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Video clip synopsis – Ancient Australian creation myths of the Rainbow Serpent can be traced back in rock art at least 6000 years. All Rainbow Serpent stories share a common thread; the fundamental role of water in nature’s cycle of growth and regeneration.
Year of production - 2008
Duration - 1min 28sec
Tags - Aboriginal art, aborigines, Australian landscape, conservation, culture, environment, identity, Indigenous Australia, indigenous cultures, land, mythology, oral history, symbols and symbolism, terra nullius, The Dreaming, traditions, water, see all tags


The Rainbow Serpent

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 rainbowserpent_pr.mp4 (10.8MB).

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About the Video Clip


The Rainbow Serpent is a video clip from the documentary series and website First Australians produced in 2008 by Blackfella Films for SBS Television. First Australians chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. First Australians explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire.

Curriculum Focus


Students will:

  • discuss and reflect upon the historical, cultural and contemporary relevance of Australian indigenous mythologies, using the archetypal The Rainbow Serpent imagery and narrative as a prime example.
  • work collaboratively to construct and present a visual media display synthesised from researched historical images.
  • draw on their learning on this topic to extrapolate information and to fashion it for a specific reading audience.
  • build upon their appreciation and awareness of the wider educational issues surrounding the topic by planning, organising and presenting an informed and persuasively argued, documented report.

Background Information


Ancient Australian creation myths of the Rainbow Serpent can be traced back in rock art at least 6000 years. Both in art and oral narration, the myths differ slightly from one region to another. However, all the stories share a common thread; the fundamental role of water in nature’s cycle of growth and regeneration. Fertility, drought and flood are all aspects of nature that resonate with the human condition, and all are inextricably linked to that precious commodity.

The mythology of the Rainbow Serpent plays an important part in the harmonious coming together of different Aboriginal clans. In order to place the Rainbow Serpent into a wider context, this video clip should be viewed in conjunction with the other First Australians series video clips – The Songlines and Trade Routes. All of these elements of cultural life played a role in helping to maintain peaceful coexistence between clans, and respect for both the natural environment and mankind, with its complex history and customs.

The story of the Rainbow Serpent, with its emphasis on the preciousness of water to the cycle of life, is very relevant in today’s climate. With rapid climate change impelling us to look closely at the way we relate to each other and to the environment, both now and into the future, this ancient myth is a reminder of our inheritance, our purpose and perhaps even our duty.

Classroom Activities

  1. From the video clip of The Rainbow Serpent, discuss in class then write responses to the following:
    1. What is the Rainbow Serpent, and in what ways is it associated with the beginnings of life and death on Earth?
    2. In what ways might we not show respect to the Rainbow Serpent?
    3. How does the Rainbow Serpent express its anger when we do not properly show respect to it?
  2. In pairs research the prehistory of Rainbow Serpent mythology as expressed through ancient rock paintings. Using display poster paper, show how the rock images of the Rainbow Serpent may be different from region to region across Australia and perhaps across time, with text details to explain why.
  3. Carry out research then write a description and discussion about the relationship between ancient Aboriginal myths such as the Rainbow Serpent, and social cohesion and law within and between community clans or nations. In other words how did belief in the power of such mythologies promote general community peace and wellbeing – or the opposite? Present your work as an informative double-page spread for a popular history magazine aimed at young readers. For this activity you may also draw on a knowledge of other Aboriginal myths
  4. In pairs prepare, organise and write a report of 200-300 words for your state or territory’s school curriculum boards arguing why it’s important and relevant for all children in Australian schools to be taught about ancient indigenous mythologies such as the Rainbow Serpent. Consider, for example, contemporary aspects such as climate change, conservation and respect for environment, to show the relevance of a knowledge and appreciation of the past to the present day, and its links to the future.

Further Resources


Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Kabul Oodgeroo Noonuccal, The Rainbow Serpent, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1988

Go to First Australians