Jedda: White baby fly out, black baby fly in

Jedda: White baby fly out, black baby fly in
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Access fees

The infant Jedda, snuggled in a coolomon, is carried into the squatters’ kitchen. Two Aboriginal women fuss over the infant, and are the ones who name her Jedda, because she’s like a 'wild Jedda bird’. The mistress of the house has just lost her own baby, and is confronted by the presence of the Aboriginal baby. The mistress eventually collapses into sobs, and the newly orphaned Jedda baby cries also.

The introduction of the Aboriginal infant into the squatters’ childless and barren household, is the emotional glue of this film. The loss of her own baby, and the simultaneous appearance of the Aboriginal baby – who remains an 'it’ until we hear her name many years later – is the beginning of the emotional attachment the wife eventually develops for the child.

Jedda (1955) is probably Charles Chauvel’s best film, as well as his last. It is historic both for being the first colour feature film made in Australia, but more importantly, because it is arguably the first Australian film to take the emotional lives of Aboriginal people seriously.

Romaine Moreton