Movies

Coniston

Synopsis

More than 80 years after the brutal slaughter of 100 or more Aboriginal people in Central Australia, survivors and their descendants tell their story in Coniston.

Known as “the Coniston Massacres”, the punitive expeditions that set out in August 1928 mowed down innocent people across the traditional lands of the Warlpiri people and their neighbours. The motive was to avenge the killing of dingo trapper Fred Brooks, who took liberties with the wife of a Warlpiri tribesman.

Using their acclaimed hybrid docu-drama approach to film-making (known as Bush Mechanics), the directors allow Aboriginal people to speak with authority about their own recent history and the deep shadow it has cast over their country.

For the first time a documentary shows the Aboriginal view. The interviewees are either survivors of the massacre or generations descended directly from massacre victims, and the power of the oral histories offered is potent.

Clearly the ensuing 80 years have involved much tribal discussion of what happened and why – and the apportionment of a share of the blame to Bullfrog, the Warlpiri man who murdered dingo-trapper Fred Brooks for stealing his wife, was pretty universal.

Just 31 'justified' deaths were recorded at the hands of the retributive parties lead by Constable Murray. At least a hundred is the Warlpiri estimate including women and children.

Coniston trailer

We can't go back there. Too many spirits there. — Survivors explaining why they cannot return to the massacre site.

Details

Cast
Elijah Japanangka Jones - Bullfrog
Fiona Nungarrayi Kitson - Napurrurla (Bullfrog's wife)
David Field - Fred Brooks
Release dates
June 11, 2012 - World premiere at Sydney Film Festival
Awards
Elijah Japanangka Jones - Best Acting Award - 2012 Remote Indigenous Media Festival, Djarindjin, WA
Rating
MA 15+ - Mature accompanied
Distributor
ABC
Notes

Website and trailer: coniston.pawmedia.com.au

Coniston was made because the Warlpiri wanted the story to be told. They didn't have this opportunity in court as not one Aboriginal person was called as a witness in the inquiry that followed the massacre.

Survivors or their descendants interviewed in this film:

Francis Kelly, Jack Cook, Harry Jones, Henry Cook, Fiona Kitson, Dinny Nolan, Coral Gallagher, Harry Nelson, Tommy Thompson, Ned Kelly, Myrtle Dixon, Audrey Rankine, Dora Kitson, Johnny Nelson.

The Coniston massacre is sometimes referred to as the "last massacre".

In 2008 traditional owners and affected families met the grand-daughter of Constable Murray at Yukurru where she gave an apology.

Research into Coniston covered a huge area to make sure everyone who wanted to contribute had been invited.

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Coniston, <https://www.creativespirits.info/resources/movies/coniston>, retrieved 26 June 2019

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