Minymaku Way: The march
A four-wheel drive makes its way down a stretch of road at Curtin Springs. The women are discussing the alcohol-related fatalities that have occurred here. They reminisce about the 1990 march against the sale of alcohol to Anangu (the word the Indigenous people use to refer to themselves) people, and how they lobbied the publican in order to gain his support. Summary by Romaine Moreton.
The strength and focus of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council manifests in a march that is intended to stop the sale of alcohol to Anangu people. The women take on the responsibility of preventing any further alcohol-related deaths, and lobby the publican. The fight took 10 years, and the women eventually won the support of the publican in arresting the grief resulting from alcohol abuse within the Anangu community.
Minymaku Way synopsis
This documentary celebrates the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council.
Minymaku Way curator's notes
In 1980 the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council was formed as a response to the women being excluded from important debates. Minymaku Way documents the strength of the Anangu (Indigenous) women, and the implementation of programs that are designed to preserve culture and to heal the ills of the community. The film focuses on 'Malpa’ (working relationships in Pitjantjatjara) between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, and we witness how the Women’s Council strategise to counteract the increasing attraction of the Anangu youth to Western culture, and the potential loss of cultural knowledge as a result.
The strength of the Women’s Council is evident in the 10-year struggle to get a local publican to not sell liquor to Anangu people. The NPY Women’s Council now boasts a membership of 3,000 and is a powerful political and cultural voice. The documentary shows the women choosing and preparing a song for the opening of the 2000 Olympic Games and the cultural protocols that had to be observed before a song and dance could be chosen, as well as implementing projects within Anangu communities. This documentary is important for showing the proactive ambition of grass roots Indigenous peoples in contesting the afflictions ailing their own communities, and for challenging any prevailing views that Aboriginal communities like these are dependent upon outside bureaucracy to deal with their physical, cultural, spiritual and emotional ailments.
Notes by Romaine Moreton
This clip focuses on two women’s recollections of a protest march by Anangu women to the Curtin Springs roadhouse in the Northern Territory in 1990. The protest was against the selling of alcohol. As the women drive along the road where the march took place, they discuss the road’s history of alcohol-related fatalities. There is footage from 1990 of the march, the speeches and the women’s petition to the publican to stop selling alcohol to Indigenous people. The clip includes singing, local language and subtitles.
Educational value points
- The clip celebrates and documents the role played by, and the successful action of, the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council in banning the sale of alcohol by the Curtin Springs roadhouse to Anangu communities. Located near Mount Conner, or Artula, in the NT the roadhouse had been a focus of their protest for ten years.
- The women’s political actions to protect their communities from alcohol abuse is epitomised by the powerful image of them blocking the road as they march in procession, singing and waving branches. They are shown making speeches and presenting a letter to the publican. The film from which the clip is taken reflects other aspects of their political activism as it celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the NPY Women’s Council.
- The women in the clip talk about the grief and suffering and the social and physical consequences that result from alcohol abuse in Anangu communities. These deeply felt concerns are shared by many Indigenous people who have declared communities dry, rationed alcohol supplies at local premises and established night patrols, sobering-up centres and public awareness campaigns.
- Highlighted in the clip is the effective role of women in Anangu communities. All participants depicted in the protest are women and the speakers portray women’s concerns. Their actions led to the Racial Discrimination Commissioner allowing restrictions of the sale of alcohol to Indigenous communities near Curtin Springs in 1996 and 1998. This has led to documented improvements in health outcomes and public order for the communities concerned.
- The clip combines contemporary footage of women who were part of the 1990 march with archival film of the march to reflect on the protest actions. The footage of the march is edited to show the women’s strength and is contrasted with scenes of indifference and reluctance such as tourist vans arriving at the roadhouse, a police car with its doors left open and children sitting idly, and of the publican who, with upraised finger, only accepts the letter on condition that he can speak.
- The clip depicts Anangu women combining Anangu and non-Anangu ways of expressing their views. Their singing includes traditional songs. The Anangu woman in the car is shown as bilingual, understanding English but speaking in her own language. In the 1990 footage, the Anangu women who speak in protest address the Curtin Springs crowd in English, which is not their first language.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This clip starts approximately 33 minutes into the documentary.
The women are driving down the highway.
Council Spokesperson It was really sad for everyone, eh?
Aboriginal woman (Translation) Yes, so many Anangu died along this road. We protested against Curtin Springs for years. We just had to keep voicing loudly our extreme grief even though our spirits were exhausted. We persisted in speaking out against the publican’s stubborn attitude and continued sale of alcohol.
Council Spokesperson I know, every time I drive down here I think about this when we had the big march. It’s very powerful I thought. I’ll always remember that. When we come past here, we started about here and then marched in.
We see footage of women marching in Curtin Springs in 1990.
Aboriginal woman The women marched in along here. Singing as they marched in here. Then from here, they all went over there singing as they went along.
We see footage of Aboriginal women marching and singing.
Aboriginal woman And right up to there. Then we made that big statement and we all sat right here — so many of us. We gave them the letter. The letter was full of sadness. We wrote a really good letter for them to read and think about.
On the footage, an Aboriginal woman reads a letter aloud.
Aboriginal woman We are seeing our people die, get hurt, become sick and we are seeing our children with not much money for food and clothes. We are the women who suffer from all this grog. We are the ones who bear the burdens on this. Please listen to us. We hope you do for our families’ sake, for our communities, for our future. Thank you.
We return to the Aboriginal women reflecting on the march.
Aboriginal woman Ten years. For ten years Anangu people argued for it. Until the publican finally heard us.