Filming: Sound recordist David Tranter, cinematographer Tim Alewood, director Danielle MacLean, and interviewee Kootji Raymond.

Christmas Eve this year will mark 40 years since Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin in 1974, killing 71 people and causing (in today’s terms) around AUD$4.45 billion worth of damage.

Documentary Blown Away, from producers James Bradley and Rachel Clements, and written and directed by Danielle MacLean, takes a fresh look at the night the cyclone hit and its devastating effects.

Though four decades have passed, Bradley still held some concerns on how the documentary would be received by a Darwin audience, and had the chance to find out when it was screened at the Darwin Entertainment Centre as part of the Darwin City Council’s their Cyclone Tracy 40th commemoration.

“It was thankfully received really well,” he tells IF. “The centre was packed. I was a bit nervous about that one, because there are some potentially controversial things in there, but the reception was actually very warm and very pleasing.”

The main things Bradley was concerned about in the documentary was the exploration of the death toll (officially at 71) and some of the points of view of Aboriginal interviewees.

“The official toll is 71, but there are conspiracy theories that the real death toll was covered up for various reasons. Mainly not to scare people off from living in Darwin,” he says. “But we do talk about the number and why it’s so low.

“Some people say body parts in the debris [were never found] because bulldozers were scooping up huge amounts of corrugated iron and timber and dumping it all in a swamp. Some people could find that a bit upsetting, and we were worried about that.”

Another controversial aspect is some of the testimonies from Aboriginal interviewees, of which there are many.

“Quite a few of the characters in the film are Aboriginal, and they talk about Aboriginal stories relating to the cyclone,” he says. “One of those is about Dareba Nungalinya, [otherwise known as] Old Man Rock, which was known as the protector spirit for the Larrakia people of Darwin.

“One of the stories states that the Larrakia people sung to Old Man Rock for the cyclone, so it would come and destroy Darwin because their pleas for land rights weren’t being answered.”

“That’s pretty controversial I think.

“Not necessarily all Larrakia people will believe that, but some do. It’s a complex situation because some also believe that Old Man Rock protected the people – so it’s kind of a mysterious connection.”

Blown Away will screen on ABC1 on 8.30pm on December 23. 

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  1. I’m a survivor of cyclone Tracey, I was 10 at the time but remember it like it was yesterday, the cyclone warning siren still brings goose bumps.
    When we were evacuated, my father, in the RAAF based in Darwin, remained to help in the clean up. Before leaving Darwin, to catch up with us, dad when the to my brother’ and my school to get our education records, we went to seperate schools (me, Ludmilla Primary, my brother Perap).
    At both schools, dad went to the gym where saw a lot more than 60 filled body bags at each school.
    Rolph Harris when the to Darwin to entertain the people who stayed behind. During his show, he told the people how many bodies had been found, the government told him to retract his statement otherwise they’d have him in court until he was bankrupt.
    One only has to look at the photos that were taken of the devestation and you would have to ask, if there were only 64 deaths then were did everyone else hide to survive……a lot didn’t and the number of deaths I know of is over 200.
    As recently as two years ago, my mum told a radio talk back, talking about the cyclone, about what happened, an army captain at the time cowoberated mums story so started asking questions. He was told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business.
    Houses were ripped apart like nothing yet they were supposed to have been cyclone rated, people payed to build them and accredit them as cyclone proof, steel rods that were supposed to hold the roof and floors together, running up through the walls….
    Conspiracy……just ask anyone who was there, if you weren’t there, what the hell would you know.

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