On Sunday night ABC1 screens Yagan, a documentary by WA Indigenous filmmaker Kelrick Martin on a key figure in the settlement of Western Australia, and the modern day journey to retrieve his remains from British authorities.
When Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling established Western Australia’s Swan River colony (later the city of Perth) in 1829, times were tough. Seed refused to grow, food was scarce and the initially good relations between British settlers and local Noongar people tragically spiralled out of control into a conflict over land and resources.
Standing out during this period were the actions of a Noongar warrior named Yagan. Confused by the actions of the settlers and refusing to submit to their strange British laws, Yagan fought back against the colonisers. Soon he was a wanted man.
Tricked into being captured, Yagan was on the cusp of execution when he was saved at the last minute by an enigmatic Scottish pastor named Robert Lyon.
Lyon was a firm advocate for the rights of the Noongar people during this clash of cultures. During Yagan’s exile to a remote island, he and Lyon formed a friendship and mutual respect. But a tragic set of circumstances quashed any chance of reconciliation and Yagan eventually paid the ultimate price.
180 years later, Noongar elders fought a long, drawn out battle to repatriate Yagan’s lost skull to Noongar country. It was a victory both celebrated and mourned. A powerful film merging past and present through historical recreations performed in modern Perth.
Sunday 6 October at 09:30pm on ABC1