Contact (2009 film)

Last updated

Directed byBentley Dean
Martin Butler
Music by Antony Partos
Edited by Tania Nehme
Distributed byContact Films
Release date
2009 (2009)
Running time
78 min.
Martu Wangka

Contact is a 2009 Australian documentary film that tells the story of 20 Martu people who in 1964 became the last people in the Great Sandy Desert to have come into contact with Europeans.



In 1964, a Blue Streak test missile launched from Woomera by ELDO was expected to land in the Percival Lakes area of Western Australia, an area traditionally belonging to the Martu. Two Native Welfare patrol officers, Walter MacDougall and Terry Long, were sent to the area to make sure it was uninhabited. When they arrived, they located a group of 20 Martu women and children in the area. The group had never seen white skinned people before and upon seeing the patrol officers they wanted nothing to do with them, and they ran away from them. Despite the presence of the Martu people in the area, a missile was still fired from Woomera, but it went far off course, landing hundreds of miles away from the lakes.

After several months, a second missile was scheduled to be deployed and Walter MacDougall and Terry Long returned to the area with two interpreters, Punuma Sailor and Nyani, in an attempt to take the group of Martu women and children away from the Percival Lakes area. When the group was located this time, the patrol officers tied their ankles together to stop them from escaping and took them to Jigalong mission.

Throughout the film, the experiences of the Martu women and children are described by Yuwali who was 17 years old when she was a part of this group back in 1964. Now 62 years old, she shares her memories of growing up around Percival Lakes, her dingo Yuntupa and the first time that she saw the patrol officers and their car. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]


A book about the same events documented in Contact was released in 2005, entitled Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert by Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali. [5] [6] [8]


Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History Prize for Australian HistoryWon [9] [10]
Australian Film Institute Awards Best Feature Length DocumentaryWon [9] [10]
Walkley Award Best Coverage of Indigenous AffairsWon [9] [10]
Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Feature DocumentaryWon [9]
New South Wales Premier's History Awards Multimedia History PrizeWon [9]
Sydney Film Festival Foxtel Documentary PrizeWon [9] [10]
Australian Directors Guild Best Achievement in Directing for a DocumentaryWon [9] [10]
Australian Screen Sound Guild Best Achievement in Sound for a DocumentaryWon [9]
Australian Cinematographers Society Bronze Award for Cinematography: Documentaries, Cinema and TVWon [9]
Chicago International Film Festival, United StatesGold Hugo for Best Television Production & Best Documentary: Social/PoliticalWon [9] [10]
Miradas Film Festival, Canary Islands Best DocumentaryWon [9] [10]
Annu-ru Aboro Film Festival, New Caledonia Best Documentary: Pacific/OceaniaWon [9] [10]
Planete Doc Review Film Festival, Poland Ecumenical Dialogue AwardWon [9] [10]
FIFO, Tahiti Le Grand Prix du JuryWon [10]

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  4. Marks, Kathy (16 October 2009). "Aborigines: 'I was terrified. I didn't know anything about white fellas'". The Independent . Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  5. 1 2 "Movies - Contact". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
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