Until 1964, they had never been in contact with the outside world. Newly discovered footage captures the moment their innocence ended
By Kathy Marks
That innocence was about to end: in October, the group--the last desert-dwelling Aborigines to make "first contact" with white Australians--was found by patrol officers scouring the dump zone of a rocket test range. The remarkable encounter was filmed and photographed. But the footage did not come to light until recently and it is only now being widely viewed, thanks to a new documentary called Contact.
She adds: "I was terrified. My whole body was shaking. I didn't know anything about white fellas. Seeing one for the first time was a real shock. It looked like his skin had been peeled off."
But this was no hallucination: Yuwali's world had changed, beyond recognition, forever. Before long, the Martu were taken to a church mission, where they were given clothes, taught English and schooled in becoming good Christians. In the documentary, surviving members of the group take the directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean to their homeland in the Percival Lakes area of the Great Sandy Desert. The area is extremely remote: even now, it is a four-day car journey to get there--half of it entirely off tracks--from the nearest town, Newman, in the Pilbara region.
Until the white men arrived, Yuwali and her extended family had no concept of the modern world. They had no idea that Australia had been colonised for nearly 200 years. They led a traditional lifestyle, wandering through the desert, their route determined by the seasons, the availability of food and the mythical "Dreamtime" tracks. They hunted with digging sticks and dingoes.
Below: "Yuwali was part of the group recorded in 1964. She still lives in the Pilbara region."