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When Malcolm’s shock death was announced in the newspapers, in many
reports he was described as the “barefoot bushman”. However, Valerie says
that this would have made him cross.
“There is no way that Malcolm would have ever walked around the
Kimberley without his boots. The only time that he would insist that people
take off their shoes was when he was in his boat. He didn’t want sand to
scratch the paintwork,” she explains.
Malcolm Douglas was born during the war years in 1941, and grew up with
his two brothers in Frankston, Victoria. He was born an animal-lover. As a
young boy, he collected lizards, snakes and goannas from the neighbouring
bush and swamp; and later when his family moved to the Pacific island of
Nauru, he developed strong ties with Indigenous culture and fishing.
At 23, he threw in his job as a stock and station agent in the Riverina,
and took off with a mate on what was meant to be a six-month trip around
Australia. Four years later, he returned with reels of film, which would
become his classic documentary Across the Top.
After years of being screened in scout halls and community centres,
Across the Top eventually made it on to commercial television, where it
was an instant success. It is this film, and the 50 more that followed, that
Valerie believes are his greatest legacy.
Much of his early footage, which features Indigenous culture, is now
locked away in the National Archives in Canberra and is considered an
invaluable record of a culture in transition from a traditional to a more
modern lifestyle. These films have also been recognised for their role in
raising awareness and appreciation for Aboriginal culture at a time when
Indigenous rights were not on the social agenda.
They were also responsible for bringing to the world’s attention the
beauty and unique qualities of the Kimberley landscape, and set in motion
not only the desire for Australians to see more of their own country, but also
interest from overseas travellers. Today, a steady stream of visitors flows into
Broome looking for that unique outback experience.
“It was one of Malcolm’s films that first drew the eyes of Australia to
the Bungle Bungles,” Valerie says. “At first, he was really worried about
the effects that tourism might have on such a fragile environment, but
BELOW Malcolm Douglas, a fishing expert, sets up a camp kitchen on a Kimberley
sandbar. LEFT Sir John Gorge in the beautiful Kimberley, the region closest to Malcolm’s
heart. OPPOSITE Malcolm enjoys a relaxing cuppa with a dingo pup for company.
An exclusive bush camp for a
spectacular wilderness experience
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Closer encounters with wildlife, remarkable
beauty, isolation and history all await, in
this unique slice of outback Australia.
Perched on a cliff top overlooking the
Timor Sea in WA’s remote North Kimberley
is Faraway Bay, The Bush Camp.
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