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Aboriginal man's story of nuclear bomb survival told with virtual reality -

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HAYDEN COOPER, PRESENTER: Finally tonight, the story of Aboriginal elder Nyarri Morgan provides a compelling glimpse into the clash of cultures in 20th century Australia.

Nyarri's first contact with white people came in the 1950s, when hunting in the South Australian desert. He witnessed first-hand an atomic bomb test at Maralinga.

He managed to survive into old age and now, with the help of state-of-the-art technology, he's sharing his story through a film called 'Collisions'.

Alex Mann reports.

(Footage of people wearing virtual reality headsets. Lynette Wallworth places headphones on the ears of a girl wearing headset)



LYNETTE WALLWORTH: Can you see all around?



ALEX MANN, REPORTER: Through the use of 3D video technology, this small group is being transported through time and space and immersed in the story of Aboriginal elder Nyarri Morgan.

(Excerpt from 'Collisions'. Nyarri Morgan sings in Martu)

NARRATOR 1: This is Nyarri Morgan welcoming you to his home.

LYNETTE WALLWORTH: You put on the headset and you are transported to the Pilbara, where Nyarri is and lives with his family. It's 2,000 kilometres north-east of Perth.

And you feel yourself to be in that country and to hear the story as he is telling it to you. So you sense is that, for a short period of time, you're there with him.

(Excerpt from 'Collisions')


(Nyarri Morgan and his wife speak in Martu)

NARRATOR 1: Nyarri says, "Welcome. You have come from a long way away."

LYNETTE WALLWORTH': 'Collisions' is about Nyarri Morgan's experience in the 1950s of walking through the desert and seeing, with no context, an atomic test. And his interpretation of what that was is really the heart of the film.

(Excerpt from Australian newsreel)

NARRATOR (newsreel, 1956): Recently the eyes of the world were on this tiny settlement: for here was the site of an experiment with man's most revolutionary discovery: the atom bomb.

ALEX MANN: Nyarri was a witness when British scientists carried out nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s and early 1960s.

(Footage of atomic explosion, Maralinga)

LYNETTE WALLWORTH: It happened in a desert that people assumed there were very few people, there was not much life and not much to be lost. Every one of those assumptions was wrong.

ALEX MANN: As the radioactive dust fell, a young Nyarri Morgan walked an ancient trade route at the edge of the test site. His first contact with whites was still years away.

He had no idea of what he was witnessing.

(Nyarri Morgan speaks in Martu)

NYARRI MORGAN (translation): After the explosion, the fallout went north. Powder, white powder killed a lot of kangaroos. Spinifex, water was on fire. That's what we saw. We drank the water, even though it was still hot. The water died. It became hot. But we had to drink it anyway.

LYNETTE WALLWORTH: He said, "We thought it was the spirit of our gods rising up to speak with us. And then we saw the spirit had made all the kangaroos fall down on the ground as a gift to us of easy hunting. So we took those kangaroos and we ate them. And people were sick. And then the spirit left."

ALEX MANN: Nyarri's incredible story is told using 16 GoPro cameras on a custom-made mount and drones to create a 360-degree view of his world.

LYNETTE WALLWORTH: In virtual reality everything becomes personal. You're present. You're not standing outside or sitting outside the film. You're actually inside the world that is being shown to you.

So that meant that I would be able to place you exactly where Nyarri stood; and that you could see what he saw.

(Excerpt from 'Collisions')

NARRATOR 2: Nyarri was hunting in nearby country, 65 years ago: the day he saw his vision.

The day our world collided with his.

(Footage of Kaurna ceremony at Art Gallery of South Australia)

ALEX MANN: This week Nyarri travelled to Adelaide to the Art Gallery of South Australia, where the local Kaurna people welcomed him to their country.

KAURNA DIDJERIDU PLAYER: From this knowledge now and this sharing, it can only make future generations stronger in sharing together to change this country and change this place for all of us.

NYARRI MORGAN: Thank you very much. It's good. Everybody. Well done.

LYNETTE WALLWORTH: I think he's waited his whole life to be able to share this story. He said today, when he is gone, his story will exist in those young people's minds. I think that's a really big deal, because the loss of the story is a loss of us understanding our own country.

(Excerpt from 'Collisions')

NARRATOR 2: There is what we do not know. And then there is what we come to know.

HAYDEN COOPER: Alex Mann with that report.