ANZAC Day is the one day of the year…

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year that many Australians show any genuine respect for Australian history. For the remaining 364 days, many remain ignorant, dismissive, racist, sexist and bigoted. These overtly patriotic Aussies access a deeply-hidden reverence on April 25 and demand that the remainder of the population display an equal amount of pride in the achievements of soldiers and the nation as a whole.

Respect Australian history!

Many Australians implore us all to respect the nation’s history on ANZAC Day during personal conversations, across social media, in the workplace and on the flagpole in front of their house. These same people exhibit very little interest in the stories of women, migrants and Aboriginal people and the part they played in the nation’s history. History for many Australians extends to accounts of WWI and WWII, the Gold Rush, Federation and the Explorers. The figures they credit with building the nation are Diggers (soldiers) farmers, sportspeople and Explorers – almost all of whom are Caucasian and male. All Australians recognise the part these people played in shaping the modern nation, but some realise that women, migrants and Aboriginal people also made a significant contribution to contemporary Australia, and deserve to be remembered.

The respectful mourners cling to the following tried and true phrases about the history of this nation:

Australia has no history

Proud, flag-waving patriots often bemoan the fact that Australia has no history. They perpetuate this idea with reference to the age-old cultures and structures of Europe or Asia and compare these to Australia’s comparative youth. There is one major flaw in this thinking; it completely dismisses the existence of Indigenous Australians, who continue the world’s oldest surviving culture.

It happened long ago, forget about it

When confronted with the truth of colonisation and the forceful dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, many Australians tell Aboriginal people that ‘it happened a long time ago’ and that everyone should ‘let it go’, ‘move on’ or ‘forget about it’. They issue the same response to stories of the Stolen Generation, The Aboriginal Day of Mourning’ and accounts of individual massacres of Aboriginal people across the nation. Interestingly, they refuse to forget about WWI even though that happened ‘a long time ago’.

They defend our way of life

We are told that Australia’s armed forces defend the nation. We are told that our armed services personnel ‘keep us safe’ and ‘protect our way of life’. The last time we were reminded of this our prime minister, Scott Morrison, even forced himself to cry for the cameras. Most of us believe these broad statements, out of patriotism or naivety. We fail to recognise that these statements are often used to justify support of the multi-million dollar defence industry, and to send young people to needless deaths. Armed forces play a part in defending the nation, but so do trade and diplomacy.

Did the ANZACS protect Australia?

ANZAC Day was created to recognise the sacrifices, hardships and deaths of soldiers in WWI, particularly in Gallipoli, Turkey. WWI never directly threatened Australia. Australians lost their lives protecting Great Britain. ANZAC Day also recognises Australia’s contribution to WWII, when we fought again for the British. Our own country was directly threatened in WWII when Japanese submarines entered Sydney harbour and their planes bombed Darwin. It is also argued that the fall of Singapore posed a subsequent threat to Australia, and that Australian soldiers suffered while defending the tiny nation. That said, most Australian armed forces personnel fought for Great Britain in WWII, in battles waged a long way from Australia. Did they protect Australia, or did they protect our relationship with our colonial masters?

Current ANZAC Day commemorations pay tribute to soldiers who have have worn the Australian uniform in any war, but all of these battles have occurred overseas, most often in service of The United States during their wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. The only extended battle that occurred on Australian soil was the battle between the British colonisers and Indigenous Australians, but the ANZAC Day commemorators don’t like to be reminded of this. They cling to another popular phrase associated with the history of the nation: Australia was settled, and not invaded.

Do Australians realise this historical truth, or are they too enamoured with the patriotism of ANZAC Day to accept the subtle and nuanced details of modern history?

The strength and depth of emotion prompted by ANZAC Day could be explained by a question:

What is Australian?

The problematic nature of Australian identity also explains the heightened reverence towards ANZAC Day. April 25 has become a quasi national day and surpassed January 26 in the minds of many Aussies, because Australia Day is problematic.

Many Australians continue to celebrate Australia Day with joy and pride, while Indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day. The day itself raises the difficult question of what it means to be Australian. Is an Australian an Indigenous person? Is an Australian a Caucasian soldier, farmer or athlete, or is an Australian a migrant who could have been born anywhere in the world? Is it all of the above?

For many Australians, this question is too difficult to answer, or even to consider, so they impose their patriotism on ANZAC Day. Some keen observers have tracked the increasing patriotism associated with ANZAC Day, and fear it could overshadow the remembrance of fallen soldiers, for whom the day was created.

Don’t criticise ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day is sacred. ANZAC Day is off limits. Even this article is likely to be met with scorn and criticised as unpatriotic or an insult to fallen soldiers – most likely by the same people who carry bumper stickers reading:

Australia, if you don’t like it, fuck off!

