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About the Video Clip:

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: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 11-12
Theme: Indigenous Work

Key Concepts

Indigenous; Sustainability; Change and continuity; Culture; Identity

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
NSW:Aboriginal Studies Stage 6
NT:Aboriginal Studies Stages 1 and 2
Qld:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
SA:Aboriginal Studies Stages 1 and 2
Tas:11/12 Aboriginal Studies
Vic:Koorie History Unit 2
WA:Australian Studies Year 11

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. One controversial area in our knowledge of aspects of Indigenous culture is the proper care of human remains. Many Aboriginal remains, sent overseas or held in Australian museums, have been passed back to the appropriate Indigenous groups for re-burial. Some scientists and archaeologists have criticised this, arguing that valuable evidence about Indigenous people’s past is being destroyed in this way and this may lead to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people losing much knowledge about the culture. Research this issue and write an article for a newspaper that presents the issue in a fair and balanced way to the reader.

Modules That Use This Clip

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