Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Marn Grook (1996)

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 The game education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Thomas Wills and his cousin, HCA Harrison, combined elements of soccer, Gaelic football and rugby union to come up with a concoction that incorporated all the codes and founded AFL in the 1860s. An overview of various codes of football over the years is shown through a montage including: historical photographs of Indigenous players; contemporary AFL match footage; stills of men playing various codes – soccer, Gaelic football and rugby union; and a re-enactment showing Indigenous men playing 'Marn Grook’. Voice-over from narrator Ernie Dingo explains that in the 1840s, Aboriginal Protector Mr Thomas noted that he observed Indigenous men playing a game very similar to what became AFL, and the name of this game was 'Marn Grook’.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows a compilation of images depicting Indigenous involvement in Australian Rules football over more than a hundred years. It includes black-and-white photographs of players, colour film excerpts from modern games, historical illustrations of early games and a silhouetted re-enactment showing Indigenous men playing the football game marn grook. The voice-over refers to Australian Rules football as an opportunity for Indigenous players to compete equally with non-Indigenous Australians and includes a discussion of the origins of the game.

Educational value points

  • This clip provides one perspective on Australian Rules football, that of continuing Indigenous involvement in the game from its origins to today. The black-and-white photographs of Indigenous players stress a long history while the modern colour film footage indicates continuing involvement. The use of the name ‘marn grook’ in the film title asserts Indigenous identity.
  • Involvement in the Australian Football League (AFL) is presented as a means of Indigenous people achieving on equal terms in Australian society, experiencing equality ‘body against body’. Between 1904 and 1998 there were approximately 100 Indigenous players at the top level. Gaining recognition on the football field enabled players to make a living and more recently to use it as a platform to challenge racism and fight for rights.
  • This clip provides evidence of the existence of an Indigenous football game known as marn grook in the 1840s. The commentary refers to a ‘striking similarity’ between marn grook and the new game of Australian Rules football established in the 1860s. While historians such as Jim Poulter claim football’s Indigenous origin, this is disputed and the account of Protector William Thomas’s observations of a game in the 1840s is left for the audience to interpret.
  • The clip includes commentary referring to the generally accepted role of Thomas Wills and his cousin H C A Harrison in the development of elements of soccer, Gaelic football and rugby union into the new game of football in the 1860s. This is the way the origin of Australian Rules is presented in the official AFL history by historian Gillian Hibbens, who controversially rejects any claims of Indigenous origins of the game as unproven.
  • This clip presents positive images of Indigenous and non-Indigenous players over time. The inclusion of team photographs from the past emphasises the continuity in Indigenous history and an instance of positive and apparently equal interrelationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia’s past. This emphasis on cooperation suggests the film’s 1990s context with its focus on reconciliation.
  • This clip uses a range of visual images, music and sound to create continuity and change. The commentary and the roar of the crowd accompanying the footage from a modern game creates the excitement and speed of today’s Australian Rules football while the re-enactment sequence with its softer music and moving silhouettes of footballers against a blue background of the Australian bush evokes poetically the past game of marn grook and its players.

This clip starts approximately 3 minutes into the documentary.

We see old photographs of various AFL teams.
Ernie Dingo (narration) For Aboriginal people, the game provided an opportunity to compete on equal footing with White Australia where, for the duration of the game, it was body against body and they could be judged on sporting ability alone. They thrilled the crowds with their pace and skill as others do today.
We see footage of modern AFL games.
Ernie The game was founded in the 1860s. Thomas Wills and his cousin, HCA Harrison, combined elements of soccer, Gaelic football and rugby union to create a new game. However, in the 1840s the Aboriginal Protector, Mr Thomas, documented his observations of young Aboriginal men enjoying an activity which bears a striking similarity to today’s game. This game was Marn Grook.
We see recreated footage of Aboriginal men playing Marn Grook.
Mr Thomas The men and boys joyfully assemble when this game is to be played. One makes a ball of a possum skin. It was somewhat elastic but firm and strong. The players of this game do not throw the ball as the white man might do, but drops it and at the same time kicks it with his foot. The tallest men have the best chances in this game. Some of them will leap as high as five feet or more from the ground to catch the ball. The person who secures the ball, kicks it. This continues for hours and the natives never seem to tire of the exercise.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer The game from the documentary Marn Grook 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
namarngr1_pr.mp4 Large: 14.8MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
namarngr1_bb.mp4 Medium: 7.0MB 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: