Australian
Screen

an NFSA website




Bush Christmas (1947)

  1. As Neza Saunders prepares to celebrate his 77th birthday this Thursday (7th October), he reminisces about his leading role in the 1947 film Bush Christmas. Neza speaks to ASO from the aged care facility at Woorabinda, two hours west of Rockhampton, with his nephew Wally Saunders.

    Neza went to a school for Indigenous children in Woorabinda, which was separate from the school the white children attended. The Bush Christmas production team visited Neza’s school and discovered him after auditioning 500 boys. Neza recalls that they were looking for someone who lived in the bush and knew how to throw a spear and to find bush animals.

    Neza came down to Sydney for a lead part in Bush Christmas and went to school in Sydney for two years, before returning to north Queensland. He lived in East Lindfield, on the upper north shore, went to school and stayed with Chips Rafferty and his wife in the city on the weekends. He remembered the generosity of Rafferty and his wife: ‘They didn’t have children. They were a great help to me, a great support. I would look out my window and see Rushcutters Bay stadium. We would watch the boxing at night.’

    ‘When I went down to Sydney I had to show them (the cast and crew) how to live in the bush. They were strangers in that country. They were very interested in how Aboriginals lived. How to cook witchery grubs. It was a privilege for them because they had only seen it in magazines and places like that,’ Neza said.

    Neza did his own stunts in the film. For example, he threw a spear at the water bag so that all of the water leaked out. This was meant to show the other children that they were forced to rely on his bush skills for water.

    ‘I really enjoyed myself. The city is very different and I had to adjust,’ Neza said. ‘When I came home, I showed the community the film and they loved it. The community still speak about it.’ But life did not change much when Neza returned home. He stayed in the area and went on to become a stockman and carpenter.

    Neza's nephew Wally Saunders has followed in his uncle's footsteps by passing on Indigenous traditions. Uncle Wally invites people in the community to go on Djina tours of his country and teaches them about their culture. He set up the Djina Cultural Healing Program in 2005.

    Interview conducted by phone with Wally Saunders at the aged care home in Woorabinda, Queensland, on 5th October 2010.

  2. #1 from sarahrhodes – 13 years, 9 months ago.
  3. The NFSA holds oral recordings of Ralph Smart who worked on many famous Australian films, including "Bush Christmas". The 1997 interview by Michael Pate discusses working on "Bush Christmas" along with "The Overlanders", "Bitter Springs", "Eureka Stockade" and, and various TV series and documentaries made in UK and Australia.

    Ralph Smart talks about filming Bush Christmas in the NFSA collection
    http://colsearch.nfsa.gov.au/nfsa/search/display/display.w3p;adv=;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=Ralph%20Smart%20Media%3A%22Recorded%20Sound%22;querytype=;rec=3;resCount=10"

  4. #2 from sarahrhodes – 13 years, 9 months ago.
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