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Video clip synopsis – Writer and political activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poetry represents and captures the growing reaction by a new generation of indigenous Australians against the long-standing colonial mentality.
Year of production - 2008
Duration - 3min 0sec
Tags - Indigenous Australia, Stolen Generations, The Dreaming, aborigines, colonialism, discrimination, generations, human rights, identity, indigenous cultures, inequality, land rights, language, poetry, politics, racism, self-determination, women, writers, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip

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Oodgeroo Noonuccal is a video clip from the documentary series and website First Australians produced in 2008 by Blackfella Films for SBS Television. First Australians chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. First Australians explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire.

Curriculum Focus

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Students will:

  • discuss and reflect upon the historical, political and contemporary importance and influence of activist, critic and author-poet, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, both on the indigenous Australian community and the wider Australian public.
  • plan and construct a media display drawing from an awareness and an understanding of an example of Noonuccal’s creative works.
  • discuss, analyse, interpret and explain a work of literature, drawing on their knowledge of the literature’s wider context, such as the biography of its author.
  • work collaboratively to avoid replicating or duplicating resource material, and to organise, present, discuss and explain the material orally to an audience.

Background Information

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This video clip on writer and political activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal demonstrates an almost inevitable cause and effect relationship linking Australian prehistory, the time before written language was used to record information, to the recent past, the present and the future.

The video clips from the series and website First Australians titled The Songlines, The Rainbow Serpent, European Observers and Trade Routes provide us with a view of Australian indigenous culture and history to 1788. This culture and history was placed severely under threat as European dominance spread through the land from 1788 onwards.

Indigenous societies were eventually placed into government-controlled settlements -archival film of these is shown in the Oodgeroo Noonuccal video clip where the inhabitants were denied citizenship and the rights of free movement around the country.

Noonuccal’s political activism, expressed through her poetry, represents and captures the growing reaction by a new generation of indigenous Australians against this long-standing colonial mentality. It helped to play a part in the general consciousness-raising of the wider Australian community, which led to the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal citizenship, and later landmark legal decisions such as the Mabo land ownership decision in 1992, and the Stolen Generations report of 1997.

As we see from her poetry in the clip, there is an unbroken link between the ancient past and the contemporary present, via the arrival and settlement of European civilisation over a 200-year period, which illustrates the long journey that Australian indigenous peoples have travelled.

Classroom Activities

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  1. From the video clip of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, discuss in class then write responses to the following:
    1. To what national organisation was Oodgeroo Noonuccal elected in 1962, and which Australian state did she represent?
    2. When did she publish her first book of poetry? Explain the critics’ response to the book. In general what was the poetry about?
    3. Why did Noonuccal refuse to accept an MBE award in 1988?
    4. What does her name mean? What was her English name before she changed it? Why do you think she changed her name?
    5. What were her birth and death years?
  2. Noonuccal’s poem, Charter of Rights, is quoted in the video clip. Present the poem on display paper. Add further text as required, to explain its historical and political context, and include illustrations or photographs if desired. Consider layout, colour, text placement etc to create an effective display.
  3. Discuss in class then write your interpretation and understanding of the poem, in the clip, that begins with the line, “Let no one say the past is dead”. Ensure you explain what Noonuccal means by “accidental presence” in contrast to “long making”.
  4. Everyone in the class is to select a different poem by Noonuccal, to rehearse it, analyse its content, style, language and thematic approach, then read it to the class. Discuss with the class what the poem means to you. To help in your presentation, you may wish to distribute copies of the poem or to display it on a screen.

Further Resources

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Oodgeroo, My People, Jacaranda Press, Milton, Qld, 3rd edition, 1990
Oodgeroo, Stradbroke Dreamtime, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, revised edition, 1999
Kath Walker, We are Going: Poems, Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, 1964
Alexis Wright, “Rebel voice”, in The Age A2 newspaper liftout magazine, p.12, 15 November 2008

Go to First Australians
Go to Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s name
Go to Oodgeroo Noonuccal biography & references
Go to Oodgeroo Noonuccal poem, with music and image