Sergeant Carroll intercepts Joe and Mary as they walk down the street in Northam. He doesn’t understand why Joe is back in town. Joe asks why the Sergeant burned everything. The Sergeant says he was “simply following orders.”
The destruction of Government Well has a personal impact on Joe and his family, but for the Sergeant it is simply government policy. Joe sees it as a racist dismissal of the needs of the Aboriginal community, while the Sergeant sees it as his job.
Joe wants to pick up rations, but the Sergeant says that, since the entire Aboriginal community has “shifted out,” Northam no longer gives out rations. Joe complains he was not shifted but “booted out.” He asks about the horses, and the Sergeant says they were shot or claimed by white farmers. The Sergeant tells Joe he doesn’t care where he camps as long as he isn’t at Government Well. Joe spitefully points out that he couldn’t if he wanted to, and leaves with Mary.
The government’s eviction of the Aboriginal population is a kind of systemic, colonial violence, but the townsfolk’s claiming of the Aboriginal’s horses is an example of personal greed and bigotry that prevents these men and women from seeing the horses as the property of the Aboriginal community.