nomadic Aboriginal people living in the Gibson Desert of central Australia. Although this land is one of the most arid regions of Australia, the people who lived there regarded it as rich in resources.

People Of The Australian Western Desert is an Australian National Film Board Production. Produced by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 11-12
Theme: Indigenous Work

Key Concepts

Indigenous; Sustainability; Change and continuity; Culture; Identity

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:English course framework (11-12) — responding critically and analytically to texts
NSW:English Stage 6: Close study of text, Texts and society
NT:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Qld:English senior syllabus: Texts in their contexts; textual features; Constructedness of texts
SA:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Tas:Senior Secondary English: Ideas and issues strand; Texts and contexts strand; Applications strand
Vic:English Language: Unit 3 — Language in society; Unit 4 — Language in use
WA:English Year 11 — Print texts (non fiction), Non-print texts
English Year 12 — Print texts (non-fiction), Non-print texts

Context / Background Information

n the 1960s a film crew made an ethnographic record of the dwindling Indigenous population of the Gibson desert area. Indigenous people had lived in the area for thousands of years in a traditional way, before the destruction of that way of life in the late twentieth century. The desert is an environment rich in resources.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What aspects of material and cultural life does the video clip show?
  2. Does the video clip show a successful society? Discuss the reasons for your answer.
  3. What are your reactions to the video clip — do you admire the traditions shown, or do you see them as a last relic of a way of life that is unsustainable in a modern world?
  4. Imagine that you are part of the film crew. Are there any special ethical considerations that you think would need to be observed? For example, what might happen if you left behind examples of non-traditional technology, such as metal axes? Or if you arranged for plane food drops?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Imagine that you have been asked to develop a museum display on the Gibson Desert people, and that this vide clip is the only evidence that you have of that culture. What artefacts or objects would you display? What captions (usually a maximum of 50-100 words) would you include? What overall messages would you want your display to convey to viewers?

Modules That Use This Clip

SOSE/HSIE Year 7-8, English Year 11-12, SOSE/HSIE Year 11-12