Airdate: Coniston

By David Knox on January 7, 2013 / Filed Under Programming 0

6conNext week ABC1 screens Coniston, which reflects on the brutal slaughter of more than 100 Aboriginal people in Central Australia in 1928.

In this documentary, a recent winner of an Atom Award, their descendants relate their story.

Known as ‘the last massacre’, expeditions set out in August 1928 to mow down innocent people across the traditional lands of the Warlpiri people and their neighbours to avenge the killing of dingo trapper Fred Brooks at the hands of a Warlpiri man, Bullfrog, for taking liberties with Brook’s wife.

It is also the tragic tale of Australian contact history: dispossession by pastoralists and the struggle over resources in a drought-afflicted land.

These are often painful and violent stories. The last survivor tells of his father’s brutal slaying, and son of the tracker and horse ‘tailer’ Alex Wilson who accompanied Constable George Murray on the killing raids, tells of his father’s involvement. The memories of those times are so disturbing that they’ve never been able to return to where the killings took place.

But there are also stories of survival and resilience, and of an underlying pride in the ongoing strength of Warlpiri culture and traditions.

Bullfrog’s son gives an animated account of his father’s escape and others recall Bullfrog’s use of powerful magic to elude capture.

Using re-enactments, historical images and footage of the community preparing to make the film, and shooting it, Coniston builds movingly to its conclusion that the injustices of the past must be acknowledged as part of the healing process.

9:30pm Monday, 14 January ABC1.

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