Rare footage of Aborigines meeting white men for the first time INCLUDEPICTURE "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00566/aborigine_desert_566987a.jpg" \* MERGEFORMATINET (Walter MacDougall film still/Ara Irititja) - The Martu Aboriginal group emerge from the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, in September, 1964 INCLUDEPICTURE "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00566/aborigine_group_566986a.jpg" \* MERGEFORMATINET (Ara Irititja ) - The Aborigines had never seen a white man before and initially thought patrolman Walter MacDougall, rear, was a 'devil' INCLUDEPICTURE "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00566/aborigine_beach_566988a.jpg" \* MERGEFORMATINET (Contact Films) - Yuwali, now 62, in her homeland. She is one of the last remaining members of the Martu mob who emerged from the desert in 1964 Sophie Tedmanson in Sydney It is an arresting, surreal image: a group of Aborigines emerge slowly from the desert, walking over a red sand dune, tall, black, semi-naked silhouettes seen through the barren spinifex bushes in the middle of Western Australia. It is September, 1964 ? the Beatles had just finished their first sell-out tour of North America and Goldfinger had just opened in UK cinemas ? and yet across the other side of the world these desert-dwelling indigenous Australians were about to see a white man for the first time and make their first contact with modern civilisation. The group ? eight women and 12 children ? walk towards the ?whitefellas? who had been searching the Great Sandy Desert for Aborigines to warn them about an impending rocket launch over their homeland by the British and Australian governments. Then they turn and run, frightened for their lives in fear of the mamu, or devil men, they had been told about in their Dreamtime stories, and, with a dingo in tow, they cower behind the nearest bush. Top of Form Bottom of Form ?I thought he was the devil,? said Yuwali, who was just 17 at the time, at seeing her first white man. ?We backed away? I said [to the younger children], ?he?s going to grab you and bite you?.? Yuwali is now 62 and, along with her younger cousin Thelma Judson, is one of the last remaining members of the Martu ?mob? ? the Aboriginal term for a local group ? who came wandering out of the desert on that hot September day four decades ago, in what is now considered to be the last recorded example of first contact between Aborigines and white people in Australia. Their incredible meeting was captured on film by Walter MacDougall, a patrol officer appointed by the government to clear the indigenous people out of the areas in central Australia which had been mapped out to be used as part of the rocket-testing range. The rare colour footage of that first meeting is featured in a new documentary, Contact, which premieres at the Sydney Film Festival on Thursday night. The film, by British-born, Australia-based documentary maker Martin Butler and his colleague Bentley Dean, is based on the book Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert, by Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson, and Yuwali. The footage, taken by Mr. MacDougall, was left to gather dust in the home of a missionary until about six years ago when he handed it to an indigenous archive centre, who in turn handed it on to Ms Davenport, who was researching her book at the time. ?They said, ?we?ve found this footage, it?s of a man in the desert, but it may help you?,? Ms Davenport said. ?So I took it up to show Yuwali and her mob and asked if they knew any of these people and they all started crying.? It gives an extraordinary account of an extreme clash of cultures which form the backbone of Australia?s history. While the British and Australian governments were trying to test space rockets, members of the nomadic indigenous population were still living off the land, surviving in extreme conditions, unaware that there was a modern society beyond the 141,000 square miles of desert they called home. The Martu people came from a waterhole near Percival Lakes in the Great Sandy Desert. To visit there today would mean travelling to Newman in the Pilbara region in central WA, then driving for four days across extremely rough terrain through the desert. Yuwali, who now lives in a remote community about five hours drive from Newman, still vividly remembers her terror at seeing a white man for the first time, thinking he looked like ?his skin had peeled off?. ?I was frightened,? she told The Times in Sydney, as she thumped her chest to mimic a fast heartbeat. ?I didn?t know what whitefella was. I never saw whitefella. He had white skin, not like me.? They thought the men were carrying dishes on their head (they were wearing hats) and mistook the cars for ?big moving rocks? or monsters with giant eyes (which were the headlights). Yuwali?s mob lived off the land, hunting kangaroos and lizards using only wooden digging sticks. They survived freezing winter temperatures wearing nothing but small cloth skirts, and managed to live through 50C (122F) heat in summer by digging themselves into cool sand and staying there until the heat of the day had passed. Once picked up by the patrol officers ? who bound their feet while they slept so they wouldn?t run away when the rockets were launched ? the group were fed Western food (which they spat out), given clothes (which they took off) and money (which they didn?t know how to use, so buried it the sand), and taken to Jigalong, a mission 125 miles away. Mr. Butler described the footage featured in the documentary, which is yet to be sold to an international distributor, as ?absolute gold in terms of a piece of Australian history?. Yuwali has returned to her original home a few times over the years, and recently took a group of young children there to teach them about the Martu history. When asked how she feels when she visits her ancestral water hole, she smiled and said: ?I feel good, I feel happy.? From Times Online June 3, 2009 Source: HYPERLINK "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article6420819.ece" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article6420819.ece Related Links Top of Form Bottom of Form HYPERLINK "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2641366.ece" Howard makes U-turn on Aborigine policy Top of Form Bottom of Form HYPERLINK "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article3362062.ece" Australia says sorry for 'stolen' Aborigines Top of Form Bottom of Form HYPERLINK "http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article5281389.ece" Archie Barton PAGE PAGE 1
Want to see the other 4 page(s) in Aborigine First Contact Reading.doc?JOIN TODAY FOR FREE!