Pacific Island players boycott the NRL and Super Rugby.

Players with Pacific Island heritage have boycotted the National Rugby League and Australian Super Rugby competitions to protest Australia’s inaction on climate change and the damage to the homes of their ancestors.

Players whose families come from Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have thrown the competitions into disarray and are refusing to play until the Australian government and the Australian people take real action to combat the disastrous effects of the climate crisis on low-lying islands.

“Pacific Island nations are under threat, and Australia is largely to blame” began a joint statement from the players. The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on island nations throughout the South Pacific. Rising sea levels carry saltwater into fresh water lakes and onto farms where crops are destroyed. Unpredictable seasons make farming more difficult and more severe weather causes human and economic damage throughout the region. Natural disasters are an increasing threat and entire nations could be underwater as sea levels continue to rise. Australia is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It has the highest per-capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, due largely to a dependence on the fossil fuel industry, land clearing and traditional agricultural practices. It is lagging in the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and incentives for household solar installation are being removed. Alternative transport is not being embraced, and new coal mines are being proposed, even on the fringes of world heritage listed national parks. “When this country starts acting at a day-to-day level and a national level to reverse the effects of the climate crisis, then we will return to the NRL and Super Rugby competitions.” The NRL and Australian Super Rugby teams have been left scrambling to find elite players since the shock announcement, as their teams rely heavily on talented players with Pasifika heritage. Both codes are desperately searching reserve grade teams, country teams and overseas competitions for players before fans, media networks and sponsors desert the codes. “The only people who are happy about this are commentators like Ray Warren who can’t pronounce our names, but otherwise it will decimate the sports at the elite level.” The players are adamant that this decision was not taken lightly. “We love our sports. We love the competition and know how lucky we are to make a living out of the game we love. We are sacrificing a lot personally with this boycott, but that is how serious and desperate the situation is in the countries where some of us were born, and where all of us have family.” The players will continue to play their respective sports, but not for their existing NRL or Super Rugby teams. “Most of the boys will keep playing at local club level, to stay sharp and fit. A lot of us are also thinking of playing in New Zealand, because the travel bubble just opened and at least the Kiwis are trying to do something to protect the environment. That means we can play for NZ-based Super Rugby teams, or for the New Zealand Warriors. Looks like the Warriors will finally win a premiership.” Indigenous Australian players have joined the move, as the farms and mines driving climate change sit on their land, and Aboriginal people witness the destruction first hand. The boycott of the NRL will also include the State of Origin competition. This means that NSW and Queensland will be without male players such as Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Xavier Coates, Jack Bird, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tyson Frizell, Junior Paulo, Jarome Luai, Jayden Su’A, Stephen Crichton, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Josh Papali’i.” Australia must now take decisive action to protect the natural environment, if it wants to see the best players competing in the NRL and Super Rugby competitions, as Pasifika players have promised to stand firm. “We are prepared to do this in order to save the lands of our families and ancestors.” Image: Stephen Tremain

 

Indigenous Australian musicians.

The new generation

Baker Boy sings an attractive brand of upbeat hip hop in English and his ancestral language of Yolgnu Matha. Denzel Baker often teams up with his cousin Yirrmal in songs like ‘Marryuna’ and ‘Ride’.

Jessica Mauboy is a successful singer and actress, who performs original pop and R&B songs and appeared in the movie The Sapphires. She achieved success with ‘Little Things’, ‘Selfish’ and ‘Butterfly’.

Electric Fields typify the new generation. The duo of vocalist Zaachariaha Fielding and keyboard player and producer Michael Ross combine modern electric-soul music with Aboriginal culture and sing in Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and English.

JK-47 – Jacob Paulson, known professionally as JK47, is an Indigenous rapper and musician whose debut album is ‘Made for This’.

Alice Skye is a Wergaia singer and songwriter. In 2017, she was the Triple J Unearthed National Indigenous Winner.

Briggs, aka A B Original, aka Senator Briggs, aka the guy from Hilltop Hoods. Adam Briggs is rapper, record label owner, comedy writer, actor and author.

The pioneers

Many of the pioneering Aboriginal musicians sing heart-felt songs about the suffering and survival of Indigenous Australians, in ballads and folk music.

Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter form a highly respected duo who have written and performed many songs throughout their long careers. Songs such as ‘They Took the Children Away’ recount the Stolen Generation, during which the Australian Government stole Aboriginal children from their families. The husband and wife duo also campaigned tirelessly for Aboriginal rights. Hunter died in 2010, aged 54.

