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Road to Progress -- Peter Butt interview

Video clip synopsis – For producer and director Peter Butt, making My Father, My Country was both an adventure and a chance to discover Papua New Guinea's past.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 5min 9sec
Tags - civics and citizenship, culture, national interest, Papua New Guinea, social justice, see all tags


Road to Progress -- Peter Butt interview

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About the Video Clip


This interview with Peter Butt was recorded for the Pacific Stories website produced in 2005.

Peter Butt has been an independent documentary filmmaker for over 20 years. He is best known for his investigations of Australia’s history, Lies, Spies & Olympics, Fortress Australia, Silent Storm and most recently Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler?.

Pacific Stories is a co-production between Film Australia’s National Interest Program and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Presented by Vika and Linda Bull, the project explores the geography, history and culture of the South Pacific.

Curriculum Focus


Historic knowledge and understanding
Historic reasoning and interpretation

In Level 6 History, students have the opportunity to

  • Use the case study of Papua New Guinea to investigate the issue of a nation’s struggle for cultural maintenance and renewal.
  • Enhance their historical skills by using a range of sources and the higher order thinking skills of reasoning and interpretation.
  • Actively engage with a number of key historical concepts.

Other Links to VELS
Physical, Personal and Social Learning
Interpersonal Development – working and learning in teams, values as social constructs, resolving conflicts
Personal learning – ethical considerations, manage own learning
Civics and Citizenship – Concept of democracy, personal identity, knowing rights and responsibilities as a citizen, human rights, social justice. Governments as global citizens. Appreciate Australia’s place in the Asia–Pacific region and the world.

Interdisciplinary Learning
Opportunities for enhancing

  • Communication skills
  • ICT skills
  • Higher order thinking skills
This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


Peter Butt, producer and director of the film My Father, My Country, is interviewed about the background to the making of the film and his own personal responses to the experience. Through the film he tells the extraordinary story of the first contact between the indigenous people of remote areas of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea with Australian patrol officers. He made the film in cooperation with Meg Taylor the daughter of one of those patrol officers, Jim Taylor. After her father’s death Meg wanted to retrace the epic journey he made across the Highlands in 1938.

The indigenous peoples of the southwest highlands of Papua New Guinea were not known about until the 1930s when gold prospectors discovered that highland terrain thought to be inhospitable was in fact teeming with an estimated one million people. Through archival footage and interviews in the film, as well as through excerpts from Jim Taylor’s journal, we are reminded of the human experience of colonisation. Colonisation had a huge impact on the lives of what are now Papua New Guineans (known also as the people of ‘a thousand tribes’) as well as on the lives of the colonisers, as Meg’s life and journey illustrates.

Jim Taylor was part of an Australian mission to explore and bring the people of this region under government control. We learn from his journal that as he set off on his journey he was mindful that his patrol would have a profound effect on the people of the 'stone age’ tribes who had never before seen white men. He believed that white contact with the remote communities was inevitable and that it would occur with less bloodshed and with more care if it were made by Administration patrol officers than if it were left to gold and mineral prospectors.

Fifty years later, as Meg Taylor retraces her father’s 15-month journey through some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain she reflects on the impact of ‘First Contact’ on the indigenous people of the Highlands and considers how their lives have changed in the present day.

Classroom Activities

  1. Why do you think it was so important for Jim Taylor’s daughter to retrace the 1938 expedition route of her father?
  2. What do think would be the most significant differences experienced by father and then daughter, in the two expeditions? If you were to undertake the same journey list what equipment in order of priority you would take with you. Give reasons for your selection.
  3. List the historical sources used in the video clip to give a picture of Papua New Guinea. Can you find at least five different sources? Indicate which sources are primary sources and which ones are secondary sources.
  4. In groups, use the internet to investigate the 1990s Papua New Guinea legal case of BHP Ok Tedi mine and the downstream communities. Role-play the various people in the case and have a class discussion about what you think is the appropriate outcome of the legal case.

Further Resources


Go to Pacific Stories Learning for Interactive Compass Map with facts about the Pacific region.

For interview transcripts, books and references for this Digital Resource go to Pacific Stories, choose My Father, My Country, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.