Any questioning of any aspect of ANZAC Day is interpreted as an attack on the memories of fallen soldiers and their surviving families. These reactive, emotional responses exemplify the blind reverence for April 25 among a section of the Australian population, who show little to no interest in nuanced and varied accounts of Australian history for the remainder of the year.

Should we ignore ANZAC Day?

No

Absolutely not.

This article is in no way intended to diminish the sacrifices of individual soldiers, civilians and their families. It is not intended to brush aside the sufferings and horrors of war. It is designed to remind people that historical perspective should be exercised every day of the year, not just when commemorating war. It is also designed to remind all Australians that patriotism is a vital component of ANZAC Day celebrations but it should not overshadow the original purpose of the day; to pay respect to individual soldiers, and to do everything possible to make sure war never happens again.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

Indigenous Australian movies.

Searching for a good movie? Forced into yet another COVID-19 lockdown, or looking to broaden your cinematic experience?

Why not watch some Indigenous Australian movies?

Movies featuring Indigenous Australian writers, actors, directors and stories depict the struggles of Australia’s first people. They include movies set in rural and remote communities, city centres, and stories from contemporary Australia, as well as life before colonisation. The list below includes various titles which tell the diverse experience of the world’s oldest surviving culture.

The Old

Jedda (1955)

Jedda is the first Australian feature film to be shot in colour and the first to star two Aboriginal actors, Robert Tudawali and Ngarla Kunoth, in lead roles. Jedda is born on a cattle station in the Northern Territory, and is given to the wife of the station boss when her mother dies. Jedda is forbidden from learning her own culture and from being with local indigenous man Marbuck. The film is also the first to compete for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or award.

We of the Never Never, Bitter Springs and Walkabout are older movies featuring stories of Aboriginal people. They recount issues of contact between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people, especially in outback regions of Australia. Many of these films show their age, and while they usually attempt to be sympathetic to Indigenous people, they do so from a non-Aboriginal perspective and sometimes perpetuate colonial assumptions.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Kenneally, the story is about an exploited Aboriginal man who commits murder and goes into hiding. It is inspired by the true story of Jimmy Governor, and involves a police chase through the Australian bush.

Where The Green Ants Dream (1984)

Miners v Aboriginal people. It’s an old story; one that is still being told. This movie explores the clash between a mining company and the Aboriginal landholders who fight to protect the site of the green ant dreaming. Stars Yolngu actors Wandjuk Marika and Roy Marika, whose own land in northern Australia was stolen by mining companies.

Tudawali (1988)

A movie about a movie – or more specifically, about the star of a movie. The film traces the life of Robert Tudawali who payed a lead role in the movie Jedda. Tudawali died from severe bruns at about 40 years of age, and lived between two worlds in Sydney and his humble home near Darwin. The film stars Ernie Dingo as the lead character, and examines the racism towards Aboriginal people in Australian society.

The Fringe Dwellers (1986)

A depiction of an Aboriginal family living on the fringes of Australian society, who try to move from the fringes into the mainstream.

Radiance (1993)

An examination of family. Three sisters are brought together by the death of their mother, and the reunion reveals family secrets. The movie helped launch the successful career of Deborah Mailman.

Blackfellas (1993)

An Aboriginal man is caught between his allegiance to his people and his aspirations to escape the cycle of self-destructive behaviour – a conundrum facing many Indigenous Australians to this day.

The Yolngu Collection

The Yolngu people live in North East Arnhem, in the tropical north of Australia. They retain much of their traditional culture, and share this via numerous movies:

Yolngu Boy (2001)

Yolngu Boy follows the lives of three boys from Yolngu land as they cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood, while they find their way as Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society.

Ten Canoes (2006)

Ten Canoes goes back in time. It is also set in North-East Arnhem Land, but is set in a time apart from colonisation. It tells a traditional story of a brother attempting to claim the youngest wife of his elder brother, and the consequences of that attempt. It is the first ever movie entirely filmed in Australian Aboriginal languages, and is partly in colour and partly in black and white, with a narrator explaining the story.

Manganinnie (1980)

Manganinnie is an Aboriginal woman who survives a Black Line raid which claims the life of her husband, Meenopeekameena. Following the raid, Manganinnie searches for her tribe with a lost white girl Joanna. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Beth Roberts, and even though it is set in Tasmania, it features a cast of predominantly Yolngu actors. The movie is also titled Darkening Flame.