Jimmy Little was the most well-known Aboriginal singer of his era. During his six-decade career, he sang country and gospel music in the style of Nat King Cole and Jim Reeves. His won acclaim with the gospel song ‘Royal Telephone’ and the album ‘Messenger’. Little passed away in 2012.

Kev Carmody is an award winning singer / songwriter who is best known for recording the song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ with Paul Kelly. Tracks such as “Black Deaths in Custody” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal” describe the ignorance and oppression experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Frank Yamma is a Pitjantjatjara singer-songwriter who performed as a solo and with his band Piranpa. His albums include ‘Countryma’n and ‘Uncle’, and feature heartfelt lyrics and moving delivery.

Ursula Yovich is best known as an actress, but is also an accomplished musician. She has appeared in numerous TV series, movies and theatre productions, and has won many awards for musical scores, scriptwriting and acting.

Rock on…

The yidaki, or didgeridoo, seems to combine perfectly with rock music, which might explain the popularity of Indigenous rock bands. Yothu Yindi is the most famous Aboriginal band, and the group from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land shot to fame with their song ‘Treaty’. They mix Yolngu Matha and English, and combine traditional instruments with the sounds of modern rock in multiple albums of songs about their culture and the issues facing their people.

Warumpi Band also plays hard rock, but their sound comes from Papunya in central Australia. They wrote the song ‘My Island Home’, which was popularised by Torres Strait singer Christine Anu, and they gave Australia other songs such as ‘Blackfella / Whitefella’, ‘Breadline’ and ‘Fitzroy Crossing’.

Tiddas was one of the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s bands, made up of Dr Lou Bennett, Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders. Their lyrics were fierce and bold, addressing racism, dispossession, domestic violence and a raft of other social issues.

Dan Sultan is an alternative rock singer-songwriter and guitarist, actor and author. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010 he won Best Male Artist and Best Blues & Roots Album for his second album, Get Out While You Can.

A little bit country…

Troy Cassar Daley is one of the most successful and popular Australian country music stars. He has won multiple Golden Guitar awards and many other awards during a long career.

The Pigram Brothers were a seven-piece band from Broome in Western Australia. Heavily involved in musical theatre, the formed the original backing band for ‘Bran Nue Dae’.

The Donovans – A country music band comprising brothers Michael, Ashley, Mervyn as well as Michael’s eldest daughter Shalina, plus Robert Graham on drums. Mervyn’s daughter Casey is also a successful singer.

Traditional

The Yolgnu people of north-east Arnhem Land have retained much of their culture and share this through song.

Gurrumul played drums, keyboards, guitar (a right-hand-strung guitar played left-handed) and didgeridoo, and attracted a loyal following with the clarity of his singing voice and songs in Yolngu Matha and English. He was once a member of Yothu Yindi and another band from the Top End, Saltwater Band. Gurrumul was the most commercially successful Aboriginal Australian musician at the time of his death in 2017.

Djalu Gurruwiwi – The master of the yidaki. The elder from Arnhem Land is regarded as one of the most skilled performers on the yidaki, the Yolngu word for didgeridoo. At festivals such as Garma, in Yirrkala, Djalu is feted by yidaki fans from all over the world. He is the subject of the film Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.

William Barton is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, is widely recognised as one of australia’s leading didgeridoo layers and composers.

Collaboration

Black Arm Band is an organisation which brings together blackfulla and whitefulla musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. Founded by Steven Richardson in 2005, the group is also committed to ongoing educational and development work in remote Aboriginal communities. The name refers to a speech by former Prime Minister John Howard who labelled a balanced version of Australian history as a Black Armband view of history.

Image: Warner Music

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.

It’s Australia, so speak English.

You’ve heard this phrase before. You might even agree with it. But before you admonish someone in Australia for speaking a language other than English, consider this – English is not the official language of Australia.

That’s right. Australia has no official language, despite the fact that English has been the language of government, education and communication in the country since colonisation about 250 years ago.

This might surprise a lot of people – including Australians. It might also disappoint a lot of Australians, especially the bigots. Intolerant Australians love to remind migrants, international students, tourists and anyone else speaking a language other than English that everyone must speak English – or leave.

These people launch into verbal, or even physical, attacks on public transport when they overhear someone speaking a language other than English. They flood social media and internet forums with posts demanding the use of English to the exclusion of any other language. They even get elected to parliament. They forget, however, that they themselves have failed to master the Queen’s English.

We could remind them that English is only the lingua franca – but lingua franca is a ‘foreign’ phrase. We could remind them that English is the de facto language, but de facto is also a ‘foreign’ phrase.

