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Manslaughter

Rupert Murdoch's assertion in response to the Select Committee's report that the people he met in the desert were all happy and well fed prompted William Grayden to organise a return party to the Warburton Ranges area, this time with a movie camera. Pastor Doug Nicholls from Victoria was invited to join the group which set out in February 1957 to film these desert nomads.

Nicholls was a member of an expedition to the Warburton Ranges which came across some severely malnourished groups with some people too weak to keep up with the group.
Pastor Doug Nicholls distributes food to a malnourished group, February 1957
Nicholls was a member of an expedition to the Warburton Ranges which came across some severely malnourished groups with some people too weak to keep up with the group.
Source: William Grayden, Adam and Atoms, Daniels, Perth, 19577

The film, later called Manslaughter when it was shown on television, was hastily processed in Perth and shown to horrified audiences. It showed stick-limbed children with the swollen bellies of malnutrition, babies sucking frantically at empty breasts and toddlers too weak or lethargic to brush away the hundreds of flies feeding at their eyes.

The film was screened in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney as well as in country towns. It was shown to politicians in Parliament House, to community groups such as the Kings Cross Film Club, and in the Sydney Town Hall. Many white Australians were shocked by what they saw. Outraged, they wrote to the Prime Minister, insisting that the Commonwealth government take action.

Page 1 of 2 One of many reactions to the filming of the Warburton Ranges film, under the title <em>Manslaughter</em>, on channel GTV 9.

Letter signed by voters in Prime Minister Menzies' electorate, 14 April 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on Letter signed by voters in Prime Minister Menzies' electorate, 14 April 1957

Page 1 of 2 Following the telecast of the Warburton Ranges film under the title <em>Manslaughter</em>, shocked viewers wrote letters such as this one to the Prime Minister and to their local members.

Letter to Prime Minister Menzies from a shocked voter, 14 April 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on Letter to Prime Minister Menzies from a shocked voter, 14 April 1957

One of many examples of letters from organisations and individuals asking the Commonwealth government to respond to nomadic Aboriginal people suffering from malnutrition in the desert.

Letter from Kings Cross Film Club to Prime Minister Menzies, 3 September 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on Letter from Kings Cross Film Club to Prime Minister Menzies, 3 September 1957

Organisations such as the Australian Natives' Association, as well as individuals, wrote letters to the Commonwealth government expressing their concern for the people still living nomadically in the Warburton Ranges.

Australian Natives' Association to Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, 24 January 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on Australian Natives' Association to Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, 24 January 1957

Page 1 of 2 One of many examples of individuals expressing their concern to the Prime Minister after seeing the film <em>Manslaughter</em>.

A voter writes in disgust to Prime Minister Menzies, 2 May 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on A voter writes in disgust to Prime Minister Menzies, 2 May 1957

A Melbourne suburban newspaper challenged readers: 'READ THIS AND THEN SEE IF YOU'RE STILL PROUD TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN. IF YOU'RE NOT DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT'.

'READ THIS AND THEN SEE IF YOU'RE STILL PROUD TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN. IF YOU'RE NOT, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT', the paper editorialised.

The Mercury described the Warburton Ranges film as 'the most horrible film made in Australia'

Source: Mercury, Melbourne, 28 March 1957

More info on The Mercury described the Warburton Ranges film as 'the most horrible film made in Australia'

Responses from the Prime Minister's Department emphasised state governments' responsibility for Aboriginal welfare.

Page 1 of 2 This is one of many examples of letters responding to citizen concern.

Acting Prime Minister replies to letter from Prime Minister Menzies' constituents, 13 June 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

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Page 1 of 2 Public servants were kept busy replying to letters from organisations and individuals.

Prime Minister's Department to Kings Cross Film Club, 23 September 1957

Source: A452, 1957/245, National Archives of Australia, Canberra

More info on Prime Minister's Department to Kings Cross Film Club, 23 September 1957

Members of the public, however, rejected this response from the federal government. The Women's Christian Temperance Union put out a pamphlet, Analysis of Mr Rupert Murdoch's Article on the West Australian Natives, which refuted the statements made by Murdoch. This was widely distributed.

Page 1 of 6 This leaflet was produced by the Women's Christian Temperance Union to refute Rupert Murdoch's misrepresentation of conditions in the Warburton Ranges in 1957 which was published in his newspaper.

Analysis of Rupert Murdoch's article denying starvation in the desert, February 1957

Source: Box 82, Vroland Papers, MS 11749, State Library of Victoria

More info on Analysis of Rupert Murdoch's article denying starvation in the desert, February 1957

Meetings were held to discuss community action, a 'Save the Aborigines Committee' was established in Melbourne, and 800 pounds were raised in Melbourne alone to assist West Australian natives.

This meeting marked a step forward in stimulating a community conscience over the plight of Aboriginal nomads whose lives were made more difficult by incursions into the desert such as weapons' testing and mining in the 1950s.

Save the Aborigines Committee plans to help Warburton Ranges people

Source: The Age, 6 February 1957

More info on Save the Aborigines Committee plans to help Warburton Ranges people

Further resources

Doug Nicholls
Women's Christian Temperance Union



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