Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country Summary and Analysis of Part 2


At evening, on the edge of the restricted alcohol area, next to the liquor prohibition sign, Charlie and Pete enjoy beer with other Aboriginal locals. In the morning, Charlie is woken by Gaz, who says he needs to “camp” somewhere out of the way. Gaz is white. Charlie gets out and jumps in Gaz’s truck, driven by another white man. They look unfriendly and anxious.

While moving in the vehicle, Gaz lights a large cannabis joint, calling it “primo shit.” Charlie guides the men into an area, pointing them in a direction where they have to cross water. Charlie warns them of crocodiles to watch out for. In exchange for his information, the men sell Charlie a small bag of cannabis for fifty dollars.

Charlie gets out of the truck and walks back down the red dirt road, seeming satisfied. In the evening, he sits on the ground before his fire. Another man, Old Lulu, joins him, sitting and lighting a cigarette. Charlie asks if he has anything to eat. He has no money left and nothing to eat. He says he is hungry. Lulu says there is lots of food in the bush: “It’s like a natural supermarket out there.” He is balding and his hair is whiter than Charlie’s.

Lulu receives a phone call on his mobile. He answers affirmatively to whatever is being said. Lulu asks Charlie why he doesn’t answer his phone. He says he has no charge left. Lulu says Charlie has to teach the children how to dance in the traditional ways. Charlie says they go to school now, they don’t want to learn, but the man insists. Charlie calmly tells him to get Bobby to teach them. The man gets up, displeased.

It is morning. Charlie says “shit” and gets up and starts walking when he sees the police driving up. The cops pull up next to him and convince him to get in and help them track some white guys in town who they believe are trouble, and might be selling “ganja.”

Charlie is reluctant, but he gets in the car. He drives with the cops to a fork in the road. Charlie asks them to stop. Charlie gets out and looks at the tire tracks on the ground. Taking his time, Charlie pretends to inspect the road. He then says that the men came by there at ten the morning before, stopped, then turned left. One of the white officers shakes his head in disbelief and says, “Damn, you blackfellas are smart when you wanna be.”

Having taken the same route Charlie led the men on the day before, Charlie continues to pretend he is using Aboriginal tracking skills. He leads the cops to the spot where the criminals have camped. He then says he is leaving, taking a shortcut through the bush. The cops seemed confused. Charlie walks back to his shelter, laughing to himself.

At night, Pete sits with him and asks if he has anything to smoke. They laugh knowingly. Pete says the cops nearly caught him with his ganja, but didn’t. Pete comments on how the cops caught the white dealers before Pete ever paid them. They laugh about how fifty dollars was a ripoff anyway and it serves them right.

In the morning, a young man brings an elderly man to Charlie in a wheelchair and asks if Charlie can look after him. The young man walks away. Charlie says “He won’t go anywhere.” The two men sit in silence for a while. The man tells Charlie he is sick and that his kidneys are no good. Charlie says he knows. The sick man laughs. Charlie says it’s all the “white man junk food they eat.” The man say they take him to Darwin for treatment, and Charlie says then he’ll die in the wrong place, far away from his country. He says there will be no one there to look after him.

At the police station, Charlie is displeased to learn he is being charged for “recreational shooting.” Luke tells him he is lucky that he isn’t being charged with more offenses. Charlie says he didn’t know about the other offenses. Luke says it isn’t an excuse though.


With the introduction of Gaz, a white cannabis dealer, de Heer shows another example of how settler occupation in Australia exploits Aboriginals. Woken from sleep, Charlie is expected to help Gaz and another dealer find somewhere to “camp” in the bush, camp being code for hide out from the police. After exploiting Charlie’s nuanced understanding of the local geography to find a safe remote location, the dealers also exploit his addiction to cannabis by giving him a small bag of “ganja” on credit, expecting him to pay them fifty dollars when he can.

That night, Charlie laments his lack of food and money. Old Lulu, another elder in the community, suggests that the bush is a “natural supermarket,” a piece of advice that foreshadows Charlie’s eventual attempt to subsist alone in nature. Another instance of foreshadowing arises when Lulu asks Charlie to teach the children of the community how to dance in the traditional way. With the introduction of this new conflict, de Heer touches on the major theme of disappearing cultural practices. Charlie suggests that none of the children would care to learn, and insists that Bobby can teach them. Charlie’s resistance hints at the emotional baggage he carries around the subject.

To find the same criminals Charlie helped to hide out in the bush, the police make Charlie ride with them and track the tire marks in the dirt road. To not give away that he knows exactly where the men are, Charlie pretends to study the tire tracks closely. Having fun with it, he even says the exact time the men turned down the fork in the road. The police officer can’t quite believe Charlie’s skill, and condescendingly compliments Charlie’s intelligence. The moment presents an instance of humorous dramatic irony, as the audience knows Charlie is simply fooling the police into thinking he is using skills available only to Aboriginals familiar with the bush.

The irony continues when Charlie and Pete sit by the fire that night and discuss how the police arrested the white dealers. They rejoice over the fact that they won’t have to pay for their cannabis now that the men were arrested. They consider it only just and right that the men were arrested for charging such exploitative prices for their drugs. With this scene, de Heer shows how Charlie has allegiance to neither the dealers nor the police, seeing them both as nothing more than white settlers who exploit and intimidate Aboriginals.

De Heer touches on the theme of deteriorating health conditions when Charlie chats with the elderly wheelchair user. Charlie sees ongoing settler colonialism as to blame, believing the man’s kidney problems are the consequence of the “white man junk food” available to them. Charlie laments the idea of the man having to go to hospital in Darwin, the major city closest to their remote community. With a lack of funding for the outstation communities, health services are severely limited, and men like him have to be airlifted out for treatment. Charlie disapproves of how this dynamic results in elders from the community dying in isolation, far away from the people who truly care about them and look after them.