Message from Mungo: Discussion & Film Screening

Lake Mungo is an ancient Pleistocene lake-bed in south-western New South Wales, and is one of the world’s richest archaeological sites. Message from Mungo focuses on the interface over the last 40 years between the scientists on one hand, and, on the other, the Indigenous communities who identify with the land and with the human remains revealed at the site. This interface has often been deeply troubled and contentious, but within the conflict and its gradual resolution lies a moving story of the progressive empowerment of the traditional custodians of the area.

The film tells a new story that has not been represented in print or film before, and is told entirely by actual participants from both the science and Indigenous perspectives. The story focuses on one particular archaeological find â€" the human remains known generally as ‘Mungo Lady’. The remains were the subject of international academic excitement and debate: claims were made that the remains were as much as 40,000 years old or even older. Lake Mungo became recognised as an archaeological site of world importance.

Through the 1970s and 80s, led by three remarkable Aboriginal women â€" Alice Kelly, Tibby Briar and Alice Bugmy â€" and encouraged by archaeologist Isabel McBryde, Aboriginal groups associated with Mungo began to question the work of the scientific community, and became increasingly involved in the management of archaeological work. In 1992, after much pressure from Indigenous groups, the remains of Mungo Lady were handed back to the Indigenous custodians. This hand-back ceremony was a turning point in the relationship between scientists and the local tribal groups.
The film was made over an 8 year period and included extensive consultation with members of the Indigenous communities at Mungo, and is radically different in style and intent from any previous film about Mungo.

Drinks will be held between 5.30â€"6.30 pm in the upstairs foyer of the Roland Wilson Building after the event.

Ann McGrath is Professor of History and Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at ANU. This film’s research is directly related to her Australian Research Council funded project on Australia’s ancient pasts.

Andrew Pike is a film-maker and Managing Director of Ronin Films. A notable filmmaker, his career in film spans 40 years. He received an Order of Australia Medal for his services to the film industry and the community.

This seminar is free but seating is limited. Please RSVP to attend the event at Eventbrite by Tuesday 7 October.

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