When a young aboriginal man is found hanging in a police cell, Senior Constable Ray Larkin (Bryan Brown) allows his own deputy (Lafe Charlton) to be speared as payback. The tiny settlement of Wala Wala is soon in uproar again when a young black man (Aaron Pedersen) is killed for desecrating a man’s ceremonial ground.
Larkin suspects the death was ordered by Poppy (Gnarnayarrahe Waitairie), a senior man who resents the policeman’s power. Larkin arrests Tjulpu (Djunawong Stanley Mirindo), a ‘bush black’ who speaks no English. In the pandemonium that follows, Lutheran pastor David (Ernie Dingo) is forced to choose sides, as a handful of white residents cower in their homes.