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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 - changing communities, economic development, identity, Indigenous Australia, land, land rights, Law, self-determination, sustainability, traditions, work, 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.

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. After viewing the video clip, discuss in class and write notes on the following:
    1. Explain why this Indigenous group is operating a cattle station business venture.
    2. Comment on whether the group is able to set up and run its business successfully without reliance on assistance from outside the Indigenous culture.
    3. Describe the problems the group’s traditional Indigenous culture faces in the venture.
    4. Describe how the group plans to deal with, or solve, these problems.
  2. In small groups search for and research one Australian Indigenous-run business venture that either has operated in the past few years, or is currently in operation, and construct an informative poster display about it. The display may be illustrated. (Each class group should focus on a different business.)
  3. The video clip is a sequence from a film made in 1973. Following on from the previous activity, in pairs research then write a short report on the extent and success today of federal and state/territory government funding for setting up Indigenous-controlled business operations. Include information as to what each business venture needs to do to qualify for assistance.
  4. Screen the Australian feature film, Dead Heart, then write a review of it in 400–500 words, discussing in particular the issue of traditional cultural laws in conflict with the laws of the wider Australian society. (Note that this film is rated MA15+)

Further Resources


Drama Features:
Philip Noyce (director), Rabbit-Proof Fence, Becker Entertainment, Sydney, 2002
Nick Parsons (director), Dead Heart, Roadshow Entertainment, 1996