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Police Trackers – In Film

The Documentary Last Trackers of the Outback (Trailer) was produced in 2007. It details Tracker Teddy Egan Jangala tracking down another master tracker Billy Benn following a murder in 1963. Other Trackers such as George Musgrave, Tommy George, Mitjili Gibson are featured as well as a modern day demonstration by John Daly along with forensic examination by NT Police Officer Kym Chilton. (frenchx.com) (IMDb)

The Last Trackers of the Outback

OUTLINE - © 2006 Amun-Ra Films Pty Ltd For 40,000 years indigenous trackers have led their clan on the paths of survival throughout Australia’s harsh lands. Thanks to their intimate knowledge of the bush, ability to read human prints and follow animal traces, trackers have always led hunts and had a central role in Aboriginal clans. By 1838, the police force in the State of Victoria had become aware of the skills of indigenous trackers and their instinctive understanding of human psychology. They therefore started using these trackers to catch escaped convicts and hunt criminals on the run. The 19th century ended with several hundred trackers employed by the colonial police force. After having played a major role in the arrests of famous bandits such as Ned Kelly, indigenous trackers were used at the beginning of the 20th century to help in the abductions of mixed-blood children. These children were sent to live in boarding schools or with white families. George and Tommy had both been born on an isolated cattle ranch of Cape York. They managed to escape being abducted. In their teenage years, they learned the art of tracking by riding horses behind lost cattle or by searching for friends lost in the bush’s forests and marshes. After a few years of such experiences, George was hired into Queensland’s police force. During his impressive career, he’s saved over 500 lives. At 74, he’s still being called on to find missing children or drug traffickers. In the 80s, near Cairns, a 6-year-old girl had disappeared in a mountainous area covered by rainforest. Despite lengthy, exhaustive searches carried out by several police units and a helicopter, the girl remained missing 9 days after her parents had lost sight of her. When all seemed hopeless, the police turned to George for help. It only took him 4 hours to find the girl in the most unexpected place. She was returned to her parents alive and well. One of the most memorable manhunts of all time that was led by an indigenous tracker named Teddy Egan Jangala. In 1964 another tracker, named Billy Benn*, murders a rival and escapes into the steep mountains of Central Australia. During his flight from justice, Billy shoots and seriously injures two police officers. For several days, numerous police squads—either on horseback or in 4x4s—try everything they can to catch this outlaw tracker but to no avail. Billy meticulously erases his footprints and every trace of himself. He even creates fake clues of the direction he’s going in to put his pursuers off track. Billy’s brilliant manoeuvres would’ve outsmarted the police if they hadn’t turned to Teddy. During a 13-day track filled with danger, Teddy intuits the best way to follow Billy’s true direction and leads the police right to him. How do indigenous trackers manage to locate someone in such huge territories—territories of thousands of square miles—when an army of policemen in 4x4s, often equipped with the latest technologies, fail? Do these trackers have a special sixth sense passed down from their ancestors? What is their remarkable link to the land? How will their intuitive knowledge continue on through a generation that’s being won over by city life? Today, there are only a handful of skilled indigenous trackers in Australia. The Queensland’s police now employ only one fulltime tracker, Barry Port, in the small town of Coen in Cape York. Barry and his colleagues watch over a territory as large as Switzerland. Numerous marijuana growers and drug traffickers operate in hidden parts of this area. George, Teddy and Barry are the last trackers to master their ancestral art of bonding people with the land. This gives them the uncanny ability to put themselves in the skin of the person they track. They’re able to follow a person by even the most indistinct traces left on the ground or surrounding nature. * Billy Benn went on to become a famous traditional artist and has had a book published about his life story. ABC story.

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