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Video clip synopsis – In 1988, Meg Taylor began walking across the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to retrace the journey her father had made 50 years earlier.
Year of production - 1989
Duration - 4min 31sec
Tags - civics and citizenship, evidence, imperialism, national interest, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea, power, self-determination, see all tags


In My Father's Footsteps

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About the Video Clip


In My Father’s Footsteps is an excerpt from the film My Father, My Country produced in 1989.

My Father, My Country
In 1938 three Australian patrol officers – Jim Taylor, John Black and Pat Walsh – set off on an epic journey into the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Their purpose: to make contact with 'stone age’ tribes who knew nothing of the outside world and explain to them that their lives were about to undergo incredible change. Fifty years later, Jim’s daughter Meg retraced her father’s steps and met people who remembered the day the patrol arrived. Meg’s observations are combined with excerpts from her father’s journal to provide a personal and poetic narrative about an extraordinary meeting of cultures.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with the National Geographic Society.

Curriculum Focus


Area of Study 1. International Relations
Focuses on power in the Asia–Pacific region and Area of Study 2 focuses on Australian foreign policy. Both Areas of Study have a regional emphasis with students investigating concepts of national interest and power. Both Areas note Papua New Guinea as a potential case study.

In VCE International Politics, students have the opportunity to

  • Engage with key political, social and economic concepts and issues to become informed citizens, voters and participants in their local, national and international communities.
  • Enhance their skills of analysis, evaluation and synthesis.
This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


The indigenous peoples of the southwest highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) were not known about until the 1930s when gold prospectors discovered that the highland terrain thought to be inhospitable was in fact teeming with an estimated one million people.

This video clip includes historic footage showing the first contact between people of the Highlands and the outside world. Contact resulted in rapid change in their world; they were described as having moved from ‘stone to steel’ — from colonisation to de-colonisation and to independence — in less than a generation.

In 1938, three Australian patrol officers, Jim Taylor, John Black and Pat Walsh together with 250 native police and carriers set off on an epic journey into the unexplored Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Their purpose: to make contact with ‘stone age’ tribes who knew nothing of the outside world and explain to them that their lives were about to undergo incredible changes as they were brought under government control.

Fifty years later, Jim’s Taylor’s daughter Meg took time off from her legal practice and set out on her own journey of discovery, retracing the footsteps of her father’s historic patrol. On the two-and-a-half month expedition Meg and her fellow travellers cope with illness, fatigue and constant rain as they find their way through almost trackless jungle over one of the highest mountain ranges in Papua New Guinea.

Along the way, Meg meets people who vividly recall the day her father’s patrol arrived. Having no knowledge of the outside world, they thought the white men were spirits of the dead they’d buried, coming back to life to harm them. Meg’s observations of how the country has coped since then are combined with excerpts from her father’s beautifully written journal to provide a personal and poetic narrative about an extraordinary meeting of cultures.

The archival footage in this video clip shows scenes of the initial contact between the people of vastly different cultures. Sadly, some scenes illustrate how colonial ‘conquerors’ gain control and assume authority, at times with their superior weaponry.

In the contemporary footage it is the scenes of younger Highland men toiling in goldfields away from their villages that are the starkest reminders of how life changed ‘post contact’ for indigenous peoples.

Classroom Activities

  1. Using the video clips, the internet and other sources prepare a briefing paper for the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs on
    1. The historical context of Australia’s relations with Papua New Guinea.
    2. The challenges facing relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Possible areas of investigation include economic development, education, aid for infrastructure projects, etc.
    3. Three policy initiatives that Australia could make to enhance relations between the two countries as response to these challenges.
  2. Using a PowerPoint presentation, construct an annotated timeline highlighting the key events and key people in Australian foreign policy towards Papua New Guinea since Australia used the Australia Defence Act in 1939 to extend control over Papua New Guinea. Discuss in class the major trends of the relations between the two countries.
  3. Using the video clip and researching online, create a chart which outlines the key national interest objectives of Papua New Guinea over the past 10 years. Using another column outline how successful Papua New Guinea has been in achieving these objectives. In a third column outline the impact of globalization as a factor in achieving the objectives.
  4. How much, in monetary terms, has Australia supported Papua New Guinea development over the past five years? Organise a class debate about whether Australia should continue this level of support over the next five years.

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.