We of the Never Never (1982)




Director:  Igor Auzins

Starring:   Angela Punch McGregor (Jeannine Gunn),  Arthur Dignam (Aeneas Gunn),  Martin Vaughan (Dan),  Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Jack),  John Jarratt (Dandy),  Tony Barry (Mac),  Tommy Lewis (Jackaroo),  Donald Blitner (Goggle Eye),  Mawuyul Yanthalawuy (Rosie), Cecil Parkee (Cheon),  Sibina Willy (Bett Bett),  Tex Morton (Landlord),  Kim Chiu Kok (Sam Lee),  Brian Granrott (Neaves),  Danny Adcock (Brown).

Aeneas Gunn, the first white woman ever to journey into the Australian Outback 



Mrs. Aeneas Gunn (Jeannine Gunn), the first white woman to journey into the Australian Outback.  She has to fight against sexist attitudes as she helps her husband on the station where they lived.  Also presented are early Australian views of the Aborigines.   

Very good movie.  Mrs. Gunn has her work cut out for her for she faces many hurtles in the Outback.  One hurtle is that she is a city girl with little or no knowledge of the ways of the Australian Outback.  Another is that she knows nothing of the ways of the Aborigines.  But even more powerful hurtles are those of sexism and racism. 

The men of the Outback are terribly prejudiced against women settlers.  As soon as the ranch hands learn that the boss is coming with his new wife, a few say they will quit once she arrives.  After all, she'll be sticking her nose into places it doesn't belong.  And her husband, Aeneas Gunn (Arthur Dignam),  isn't that much more enlightened, for he wants to get along with the men more than he wants to please his wife. 

Mrs. Gunn is discouraged by the attitudes of the men, including her husband, but she fights to overcome the prejudice and eventually makes some real progress.  But then, when she is free to do more things without arousing the prejudice of the men, her work with the Aborigines stirs up racial prejudice among the ranch hands.  And yet she still persists.

I enjoyed the movie.  The struggle against great odds and obstacles by Mrs. Gunn for respect and freedom, not only for herself but also for the Aborigines, is an inspiring one. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) for background on the Aborigines.


Australia 's Outback covers more than three-quarters of the continent of Australia (2.2 million square miles of land), about the size of the forty-eight mainland U.S. states.  The Outback is much more than desert (because it even includes rain forest), but most think of dry, infertile land when we think of the Outback.  

"The Never-Never" refers to the remoter parts of the Australian outback.  The terms comes from the saying that once the land gets its hooks into you, you will never, never leave it. 

Mataranka is a community in Australia's Northern Territory, about 260 miles southeast of the territorial capital, Darwin.  (It is also 66 miles south of Katherine.)  Near the town of Mataranka is Mataranka Hot Springs, the 1902 place where Jeannie Gunn lived with her husband, Aeneas Gunn, until his death.  (The homestead has been reconstructed near the hot springs.)

1870 (June 5) Jeannie Taylor born in Melbourne, Victoria, the second youngest of six children.

She was educated privately by her mother.

1887 at age 17, she matriculated at the University of Melbourne. 1888 with her sisters, she opened a private school in their home in Hawthorn.

1896 the school close when one of her sisters married. Ms. Taylor then became a visiting teacher educating students in gymnastics and elocution.

1901 Ms. Taylor married Aeneas James Gunn. He wasa partner in Elsey, a cattle station on the Roper River. They moved out there. Her husband worked as the station manager.

Mrs. Gunn was the victim of a bit of sexism in the Outback. But she did well, impressing the men were her good humor and fine horsemanship. As if sexism was not enough, she battled racism also. She had a great sympathy and affection for the Aborigines.

1903 Mr. Gunn died of malarial dysentery. Mrs. Gunn returned to Melbourne.

1905 she published The Little Black Princess dealing with an Aboriginal girl named Bett-Bett who she had met back at Elsey.

1908 she published We of the Never Never. It became a classic in Australia.

During World War I and after Gunn did welfare work for the soldiers and their families, especially in Monbulk. She referred to the men as "my boys".

1925 she became patron for the Monbulk diggers T B Sailors and Soldiers Assistance Relief Fund.

1939 she received an OBE "in recognition of her services to Australian Literature and to disabled soldiers and their dependents."

1948 Gunn began a manuscript that was finally published in 2000. It was called My Boys - A Book of Remembrance and dealt with the military service of the men from Monbulk in the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion and World War I.

1953 she presented the manuscript to the Monbulk RSL.

1961 (June 9) Gunn died four days after celebrating her 91st birthday.



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