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About the Video Clip:

Video Clip Synopsis:
In the remote outback, a policeman sets out with two Indigenous stockmen to inspect the many hundreds of kilometres he patrols. His duties cover everything from punishing lawbreakers to acting as postmaster.

1min 39sec

An Outback Policeman’s Life is an excerpt from the film Outback Patrol (20 mins), produced in 1952.



Outback Patrol: This film, narrated by Chips Rafferty, follows the annual patrol of outback policeman Robert Darkin. If there is a spot of lawbreaking, Darkin can convene a court but in this job he’s also collector of public monies and protector of Aborigines, Commonwealth electoral returning officer, commissioner for affadavits for the Supreme Court, postmaster, inspector of stock, and registrar of births, deaths, marriages, mines, motor vehicles and dogs. He checks that there is water in the government bores for the drovers and keeps an eye on the lone prospectors who roam the trackless hills and parched plains. Other horse and camel teams, operating from scattered police stations, patrolled the whole Northern Territory.

Outback Patrol is a National Film Board Production. Produced by the Department of the Interior.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 7-8
Theme: Civic Work

Key Concepts

Distance; Civic duty; Indigenous Australians

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Place and space – Environmental impacts
NSW:Geography Stage 4, 4G2, 4G4
NT:Environment 4.2
Qld:Place and Space Level 5
SA:Place, space and environment 4.4, 4.5
Tas:World Futures – Creating sustainable futures. Standard 4
Vic:Geography 5.2, 5.3, 5.4
WA:Place and space
Time, continuity and change
Natural and social systems

Context / Background Information

In remote areas of Australia police periodically need to go on long patrols to come into contact with remote communities and to be seen to be implementing the rule of law.

The list of policing and civic duties in earlier times was extensive including delivering the mail to convening a bush court. The remote far northern region of Australia is a vast area to cover and the policeman would often head off on horseback for three months at a time with the assistance of an Aboriginal stockman or two.

These days, there are more roads and police patrols can be more easily carried out by four- wheel drive. In some remote regions, alcohol and substance abuse are becoming serious problems in communities, with Indigenous Australians being particularly vulnerable.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What does the video clip show? Describe the jobs that the policeman does.
  2. What qualities does he show?
  3. Is this job useful for the environment?
  4. Is it useful for people in the area?
  5. What is the message of this video clip?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Use an atlas to identify the distribution of population in Australia. Describe that distribution.
  2. Why does this pattern exist? List the main reasons and then try to rank them in order of importance.
  3. Why do people live in remote areas? What might be the main attractions, and the main disadvantages?
  4. Why is there a need for patrols in such areas?
  5. Imagine that you could talk to this policeman. Decide on five questions that you would ask him.
  6. What do you think would be the best and worst aspects of this job?
  7. Would you consider the policeman to be a hero? Or even a good citizen? Discuss your reasons why, referring to the criteria you use to decide on ‘heroism’ and ‘citizenship’.

Modules That Use This Clip

SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10, English Year 7-8, SOSE/HSIE Year 7-8