At the beginning of the movie, Charlie goes to a white administrator working in the Aboriginal community and asks him to get Charlie a house. The man refuses to help Charlie attain a shelter any better than the one he already has. In this line, Charlie points out the hypocrisy and injustice of a white man having both a job and a house on Charlie's land while Charlie himself has neither.
“So now I’m the foreigner, am I?”
While in the hospital, Charlie receives a visit from a doctor who asks if he can just call him Charlie instead of his legal Aboriginal name, because he has “difficulty pronouncing foreign names.” Charlie delivers this line in Yolngu Matha, his native language. The line is significant because it highlights how the white doctor embodies a naive colonial perspective that leads him to see Charlie as foreign, forgetting that his white ancestors colonized Charlie's land.
"I want to go home now. Back to my own country. Where my place is."
After learning from his parole officer that he’ll be banned from buying alcohol or associating with other banned drinkers upon release, Charlie returns to his cell. He stands awake after lights out and looks through his cell bars. As soon as he delivers this line, the scene fades to landscape shots and then to Charlie sitting before his fire, back in the community. The line is significant because it shows how Charlie has lost the urge to rebel by breaking drinking laws and living apart from his community. He longs to return, where life is still difficult, but is enriched at least by proximity to his people and his land.
“You come from far away and bring us alcohol, ganja, tobacco…all bad!”
As he passes the police station in his community, Charlie shouts in his native language, Yolngu Matha, "You come from far away and bring us alcohol, ganja, tobacco…all bad!" The line is significant because it reveals how Charlie harbors anger and frustration against the white settlers, whom he associates with addictive substances that have exacerbated health and social problems for Aboriginal Australians. By speaking in his language, Charlie can air his grievance without risking a police reprisal.
"You white bastard."
"You black bastard."
After shouting at the police station in Yolngu Matha, Charlie feigns friendliness to Officer Luke by wishing him a good day (g'day). Cheekily, Charlie adds "you white bastard" and Luke follows suit. The exchange is significant because it demonstrates the mix of hostility and civility that arises when a white colonial police force oversees what is meant to be a self-governed Aboriginal settlement. Rather than pretend that this dynamic doesn't exist, both men kindly speak their prejudices aloud, as if venting can neutralize antipathies.
“It’s like a natural supermarket out there.”
While sitting before his fire with Old Lulu, Charlie asks if he has anything to eat, having no money left. Lulu says there is lots of food in the bush, referring to it as "a natural supermarket." The line is significant because it inspires Charlie to try to reconnect with tradition by hunting for wild food rather than eating the "white man junk food" that makes his people sick.
“Damn, you blackfellas are smart when you wanna be.”
When the police need Charlie's help tracking the drug dealers in the bush, Charlie makes a show of pretending to examine tire tracks, examining the road closely. He impresses the officers by telling them the exact time—ten in the morning the day before—when the dealers stopped and turned left at a fork in the road. One of the white officers shakes his head in disbelief and delivers this line, a would-be compliment shrouded in racist condescension. The line is significant because of the dramatic irony of the moment: the white officer has no idea just how smart Charlie is, as he is playing both the police and the dealers off of each other, assisting both but having allegiance to neither.
"Good tucker. Our food."
When looking for sustenance in the bush, Charlie finds a small root vegetable. He roasts it on the embers of his fire and delivers this line, "tucker" meaning food in Australian English. The moment is significant because it shows Charlie's sincere attempt at reconnecting with his culture through the "bush tucker" his ancestors survived on prior to the colonial imposition of unhealthy processed foods on his people.
“I trusted you, you useless black bastard.”
After days of drinking and sleeping rough with a group of unhoused Aboriginal people, Charlie receives an unexpected visit from Officer Luke. As Luke's police car approaches the encampment and people scatter, Charlie smashes the cruiser’s windshield with a shovel. Luke delivers this line while punching Charlie in the stomach repeatedly. The line is significant because it reveals the racial prejudice Luke has harbored against Charlie throughout the film, despite the polite demeanor he displays.
“Fuck this… we have to go home.”
While in the Darwin hospital, Charlie strolls through the corridors, attached to his IV drip, until he finds the elderly man with kidney trouble who was earlier seen airlifted out of the community. Charlie holds the man’s hands and sits beside him. Charlie says, "Fuck this… we have to go home" while weeping for the man. He grieves over the issue of Aboriginal people having to leave their under-served community for medical attention and ending up dying alone. The moment is significant because it prompts Charlie to remove his IV and leave the hospital before he is officially discharged.
Charlie’s Country Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Charlie’s Country is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.