Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Desert Walker: Gulf to Gulf (1985)

play May contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip
  • 1
North to South education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Adventurer Denis Bartell is walking south to Adelaide. After two weeks he has knee trouble as he arrives in Camoweal. He talks to the townsfolk and transfers his backpack to a cart. Bartell continues his walk south.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Denis Bartell walking through cattle country and into the Queensland outback town of Camoweal. A narrator (John Stanton) explains that after two weeks on his walk Denis has a knee injury that he fears will hamper his journey. Denis stops carrying his heavy food and water on his back, transferring it to a hand cart, and talks with some locals in front of Freckleton’s general store. On the voice-over he explains his daily routine as he is shown walking along red, dusty desert tracks that take him through remote Northern Territory cattle stations.

Educational value points

  • The clip is a segment from a documentary showing 51-year-old adventurer Denis Bartell’s journey across Australia from north to south. Bartell passed through the Simpson Desert on his journey from the Gulf of Carpentaria in Qld in the north to Gulf St Vincent in South Australia. He walked from Alka Seltzer Bore on the Desert’s western edge to Birdsville. He walked partly off-track and also used some vehicle tracks. The first Europeans to cross the Simpson Desert were Cecil Madigan and his party, who used camels to make the journey in 1939.
  • The Simpson Desert covers 170,000 sq km of the NT, Qld and SA. It is a large grid of long parallel ridges of sand dunes, often deep red, that are 10 to 30 m high and have an average length of 80 km. The lower parts of the dunes are kept well fixed by hard spinifex and other vegetation and the dune crests are bare and windblown.
  • Camoweal proclaims itself ‘The gateway to the Northern Territory’. It is 330 km from Burketown and is the most westerly town in Qld, 13 km from the NT border and with a population of only a few hundred people. Freckleton’s store was founded in about 1900 and still supplies goods and services to the town. The explorer William Landsborough was the first European to travel through the Camoweal area, doing so in 1862 when he was looking for Burke and Wills, while the town was founded in 1884.
  • Camoweal was once a centre for large cattle drives and a location for dipping cattle to protect them from ticks as they entered or left Qld. Cattle were dipped in an arsenic solution to control cattle ticks, which cause the cattle to contract tick fever. Ticks can cause disease, death, sterility in bulls and loss of production. Tick fever is an ongoing threat to northern Australia’s cattle industry. It was only recently that a vaccination was developed to help control outbreaks.
  • Aboriginal peoples were the backbone of the cattle industry in the outback during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Qld in 1876 more than 40 per cent of the pastoral workforce were Indigenous Australians. The men worked primarily as stockmen. Women worked as domestics, managing cooking and cleaning, as well as running gardens, caring for milking goats or cows and also sometimes acting as nannies. Indigenous staff were paid in food rations and in goods such as blankets or pipes. One of the key reasons Indigenous people stayed on cattle stations was to enable them to stay on their traditional land, which had been taken by white pastoralists.
  • The clip mentions a number of large cattle stations in central Australia, and shows some of the Indigenous stockmen who may have worked on the stations. In August 1966 Gurindji people at Wave Hill cattle station went on strike, demanding wages and the return of some of their traditional lands. The demands were rejected but the Gurindji continued to camp on their traditional country at Daguragu. The campaign was taken up by supporters in Australia’s cities, and in 1975 Gough Whitlam, the then prime minister, handed the title of the land back to Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari.
  • Denis Bartell mentions his reliance on the Flying Doctor base for his safety and wellbeing. The Flying Doctor Service was established by the Reverend John Flynn (1880–1951). He started the Australian Inland Mission medical service in 1928 and this became the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1954. It was Flynn’s innovative combining of the two technologies of radio, powered by a pedal-driven generator, and aeroplanes that made the Service possible. Today, telephones and the Internet are used for communication and the Service is the largest air-based medical and health service in the world.
  • John Stanton (1944–), who provides the narration for this clip, is one of Australia’s most experienced actors in television, film, voice-overs for radio and television, and on stage. His first ongoing television role was in Bellbird in 1972, and he appeared in Homicide (1964–75) between 1973 and 1974 as Detective Pat Kelly. He has also appeared in the television series Stingers (1998–2004) and Halifax FP (1994–2001). He was the English-language announcer for the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony.

This clip starts approximately 1 hour 8 minutes into the documentary.

This clip shows Denis Bartell walking through cattle country and into the Queensland outback town of Camoweal.

The clip begins showing Bartell walking down a dusty bush road with only cattle for company.
John Stanton, narrator Two weeks on the road, and Bartell was beginning to feel a nagging pain in his right knee. The injury would trouble him for the rest of the journey.

A freight truck roars past into the early evening and we cut back to Bartell walking into the sunset approaching a remote town. We hear Bartell in voiceover.
Denis Bartell I had that bad trot coming into Camoweal in the first stage of the journey. Um, that’s been pretty good. My knee is hurt, but nothing that I can’t cope with. I’m a little bit concerned though, with the weakness of it, when I come to heading out into the desert, I’m going to have a carry around about 115, 120 pounds on my back, and if it’s going to give out, that’s where it’ll happen.

The scene changes to morning and we see Aboriginal members of the community sitting outside their houses, and Bartell, with his card strapped to his back, chatting to some locals.
John Stanton At Camoweal, Bartell picked up his hand cart which meant he could carry more food and water, and relieve the burden on his back.

Denis Bartell How long have you been here?

Local Oh, I was born here.

Denis Bartell Were you? You’d know the area pretty well. Which is the track out?

Local You can go out here and go down Happy Creek or Nine Mile, go through Mudgee and go to Austral that day.

Bartell walks off into the red desert, a map of his destination transposed over the footage. We see him building a fire and preparing his lunch in a billy can. The end of the clip shows him being greeted by two children on bicycles at Atula cattle station.
John Stanton Austral Downs, Argadargada, Uratipita, Lucy Creek, Jervois, Atula – all cattle stations in the back blocks of the Northern Territory, linked by dusty tracks cut through a monotonous landscape.

Denis Bartell Between Austral Downs and Uratipita station, I had – I think it was 11 or 12 days without – I saw the odd vehicle. That was about it. And I carted water the whole of that distance. It was a very heavy load. I worked out my cart would have weighed, all up, around about 250 pounds. Well, I worked very much to the clock. It’s the only way I could achieve the mileages. Um, I generally start off just after daybreak, that’s my normal day, and I finish just on dark. My routine through the day is, um, walk for an hour, have a quarter off, walk for another hour, have a quarter off, and after about three or four hours, I then have a half-an-hour break. Lunchtime, I generally, by the time I do my radio call to the Flying Doctor base, that might develop into an hour and a half hour, and then the same process for the afternoon. But I get slower and slower as the day goes on.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer North to South from the documentary Desert Walker: Gulf to Gulf as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

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:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • 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.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
desertwa1_pr.mp4 Large: 18.0MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
desertwa1_bb.mp4 Medium: 8.5MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

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:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • 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.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: