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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: 9-10
Strand: Place and space
Theme: Civic Work

Key Concepts

Distance, civic duty, Indigenous Australians

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Place and space – Environmental impact
Natural and social systems – Social systems
NSW:History Stage 5 Topic 3B, Topic 7A
NT:Soc 5.3
Qld:9/10 Civics – Place and space 5.2, 6.1
9/10 Geography
– Time, continuity and change D6.4
– Place and space 6.2, 6.3
– Systems, resources and power 5.4
9/10 History – Systems, resources and power 5.1
SA:Time, continuity and change 5.3
Place, space and environment 5.5
Social systems 5.10
Tas:World Futures – Creating sustainable futures. Standard 5
Vic:History 6.2
Geography 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5 ext
Economy and society 6.5 ext
WA:Place and space

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

Describe the range of duties carried out by this policeman.

Why are such patrols needed?

What characteristics or qualities would be needed in this job?

The video clip uses a personal narrative style to make an impression and get its messages across. Do you think the video clip does this effectively? Discuss your reasons.

Look at the trial scene near the end of the clip. What impression do you get of the nature of justice here? Explain what elements of the video clip lead you to have that reaction.

Do you think a person watching this video clip in the 1950s might have responded in the same way as you today? Discuss your reasons.

Suggested Classroom Activities

Use an atlas to locate Haart’s Range.

Identify ways in which modern technology would make a police patrol different today to the one shown in the video clip. How might these changes affect the qualities and characteristics of the men and women who undertake this work?

Modules That Use This Clip

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