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Ningla A’Na – Hungry for Our Land

Ningla A’na – hungry for our land (click to enlarge)

I’ve seen most this documentary before but not in one sitting. It is an extraordinary document (one of the landmark events in the ongoing struggle).

The single most important film on the Aboriginal political struggle in the last 50 years” – Gary Foley, Aboriginal historian, activist, leader, writer and actor.

SYNOPSIS: A rare addition to the study of Australian History. Made in 1972, Ningal – A’Na records the events surrounding the establishment of the Aboriginal tent embassy on the lawns of Parliament House. It incorporates interviews with black activists, the work of the National Black Theatre, Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Medical Service, plus footage from the demonstrations and arrests at the embassy. This is the only film to focus on the tent embassy and is an historic document, integral to comprehension of the Aboriginal political struggle. Erection of the tent embassy on the lawns of Parliament is the most symbolic action ever taken by Aboriginal people in their struggle for justice in their own land. Ningla A-Na presents an inside view of Aboriginal political life. A film which should be seen by all Australians.

The title translates to: Hungry for Our Land.

Ningla A’Na is a copyrighted work still in active distribution, all enquiries to Smart Street Films: – http://www.smartstreetfilms.com.au/catalogue/46-ningla-a-na

Ningla A’Na:
In 1972 at the peak of Aboriginal political militancy in Australia, two Italian brothers, Allessandro and Fabio Cavadini, made a film called Ningla a-Na about the “Aboriginal Embassy” demonstrations in Sydney and Canberra that year.

The demonstrations took the reality of a dispossessed people right to the front door of Parliament House in Canberra. Aboriginal activists were able to convey their message to the world as a major television news item. The appalling, health, housing, education and incarceration rates of Aborigines were at last in the public domain.

On “Australia Day”, January 26, 1972, the Tent Embassy was established in response to the McMahon Coalition government’s refusal to recognise Aboriginal land rights. A new general purpose lease for Aborigines would be conditional upon their “intention and ability to make reasonable economic and social use of land” and it would exclude all rights they had to minerals and forests.

The reaction was instant and dramatic as Redfern-based Aboriginal activists moved quickly to establish a protest camp on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. Some of the people involved in its establishment included Gary Foley, Chicka Dixon, Pearl Gibbs and Paul Coe.

Efforts to remove the Tent Embassy were prevented by a flaw in Canberra ordinances. It was discovered that there was no actual prohibition on camping on the parliamentary lawn. This enabled the activists to establish a permanent presence.

It is interesting that a documentary recently screened on ABC TV Black Panther Woman was heavily reliant on this film for footage and for the discussion between Black Women and Feminists about the nature of their struggle.

Thanks to Peter Gray from Radical Times Historical Archive for information about this film.

Ian Curr
19 Dec 2015

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