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Video clip synopsis – Ted Egan reflects on his life in remote communities, the inequalities between black and white Australians, the dilemma of holding power over the communities in which he worked and his changing attitude to Land Rights.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 8sec
Tags - aborigines, assimilation, change and continuity, discrimination, fair and reasonable wage, human rights, Indigenous Australia, land rights, racism, social justice, 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.

Ted Egan

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About the Video Clip


Ted Egan is an excerpt from the program Ted Egan (26 mins), an episode of Australian Biography Series 11 (7×26 mins), produced in 2007.

Australian Biography Series 11
The Australian Biography series profiles some of the most extraordinary Australians of our time. Many have had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life. All are remarkable and inspiring people who have reached a stage in their lives where they can look back and reflect. Through revealing in-depth interviews, they share their stories – of beginnings and challenges, landmarks and turning points. In so doing, they provide us with an invaluable archival record and a unique perspective on the roads we, as a country, have travelled.

A Screen Australia National Interest Program.

Curriculum Focus



  • explain social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluate their impact on Australian life
  • explain the changing rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples in Australia

Inquiry Question

How have the rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples in Australia changed during the post-war period?

Students learn about

  • changing government policies towards Aboriginal peoples over time, including:
    protection, assimilation, integration and self-determination

Background Information


An author and songwriter, Ted Egan’s songs reflect his love of the distinctive Northern Territory humour and characters. His career includes working with remote Aboriginal communities, writing history, entertaining in pubs and holding the Northern Territory’s top job of Administrator.

At the time Ted Egan began his life in the Northern Territory, Indigenous Australians in the Territory were subject to Federal Government control through the Native Affairs Branch. One aspect of the policy of the day was to assimilate ‘mixed-blood’ Aborigines into the white European community. Often this meant removing children from their Indigenous mothers and from their Indigenous communities.

In this interview, Ted reflects on his life in remote communities, the inequalities between black and white Australians and the dilemma of holding power over the communities in which he worked. He particularly discusses his changing attitude to Land Rights.

Classroom Activities

  1. Note-making – while watching clip:
    1. Note why Ted Egan was sent to Yirrkala.
    2. Note the status of Crown Land at this time.
    3. Note the government attitude to the ownership of Crown Land.
    4. Note the local Aboriginal attitude to Crown Land.
    5. Note the sentiments expressed in “Pain for this Land”.
    6. Note how Egan reacted to his experience at Yirrkala. Impact?
    7. Note the attitude/approach of ‘Nugget’ Coombs.
    8. Note the details of the song “Gurindji Blues”.
    9. Note how the money from sales was used.
    10. Note the reasons for Egan’s resignation.
  2. Research
    1. Define the terms protection, assimilation, integration and self-determination? What did these policies mean for the lives of Aboriginal people of Australia?
    2. How did the government attitude to Land Rights change after the Wave Hill hand over?
    3. Who have led the Aboriginal fight for Land Rights and Human Rights?
  3. Reporting
    1. Write a report on the Wave Hill ‘walkout’.
    2. Construct a timeline of the struggle for Land Rights since 1945.
    3. How advanced is the quest for self-determination for Aboriginal people?

Further Resources


Mabo – the Native Title Revolution

NSW Country Areas Program, Wave Hill

Wikipedia – Vincent Lingiari

Racism No Way, Mabo and Wik fact sheet