High Ground (2020)

Set against the stunning landscapes of 1930s Arnhem Land, it follows young Aboriginal man Gutjuk, who teams up with ex-soldier Travis to track down Baywara – the most dangerous warrior in the Territory, who is also his uncle. Stars well-known Australian actors Simon Baker and Jack Thompson, as well as new faces like Jacob Junior Nayinggul

The new

Warwick Thornton films:

Thornton has emerged as one of the pre-eminent Australian film directors, and one of the most highly-acclaimed Indigenous directors.

Sweet Country (2017)

“I killed a white man,” says character Sam Kelly, an Aboriginal worker on a remote cattle station. The act of self-defense sets off a man hunt through the Australian desert and is filmed in the style of a western. The plot highlights the treatment of Indigenous Australians by Europeans.

Samson and Delilah (2009)

Thornton’s first well-known movie, it charts the very real experience of Indigenous teenagers Samson and Delilah, who escape their remote community and head to Alice Springs to try to create a better life. Deals with the confronting issues of glue sniffing and societal collapse in Aboriginal communities.

Popular films

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)

The story of the Stolen Generation. For many years, Aboriginal children were deliberately stolen from their families all over Australia, especially if they were of mixed ancestry. In this movie, three young girls follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, which runs for hundreds of kilometres across central Australia, to find their way back home after being stolen from their families. A depiction of a shameful period of Australia’s past, which many non-Aboriginal people still downplay or ignore.

Top End Wedding (2019)

A movie, or a promotion for Northern Territory tourism? It works as both. A visually stunning romantic comedy starring Miranda Tapsell, who plays a city-slicker with ten days to find her missing mother before she can marry. A cinematic tour of the Northern Territory, and an introduction to life on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

The Sapphires (2012)

An all-star cast. Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell and Aussie pop star Jessica Mauboy star in a movie about four young Aboriginal sisters from a remote mission who are plucked from obscurity to sing for American troops in Vietnam during the war. Another movie based on a true story.

Bran Nue Dae (2009)

The musical. Bran Nue Dae was adapted by Rachel Perkins from the stage show of the same name by, and it tells the story of the coming of age of an Indigenous teenager on a road trip in the late 1960s.

Diverse titles

Toomelah – 2011

The Tall Man – 2011

Beneath Clouds – 2002

One Night The Moon – 2001

Mabo – 2012

A film about the life of Eddie Mabo, famous for a legal challenge against the Australian government and the notion of Terra Nullius which has justified the theft of Aboriginal land since colonisation.

Contact – 2009

Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy – 1990

Goldstone – 2016

Bedevil – 1993

A ghost story. The film is the first feature directed by an Australian Aboriginal woman, Tracey Moffatt and it challenges racial stereotypes in Australian society. Moffat also directed he short film Nice Coloured Girls (1987)

The Tracker – 2002

In My Blood It Runs – 2019

Bush Mechanics – 2001

Not a movie, but a comedic documentary series with a cult following. The low-budget documentary series follows a group of young men from the community of Yuendumu in the desert of the Northern Territory, as they try to fix their beat up old cars with material from the bush. Did you know you could stuff spinifex into a tyre instead of an inner tube? Very funny, and educational.

Redfern Now (2012) is also not a film, but a TV series. It does, however, reveal the reality of life in Redfern, an inner-city suburb of Sydney home to a community of Aboriginal people. Written, produced and directed by Aboriginal people.

Many of these movies are realist drama. Many of them are not happy movies, because the experience of Aboriginal people in Australia is not happy. Many of the movies are confronting. Some feature well-known stars such as David Gulpilil and Deborah Mailman, while others showcase first-time or unknown cast members. They are all entertaining, and provide an insight into real life in Australia.

Where are they now?

Where are the actors who make these films? Are they successful, are they still performing? Yes and no. Famous faces like Ernie Dingo, David Gulpilil, Miranda Tapsell and Deborah Mailman continue to star in movies and TV series, while other actors, especially the children, seem to disappear from screens altogether.

Are the stories true?

In many cases yes. Some are direct recounts of lived experiences, some are based heavily on a real-life event. This fact alone highlights the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Australia since colonisation.

Where can I find them?

Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services carry these titles. Otherwise, just google them and you should find them somewhere.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Are you really surprised the British royal family is racist?

Harry and Meghan’s recent interview with Oprah Winfrey revealed shocking evidence of alleged racism within the British royal family. During the highly-anticipated re-branding exercise on US television, Meghan revealed that senior unnamed figures within the House of Windsor were deeply concerned that their child Archie would have dark skin. Furthermore, Archie’s complexion would apparently preclude him from certain privileges accorded other royal children.

Social media users and commentators were aghast at the revelation.

Are people genuinely surprised that such overt racism exists within the institution which drove the most wide-reaching colonisation of the modern era?

