Documentary Australia Foundation

Next submission deadline is
16 May 2014


2008 March
55 minutes

About the film

CONTACT will be constructed around one of the most extraordinary pieces of footage in Australian history: The moment where a group of 20 Martu women and children walk out from the nomadic existence of millennia in the Western Desert into a new universe of European modernity. Remarkably, this footage has not been seen in full by a television audience. Just as remarkable is that participants from both the Aboriginal and European sides are alive to tell their story.

CONTACT tells the story of Yuwali, the beautiful 17-year old girl we see making that giant leap on the 24th of September 1964. Now 61, delightfully vibrant and with a gorgeous infectious laugh, Yuwali still remembers life before contact, when her tribe flourished in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. It was so hot in the summer they had to bury themselves in sand to survive and their technology was nothing more than digging sticks and sling shots.

This contact only occurred because scientists were testing the Blue Streak Rocket and it was due to disintegrate in the Percival Lakes, Yuwali's home. The authorities sent in 'native patrol officers' armed with 16mm and still cameras, to evacuate anyone there.

The days counting down to blast off drive the narrative arc of CONTACT. Day by day Yuwali, back at the Lakes, gives a riveting account as she and the 19 others in her group are chased hundreds of kilometres around the desert trying to escape the 'devilmen' in the 'rocks that move' (four wheel drives).

Yuwali and the 'Native Patrol officers' chasing her reveal the fear, confusion and excitement of first contact. Their unique experience inspires many profound questions: What did the aborigines think they were encountering and what do they think about it now? Have we given them the respect they deserve and the decency to listen to their side of the story?

Yuwali's story represents a microcosm of the Aboriginal experience since settlement in 1788. And in many ways, CONTACT is THE Australian story. It encapsulates the strange and tragic tale of contact between black and white. CONTACT is not only a story about the past but also a mirror of contemporary Australia.

Length of Production

55 minutes

Stage of Production