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Indigenous Business - A Cattle Station

Video clip synopsis – The Yugal Cattle Co was given a grant of $336,000 to go into business running a cattle station. Their dreams of making money from cattle and beef export are big but there are problems. Traditional Indigenous laws are different from white man's law.
Year of production - 1973
Duration - 2min 21sec
Tags - economic development, Indigenous Australia, land rights, Law, 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.

Indigenous Business - A Cattle Station

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About the Video Clip


Indigenous Business – A Cattle Station is an excerpt from the film The Yugal Cattle Company (8 mins), produced in 1973.

The Yugal Cattle Company: After a protracted land rights battle, the Yugal Cattle Company established the first Indigenous-owned cattle station on a reserve in the Northern Territory. This short film looks at the history of the station and the company, which represents the local Aboriginal community, as well as its aspirations and the challenges it faces.

The Yugal Cattle Company was produced by the Commonwealth Film Unit for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Curriculum Focus


This digital resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
A student
5.2 uses and critically assesses a range of processes for responding and composing
5.4 selects and uses language forms and features, and structures of texts according to different purposes, audiences and contexts, and describes and explains their effects on meaning
5.7 thinks critically and interpretively using information, ideas and increasingly complex arguments to respond to and compose texts in a range of contexts
5.9 demonstrates understanding of the ways texts reflect personal and public worlds
5.10 questions, challenges and evaluates cultural assumptions in texts and their effects on meaning

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

Background Information


Before 1788, Aboriginal Australians enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle where men, women and children lived in harmony with each other and the environment. Mother Earth was regarded as sacred which everyone respected and did not exploit. This changed dramatically when the invaders arrived from England.

In many areas of the country Aborigines were placed on reserves and missions where white management had total control over their Aboriginal lifestyle. The hunted and gathered foods were replaced with high carbohydrate rations. Language and ceremonies were forbidden. The colonists brought with them their social order and notion of property and Christianity. Aboriginal men were drastically losing their role in society. The women were used as domestics and sexual partners for the white invaders.
It is estimated one in six Aboriginal children were sent away to welfare homes or to other reserves far away and many did not ever return home.

In 1971, an Aborigine artist, Harold Thomas, designed the Aboriginal flag in the colours red, black and yellow. Black for the people, the red for the earth and the yellow for the sun, the giver of life. In the early 1970’s, the first major department for Aboriginal affairs was structured under the federal Labor government. Money was allocated for housing, health, schooling and various projects. This was a form of compensation to try to overcome the poverty among Aborigines. Most of the funding went to white public servants in the administration, and little reached the grassroot-levels. At this time the Gurindji people of the Northern Territory, after a long-standing campaign, were given some landrights. Since then there has been much legislation and government inquiries into landrights and heritage acts.

In the 1970s the Commonwealth Government encouraged some Aboriginal groups to set up enterprises on land that had been made available through Land Rights legislation. However most Aboriginal people still have not had success in land claims.

Classroom Activities

  1. Write a 100-word summary of the video clip and include its audience, purpose and message(s)
    1. List the cultural and economic problems this Aboriginal company faces.
    2. State three reasons why is this group of people operating this farm.
    3. List the problems their traditional culture faces in this venture.
    4. Describe how they plan to deal with these problems.
    1. Research the law ‘terra nullis’ and discuss its impact and consequences on the Indigenous culture. For example, The Stolen Generation.
    2. Research an aspect of the issue of traditional cultural laws in conflict with modern society in Australia. What is the reason for a clash? Can both sets of laws be accommodated? Or must one prevail over the other?
    3. Write a 600-word speech to present to your class on a topic related to Q3a or b. Where possible discuss how some novels, films, plays and poems have explored this issue.

Literacy Activity: Focus= Viewing /Responding

  1. Why do you think Aboriginal people are skilled at and feel at home with cattle work? (1 mark)
  2. Why is the company employing a European cattle man? (1 mark)
  3. What are the special problems faced by an Aboriginal enterprise? (1 mark)
  4. Why do we get so much of the important information from the Aboriginal man in the clip instead of the commentator presenting it all? (2 marks)

Further Resources


Drama Feature
Philip Noyce (director), Rabbit-Proof Fence, Becker Entertainment, Sydney, 2002