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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, culture, identity, Indigenous Australia, 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


Historical Knowledge and Understanding
Students evaluate the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Historical Reasoning and Interpretation
Students critically evaluate sources of evidence for context, information, reliability, completeness, objectivity and bias.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

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. The video clip:
    1. What aspects of material and cultural life does the video clip show?
    2. Does the video clip show a successful society? Discuss the reasons for your answer.
    3. Does the video clip show a sustainable society?
  2. Discuss the possible impact on this society of greater contact with a more modern Australia.
    1. Do you think this society would be able to maintain its integrity in the face of economic, social and cultural pressures?
    2. Ethnographic films often present a picture of people whose lives and culture appear drammatically different from our own. Does this video clip give you an understanding of another culture and society? Explain your answer.
    3. How are the people and activities presented in this video clip? This video clip is from a film made in 1948. Do you think this affected the way people and activities are presented?
  3. Traditional hunting in this area may soon become a dying culture. Many aspects of modern life are having an impact on these people. What do you think these might be? Why do you think this would threaten the community and their hunting activities? What is your response in view of the video clip you have seen? How can this community help their young people? Do you think is it important to maintain their culture? Prepare your responses and share with the class.


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