At the Government Well Aboriginal Reserve, during a depression, the Millimura family, an Aboriginal family, is trying to scrape by on limited government rations. The family consists of Gran, the matriarch, her son, Jimmy, daughter Milly, Milly's husband, Sam, and their three children: Joe, David, and Cissie.
Jimmy, the most outspoken of the Millimura clan, is often imprisoned for public drunkenness, and often speaks out against the white men who claim to be helping the Aborigines. Each member of the family struggles with the poor conditions on the Reserve. We are also introduced to the white bureaucrats who preside over the Aborigines, including Neville and Sergeant Carrol, who are more interested in their professional development than the well-being of their charges. As part of a plot to win an upcoming election, Carrol and Neville devise to relocate the Aborigines to the Moore River Native Settlement against their will, falsely claiming that the move is due to a scabies outbreak.
The Moore River Reserve is headed by the corrupt Mr. Neal, who regularly rapes Aborigine girls, and Matron Neal, the head of the hospital. At Moore River, Joe falls in love with Mary, another Aborigine at the settlement. When she gets pregnant, they run away back to Northam, but are soon apprehended by Carrol. They send Mary back to the settlement and Joe gets imprisoned for his attempted escape.
Back at Moore River, Neal tries to force himself on Mary, but she resists, and he whips her. She doesn't have to work at the hospital, and Neal is afraid of her. Eventually, she has her baby at the Millimura camp. When Joe is released from jail, he returns and meets his son, whom he decides to name "Jimmy" after his uncle, who died from a heart attack while calling out the injustice at the reservation on Australia Day. Joe, Mary, and little Jimmy leave Moore River at the end of the play.