Racism is central to colonisation.

Britain took possession of more indigenous lands than any other European power. This is how English came to be the international language. Those lands were claimed in the name of the reigning King or Queen.

Terra Nullius

Terra Nullius is a salient example of manifested racism, and it was central to colonisation. Terra Nullius means ‘uninhabited land’, and this theory justified the invasion of many lands, including the nation now known as Australia. The premise of Terra Nullius is that the people who inhabited the lands when the British arrived were not people. Defining the original inhabitants in this way allowed the British to invade and steal land that they knew belonged to someone else.

Except the British knew they were people. They saw people in every land they reached. The British interacted with many of them, they established peaceful and constructive connections with some of them – initially. They knew they were people. However, their ingrained racial superiority and dismissal of the cultures of the indigenous people allowed them to plant the Union Jack on inhabited land throughout the world and to claim that land as their own.

In Australia, the Aboriginal people were classified as Flora and Fauna. Yes, people were relegated to the status of plants and animals, and the British royal family was entirely complicit in this action. It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal people were classified as humans, after non-Aboriginal Australians voted in favour of changing the classification during a referendum.

The British royal family encouraged, supported and funded the colonisation of other people’s lands in the South Pacific, South-Eastern Africa, the Caribbean, the sub-continent, South-East Asia and North America. Racism thrived in the royal family during the era of colonisation, and it thrives to this day, in the form of Prince Philip.

The ageing husband of the Queen, and Harry’s grandfather, is famous for his outrageously racist comments, such as:

“If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.” Said to a British student in China in 1986.

“You managed not to get eaten then?” Said to someone who had just hiked across Papua New Guinea.

“How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” Said to a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

“Do you still throw spears at each other?” The Prince to Aboriginal Elder William Brin in Queensland, 2002.

These comments cannot simply be dismissed as the ravings of an unbalanced old man, because he was quite young when he uttered some of them.

The British royal family has a long history of racism, and the justification it used to invade and colonise the lands of indigenous people throughout the world proves the existence of racism.

Harry, Meghan, Oprah and the rest of the world should not be surpirsed.

Senior figures within the royal family were apparently deeply concerned that Archie’s skin would be dark, but at least it proves that he is not inbred.

Who are the Black Heathens?

Residents of the mountain town of Blackheath are known as Blackheathans, but who were the Black Heathens?

Black Heathens are the original inhabitants of what is now called Blackheath. They are black, and they were heathens, and belonged to two main language groups; the Gundungurra and the Darug (Dharug, Daruk)

The small town lies in the Upper Blue Mountains about two hours west of Sydney, Australia, and is surrounded by bushland and national parks. It is famous for its annual Rhododendron festival and as a base for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and nature lovers.

The original inhabitants are black and they were heathens because they did not follow Christianity or another major religion. Most Aboriginal Australians became Christians because the church was complicit in the colonisation of the country.

Historical research reveals very little information about the original inhabitants, and this is due to historical bias and climate.

Australian history is extremely biased. Indigenous Australians have been ignored or stigmatised in official accounts since the 1700s, and stories of Blackheath are no different. Mountains of information detail the actions of explorers, governors, engineers and landowners and their role in establishing the town that exists today. In contrast, descriptions of the Gundungurra and Darug are very limited.

We discover that a site now known as Walls Cave is of significance to Aboriginal people. Researchers found a buried fireplace in the cave and dated it at about a thousand years old, and uncovered a buried hearth which is said to be approximately ten thousand years old.

The site is divided into areas for men and women. The area along the ridge is apparently a special zone for men, while women were responsible for the area closer to the water. At both sites, traditional knowledge was passed from one generation to the next.

Aboriginal people occupied the site because of its reliable water supply, abundance of food and plants and effective shelter. It is also a comparatively easy access point to what is now referred to as the Grose Valley to the east, and the Kanimbla and Megalong valleys to the west.

At the time of writing, the walking track to Walls Cave was closed due to flood damage.

Apart from the aforementioned references, Aboriginal people are only acknowledged to as a threat to explorers and workers on the roads and train lines that were built during the 1800s.

The climate is another reason for the scarcity of knowledge of the original inhabitants.

Blackheath sits at just over 1000m altitude and is famed for its relatively extreme weather. Numerous visitors who ventured west from Sydney referred to it as wind swept, icy, bleak, dismal and cold, and it is known colloquially as Bleakheath. For this reason, it is thought that the Darug and Gundungurra people spent more time in the valleys which lie below the escarpment and offer a more temperate climate.

The Gundungurra and the Darug are the Black Heathens and the original Blackheathans.