Beyond Sorry: A short man that smoked a pipe

Beyond Sorry: A short man that smoked a pipe
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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Aggie Abbott recalls that when her family heard that her sister had a little white child, they travelled by camel from Ross River to see her. A re-enactment shows a young Zita running through the scrub. Zita, now in her sixties, walks through landscape, and recalls getting bush tucker with her family, and in voice-over Aggie Abbott describes how the family hunted kangaroo. Aggie and Zita both say that being half-caste did not affect how their families treated them. Aggie Abbott describes the 'short man that smoked a pipe’, who came on social pretext but who would identify and report the children to the authorities. Soon after, a truck from Arltunga would come to collect the children. Summary by Romaine Moreton.

The most aggrieved aspect of the testimony of Aunty Aggie Abbott is how the taking of Aboriginal children was neither a spontaneous or arbitrary act, but one in which great energy, resources and planning was invested, as represented by the man with the pipe who always had one eye on the children. Both Zita Wallace and Aggie Abbott’s testimony of how as ‘half-caste’ children they were not treated any differently by their families, pin points the notion of difference as it relates to skin colour being very much a concept imposed on Indigenous families and communities.


Beyond Sorry synopsis

When she was eight years old, Zita Wallace was removed from her families by the authorities. This is a documentary about the Stolen Generations, and the journey of one woman to reconnect with the Eastern Arrernte family from whom she was denied for most of her life.

Beyond Sorry is part of the Nganampa Anwernekenhe series produced by Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) Productions. Nganampa Anwernekenhe means 'ours’ in the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte lanuages, and the series aims to contribute to the preservation of Indigenous languages and cultures.


Beyond Sorry curator's notes

This is a haunting documentary about the beauty and pain of a child, now an elderly woman, who was removed from her family by the authorities. The filmmakers tell the parallel stories of Zita Wallace and her Aunty Aggie Abbott to represent two positions; two half-caste children, one child removed, one not. Zita grew up within white culture and, through her own testimony, is again like an 8 year old, picking up her education in Indigenous culture from the moment in her life when she was taken from her family. Seeking the connection with family and place that was denied her, Zita Wallace is fully committed to overcoming broken ties.

There is a complex range of issues covered here, conveyed with filmic fluidity. One of them being that the removal of Aboriginal children from their families left great holes in those communities, and that the children, without a self-knowledge within Indigenous cultural context, became vulnerable to discrimination within white society. Another is the broken spirit of the parents from whom the children were taken. Zita’s mother, having been told her daughter was dead, believed her daughter to be a spirit child when she finally returned. The greatest disruption is to the social fabric of Indigenous societies, where each child would have served a specific role in the continuation of Indigenous cultural practice and religion, being entitled to different parts of the country. The filmmakers get to the heart of the consequence of child removal, yet tell a story that is painfully humane, and never compromising the humanity and beauty of its subjects.

Notes by Romaine Moreton

Production company:
CAAMA Productions
David Vadiveloo
Executive Producers :
Beck Cole, Citt Williams
David Vadiveloo
David Vadiveloo
Original music:
Michael Den Elzen