Australian Biography: Bill Harney


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2002, 26 Minutes

Bill Harney is a successful businessman and respected Aboriginal elder, who has made his way in both the white and black communities.

Bill was born in the Northern Territory in 1931 - a time when mixed race relationships were not accepted and many children were removed from Aboriginal families and communities through a government policy of enforced integration. He was raised by his Aboriginal mother in the traditions of her Wardaman people. His father was white. From his early years, he showed that he could prosper in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Lacking formal education but with determination, enthusiasm and hard work, Bill became a successful businessman. As a young teen, he practised reading English from the labels on canned foods and bottles. At 17, he was head stockman on a huge cattle station. Later, he established his own fencing and tourism businesses

But it is Aboriginal culture that has been the defining influence in Bill's life. A fully initiated Wardaman man and respected elder, Bill is a custodian of his people's stories, including the remarkable Lightning Brothers paintings - some of the world's most famous rock art.

In this interview, Bill recalls the hard school that is bush life. He introduces us to Wardaman culture and talks of the problems facing indigenous Australians and his hopes for the future. He also explains the importance of remaining connected to traditional ways and the land, and speaks with feeling and insight about surviving in two very different worlds - black and white.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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Director/Producer/Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2002

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Aboriginal Studies, Visual Arts, Legal Studies, History, Geography, SOSE/HSIE, Studies of Religion, English and Media Studies.


Land of the Lightning Brothers, The


SKU 199901902
Brand Film Australia

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