MALCOLM Douglas is a tall,
gangly, bearded man with a passion for traveling about Australia,
particularly in Arnhem Land. In the 1960s he spend four years gadding
about, the results of which were a book and one of Australia's most
popular TV documentaries, Across the Top.
It took 17 years for him
to go back to Arnhem Land and the results of - his trek ("mixed
feelings of excitement and apprehension") can be seen in Return
to the Top, on (7) Saturday, xt 6.30 pm. To say that Douglas touches
on the Aboriginal way of life is an understatement. He gets right
in there amongst them, joins them on hunting trips, the making of
bark canoes, samples their foodstuffs and suffers the bites of those
creepy- crawlies which also claim the area as their own.
an adventure is complete, Malcolm Douglas claims these Aboriginal
folk as his friends. They enjoy his photographs from his previous
visit and the stories of the outside world, although they have already
seen some of white man's destruction in the name of progress.
to the Top is magnificently photographed; a blaze of colour from start
to finish. What makes it all so interesting is that Douglas crams
so much into the program's 60 minutes, and we learn so much from it,
particularly about the Aboriginal way of life. He shows us how a water-bed
of giant lillies serves as food not unlike sugar-cane and how the
umbrella-shaped leaves can be used for sun-hats. We see the Aboriginal women making cycad loaves and cooking them in paper-bark ovens;
the arduous task of bark canoe making; gathering honey from a wild
bee hive; the search for tortoises which dig underground in the drying
swamps to escape the dry season; an Aboriginal preparing a "dream"
painting; and the cooking of a kangaroo in an antbed oven.
time we realise that Malcolm Douglas knows all about outback survival
and that the area is dear to his heart. However, what makes
one miserable is the thought that the peaceful land he is enjoying
is so far out of reach.