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First Australians – Episode 5, Unhealthy Government Experiment (2008)

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clip The killing times

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

Clip description

Author Steve Kinnane of the Miriworng Nation sets the historical context of the clip. Western Australian police are reacting to calls from cattle farmers to enact revenge for loss of stock at the hands of Aboriginal hunters. Historian Professor Marcia Langton of the Yiman-Bidjara Nation and Dr Noel Nannup of the Noongar-Indjabarndi Nations evoke empathy for the treatment of the prisoners and their transportation to Rottnest Island, WA. Voice re-enactments of historical records layered over archival photographs work together to bring focus to individual prisoners like Johnny Widjee Widjee.

Curator’s notes

Langton’s use of the phrase ‘try to imagine’ is typical of her style of historical interpretation throughout the series. It encourages the audience to really think about how it would feel to be a late 19th century Aboriginal prisoner in Western Australia.

What is truly disheartening about this episode are the images of once proud Aboriginal men in chains, and hearing the historical records and letters of the prisoners of Rottnest as they lose hope and become resigned to their fate.

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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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  • 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.

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