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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

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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


Students recognise the centrality of ‘country’ in shaping Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ identities and investigate how British colonisation of Australia affected the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Students analyse media portrayal of current issues to explore viewpoints, bias and stereotypes.

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. Students use an atlas to locate the Gibson Desert. Using the video clip and other sources students list key elements of indigenous culture.

2. Using the video clip indicate evidence about indigenous culture that places the centrality of country in shaping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities.

3. Who made the film from which the video clip is drawn? When was it made? What do you think was the producer’s aim in making the film? Is there any evidence in the video clip of the producer expressing bias and promoting stereotypes? Try to look at the recent film ‘Ten Canoes’. Who made this film? Who was the intended audience? Was there an aim in making the film? Does it promote bias and stereotypes?

4. What are the central aspects of Australian indigenous identity? To what extent do they differ from non-indigenous Australian culture? How can the two be reconciled as being the identity of an Australian citizen?

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