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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.
Year of production - 1952
Duration - 1min 39sec
Tags - Australian History, see all tags


An Outback Policeman's Life

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About the Video Clip


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.

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.

Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Whose viewpoint is presented throughout the video clip, and why?
    2. Define the roles and activities carried out by the Aboriginal men depicted in the video clip in comparison to those roles carried out by the non-Indigenous men.
    3. Comment on the positions of authority and power invested in the range of individuals and groups shown in the video.
  2. In pairs research and write an informative account on the work and role performed by police officers and government-appointed officials in their capacity of “Protector of Aborigines”. Include details as to when and why the position of Protector of Aborigines began and ended in Australia.
  3. The film from which the video clip is taken was made in 1952. In small groups, discuss and write responses to the following:
    1. Comment on whether the visual images and the soundtrack narration throughout the video clip reinforce or question cultural and racial stereotyping and status, consciously or even unconsciously. Provide examples.
    2. If this film were made today, would you expect the viewpoint of the filmmakers to be the same as in the 1950s? Explain.
  4. Write a narration either for any section of the video clip, or if desired, the full video clip, from the viewpoint of one of the Indigenous Australians depicted in the film.