Please explain…

We could explain why English is not the official language. In most part because one of the 200 or so indigenous languages would also have to be installed as an official language, and that is far too many to choose from. Aussie racists wouldn’t stand for an Aboriginal language being an official language, because their racism is directed most vehemently at Aboriginal people.

Ironically, English is also not the official language of the United Kingdom, which includes England. Thus, English is not the official language in the land of its birth. It does not hold this status because Welsh is the official language of Wales, which is part of the UK. How would Brits feel about Welsh being installed as the official language of the UK?

Furthermore, English is not the official language of the United States. If one country does bigotry well, it’s the US of A. They elected a serial racist to the White House because he promised to build a wall to keep out Spanish speakers and to ban Muslims from entering the country. How would they react if they knew that English is not their official language? How would they grapple with terms like lingua franca and de facto?

Staunch nationalists from Australia, as well as their counterparts in the USA and the UK, might also frown at the news that English itself is a mongrel language, which blends Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Germanic, Latin, Gaelic and Scandinavian influences into one lingua franca.

Image: http://www.worldatlas.com

Apartheid in Australia.

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Apartheid operates in Australia. It operates to this day.

Apartheid exists in remote Aboriginal communities in the form of liquor permits for residents.

Basically, if you’re white you get one, if you’re black you don’t.

A liquor permit is a piece of paper which allows the holder to consume alcohol inside the physical boundaries of the community. Permits are awarded by the local council, which is administered by the Aboriginal community in conjunction with the government. To my knowledge, the system still operates in 2018.

There are a few conditions governing the liquor permits. Holders may only consume alcohol in their own home, and only in the presence of other people who hold a liquor permit. If only one person at a social gathering does not have a liquor permit, no one can consume alcohol. For this reason, obtaining a liquor permit was one of the first things that I did once I arrived in the community of Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem Land, in 2004; not because I was desperate for a beer, but because the other white fellas in the community, most of whom were my teaching colleagues at the local school, insisted I get my permit as soon as possible.

“If you don’t get one, none of us can drink when you’re with us,” they informed me.

I was promptly issued with a permit after visiting the office. It didn’t seem very difficult for me to get one.

I couldn’t help thinking, why was it so easy for me to get a permit? There was not enough time for the issuer to run a background check on me. Is it because I was a Teacher? Does that automatically make me a respectable citizen? Yes, Teachers are respectable citizens, but I certainly wouldn’t have been the first Teacher with a drinking problem, especially in a remote community – it’s a tough job.

The only conclusion I could make is that it was because I’m white.

In my mind, that equates to apartheid.

So, should Aboriginal people be given liquor permits as well?

No.

Alcohol is destroying Aboriginal communities and a lot of the good work that is being done, including at the schools, is rendered redundant through the destructive power of alcohol. To solve the massive problems in Aboriginal communities, it’s imperative get rid of the alcohol – as a starting point.

Of course, the permit system didn’t stop Aboriginal people from abusing alcohol. Groups of men would gather at the town limit and drink to excess, in plain sight of anyone driving in or out of the community. They would then stroll back into the community and cause problems. There were also many venues in the nearby mining town of Nhulunbuy which served alcohol.

The white fellas would also abuse alcohol, so it was not as if all of them were worthy of the permit. There also seemed to be a reluctance among some white fellas to leave behind some of the comforts of their urban upbringing, such as Friday night drinks, when they chose to move to the remote community, despite the fact that they saw the damage alcohol was doing on a daily basis.

Apartheid is not new to Australia. The liquor permit is one of the last vestiges of this discriminatory colonial practice.

Pubs throughout the country once posted the ubiquitous signs, ‘No blacks, no dogs”. Many cinemas reserved the best seats for whites and the worst seats for Aboriginal people, and of course Australian history since 1788 is full of occurrences such as The Stolen Generation, blackbirding and genocide which saw Aboriginal people stolen, enslaved or murdered.

Apartheid occurred, it just wasn’t given a name. As a white South-African once told me, one mistake the authorities in South Africa made was assigning the word Apartheid to their system of racial discrimination. This opened up the Afrikaans to criticism from authorities throughout the world, many of whom, including the British, imposed exactly the same discriminatory practices on indigenous populations, but escaped the criticism because they didn’t label their practices.

Why is this not commonly known?

Because, like so many incidents and stories involving Aboriginal people since 1788, they are simply ignored or covered up because many Australians are too uncomfortable, too patriotic or too ignorant to talk about them.