This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use

Aboriginal People in the Gibson Desert

From the website Australians At Work.
Video clip synopsisAboriginal People in the Gibson Desert is an excerpt from the film Desert People (51 mins), produced in 1966. In 1966 a few Aboriginal families were living nomadic lives in the heart of Australia's Gibson Desert.
Year of production - 1966
Duration - 2min 2sec
Tags - Australian History, change and continuity, Indigenous Australia, indigenous cultures, sustainability, 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.

Aboriginal People in the Gibson Desert

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 desert_pr.mp4 (15.0MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 desert_bb.mp4 (7.1MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

buy iconYou can buy this clip on a compilation DVD.

buy iconYou can buy the program this clip comes from.

About the Video Clip


Aboriginal People in the Gibson Desert is an excerpt from the film Desert People (51 mins), produced in 1966.

Desert People: When this film was made, there was still a handful of family groups living a nomadic life somewhere in the heart of the Gibson Desert. Desert People tells of a day in the life of two such families. Djagamara and his family were filmed where they had camped, beside an unusually plentiful supply of water in an otherwise dry creek bed at Badjar in the Clutterbuck Hills. Minma and his family were taken back to Minma’s country from Warburton Mission to record how they had lived until just a few months before. This extraordinary film offers a rich experience of Aboriginal culture as the families share their traditional knowledge.

People Of The Australian Western Desert: In 1965 and 1967, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies sponsored film trips by the then Australian Commonwealth Film Unit (now Film Australia) to the Western Desert region of Australia. The object of these trips was to film the daily life of nomadic Aboriginal people living in the Gibson Desert of central Australia. Although this land is one of the most arid regions of Australia, the people who lived there regarded it as rich in resources.

People Of The Australian Western Desert is an Australian National Film Board Production. Produced by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
H.3 A student demonstrates understanding of cultural reference in texts.
H.9 A student engages with the details of text in order to develop a considered and informed personal response.
H.12 A student draws upon the imagination to transform experience and ideas into texts, demonstrating control of language.
H.14 A student reflects on own processes of learning, especially on the effects of their expanding knowledge and skills in English.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


In the 1960s a film crew made an *ethnographic record of the dwindling *Indigenous population of the Gibson desert area. Indigenous people had lived in the area for thousands of years in a traditional way, before the destruction of that way of life in the late twentieth century.

  • Indigenous – born or produced naturally in a land, native
  • ethnographic – documentary style filmmaking that records information about a society or culture

Classroom Activities

    1. List five points of information about Indigenous culture given in the video clip.
    2. Discuss the aspects of Indigenous cultural life shown in the video clip And how they differ from your life.
    3. What are your reactions to the video clip — do you admire the traditional lifestyle shown? Is it sustainable (able to be continued)? Give reasons for your answer.
    1. Imagine that you are part of the film crew. List any special ethical (respect and rules of conduct concerning societies and cultures) considerations that you think would need to be observed? For example, what might happen if you left behind examples of non-traditional technology, such as metal knives? Or if you arranged for plane food drops?
  1. Imagine that you have been asked to develop a museum display on the Gibson Desert people, and that this video clip is the only evidence that you have of that culture.
    1. List five artefacts or objects you would display
    2. Write 50-word captions for each artefact or object.
    3. In 25 words or less, write the overall messages you want your display to convey to viewers.

Literacy Activity: Focus = Viewing / Responding
Using evidence gathered from the text, identify, explain and report how the lives of this group of people are different from your own. (5 marks)

Further Resources


Drama Feature
Philip Noyce (director), Rabbit-Proof Fence, Becker Entertainment, Sydney, 2002
Indigenous Poetry
Oodjeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker), Ballad of the Totems, Old Poetry, Australia, 1990