Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Couldn’t Be Fairer (1984)

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clip 'The Aboriginal problem' education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Talking head newscast discussing the 'Aboriginal problem’. In this instance, Lang Hancock offers sterilisation as a solution to 'the problem’.

Curator’s notes

The news and interview footage in this clip is from a relatively recent time in Australian history. The openness with which sterilisation is proposed as a solution to the Aboriginal problem – especially the half-castes who are not considered legitimate Aborigines – frames the way in which the Australian public felt justified in having such discussions publicly. Such opinions are very recent, and still surface in race discussions on the ongoing distinction between 'true Aborigines’ and 'hybrid’ Aborigines.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows footage of three men being interviewed and expressing extreme racist views about Indigenous Australians. The interviewees are mining magnate ‘Lang’ Hancock, a town mayor and a spokesperson for the Queensland Graziers Association. Aboriginal activist Mick Miller, the writer and narrator of the film from which this clip has been taken, speaks towards the end of the clip over footage of the Comalco Bauxite mine at Weipa in Queensland. Miller reports that multinational companies have not paid royalties nor compensated Indigenous people for mining on their land.

Educational value points

  • The clip is taken from the documentary Couldn’t Be Fairer (1984), a collaboration between prominent Aboriginal activist Mick Miller and filmmaker Dennis O’Rourke. The clip features footage selected by the filmmakers from contemporary newscasts in order to confront the viewer with openly racist attitudes. The interviewees are shown articulating with certitude their views about ‘the Aboriginal problem’, a racist phrase that positions Aboriginal people as a ‘problem’.
  • The interview footage of mining magnate ‘Lang’ Hancock (1909–92) is disturbing. He argues for the forced sterilisation of ‘half-castes’ whom he believes are unable to ‘assimilate’ into European society. His argument reveals his extreme racist attitudes. The blatant racism of his comments has been used by Miller to shock and confront the viewer.
  • In the clip Miller (?-1998) describes the destruction of Aboriginal lands by multinational mining companies as the ‘greatest threat to the survival of [Indigenous] culture[s]’. He uses the word ‘sacred’ to describe the relationship of local people to their land. He says that this deep connection is not understood or acknowledged by mining companies, who accept no responsibility nor offer any compensation for what he describes as ‘the terrible impact’ the companies’ operations have had on Indigenous people’s lives and countries. Hancock made his fortunes by exploiting Indigenous land for mining.
  • The language and attitudes in the clip are explicitly racist, and the footage has been deliberately selected by the filmmakers to confront the viewer with this blatant racism. In an interview on national television, Hancock advocates the forced sterilisation of Indigenous people of mixed descent. The confronting footage continues in the interview with the spokesperson for the Queensland Graziers Association, who uses terms such as ‘savages’ and ‘hybrids’, and dismisses people of mixed Aboriginal descent as not ‘true Aborigines’.
  • The clip includes footage of the Comalco mine at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. The mine was established in 1961 on what had been Aboriginal reserve land. In 1959 the land had been converted to a mining lease, reducing the Aboriginal reserve land in the area from around 350,000 ha to 124 ha. Mining operations have had a major effect on the local Wik people as the mine has brought massive infrastructure and, in the 1970s, a welfare-based cash economy to the area. However, the importance of the Wik people’s traditional land is not diminished by the massive intrusion and destruction caused by the mine.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

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  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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