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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: 7-8
Strand: Culture
Theme: Indigenous Work

Key Concepts

Indigenous; Sustainability; Change and continuity; Culture; Identity

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Studies of society and environment, Culture
NSW:7-10 History Stage 4 Topic 3
NT:Social systems and structures, Band 5: Soc5.2, 5+.2
Qld:1-10 Studies of society and environment, Culture and identity CI5.1
SA:Societies and culture 5.8, 5.9
Tas:Social responsibility — Understanding the past and creating preferred futures
Vic:7-10 History Level 4: SOHI 0401
WA:Society and Environment, Culture

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 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? Would it help or hinder their way of life? Or if you arranged for plane food drops? Would it be useful or destructive?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. The video clip presents a traditional image of some Aboriginal people of the past. A problem might arise when people apply that traditional image to their image of Indigenous people today. Collect a series of images from the popular media of Indigenous Australians. Is there variety? Does the variety reflect the statistical reality (for example, that most Indigenous Australians live in cities)? Discuss the image/s you collect, and the way these might influence people’s responses to current issues and situations.
  2. Is there one image of ‘Aboriginal Australians’, or does there need to be a number of images?
  3. Imagine that these people have chosen or been forced into a more modern society. What impact, both positive and negative, might this change have on them as a group, a culture, and as individuals?
  4. The Gibson Desert people have a specific and unique culture and language. Should the Australian government provide resources to record and encourage the maintenance of that culture and language? Prepare a case for or against this question.

Modules That Use This Clip

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