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Kim Weinert
Griffith University

Early representation of First Australians on film has always been framed by a colonial trope. Notwithstanding how wrongly perceived and portrayed First Australians were in early Australian cinema the overreaching effect of these binary social images also meant that their authentic voice was never really heard either on film and/or in Australian society. Weiner Herzog’s film Where the Green Ants Dream(1984) attempted to reverse this social image through the telling of Indigenous land rights. The film takes its narrative from Australia’s first land rights case of Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd.[1] Mediating upon the injustice of loss the film reveals how the law was ill equipped to recognise the asymmetrical voice of First Australians in order to develop the abstract notion of Indigenous ownership. Borrowing from Hart’s thesis of hard cases and his open text concept this paper will argue that the film’s critical telling of the shortcomings of legal formalism is also a reflection of the quality of Australia’s liberal democracy. Central to this argument is the idea that the voice of the First Australians only has meaning in nature, and the agent responsible in communicating nature’s utterance will be a task that is forever tied to and constrained by linear institutional discourse. In yielding this argument this presentation will first briefly outline the film’s plot and provide a critical analysis of the film’s court scene through Hart’s open text concept.

Kim is currently a PhD candidate at Griffith University under the supervision of Professor Kieran Trantor and Dr Karen Crawley. Kim’s PhD examines the freedom of speech in Australian film from the 1970s to 2000s. Kim works for the University of the South Pacific and has published in the area of not-for-profit law.

[1] (1971) 17 FLR 141 (theMilirrpum case).


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