There is an undercurrent in the reconciliation movement that has gone unnoticed. At public events over the last 20 years, many Aboriginal advocates of reconciliation have addressed themselves not to the settlers who want absolution for their ancestral past, but to young Aboriginal people attracted to the ”Aboriginal sovereignty” slogans. They have tried to deter them from a fatuous political path towards ideas and activities that will improve their lives and sense of self-esteem.
Noel Pearson challenged Michael Mansell and his entourage to develop an ideological consciousness "that goes beyond absolutist, nihilist daydreaming about what should be, but instead become concerned with how we are actually going to go about making things the way they should be".
I have been thrilled by the Redfern Now ABC television series. Produced and directed by Rachel Perkins of Blackfella Films and a magnificent team of indigenous writers, actors and technicians, it speaks to the Aboriginal people who have lived through these turgid political dramas. It depicts the emergence of an Aboriginal middle class with veracity, its members intimately linked to their families living on the Block in Redfern, and the transference of Aboriginal cultural values from the Block to the suburbs. It shows Aboriginal values and social practices at work in dramatic scenes of encounters with the police and the struggles of families to deter youth from criminal activities and with mental illness.
Artists such as Perkins and her exceptional team members have done a far better job than anthropologists and the political ideologues in describing these challenges. With minute attention to the intimate details of Aboriginal life at the Block and the tendrils of familial, social and political connection across geographies, class and history, they have broadcast more truth and sociological sophistication into Australian homes than thousands of papers from the intellectual militias of the "Indigenous Affairs" machine.
Those of us who have raged against the machine and won some few successes know that the challenge lies in large part in capturing the hearts and minds of young people with a message of hope. The elements of that picture of their future that they must imagine for themselves must come from opportunities to enable them to live a good life. This is why Pearson’s welfare reform and education initiatives are so important and effective in transforming the lives of people in Cape York. The inspiration Noel has given to others across the country should not be underestimated. In the face of the rancorous denials from the exclusive club of Pearson haters, the facts keep stacking up.
A younger generation of Aboriginal people are telling stories through literature, the arts, film and music and speaking back to history and oppression without the burden of the culture wars. Redfern Now, The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, Toomelah, directed by Ivan Sen, and Samson and Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton, are just some examples of their outpouring of creative work, thinking and writing. Indigenous filmmakers and television producers have cemented their place in the mainstream winning over audiences and proving their box office success…
That will really get up some noses around the country, but I think she is quite right about “the intellectual militias of the ‘Indigenous Affairs’ machine…” Nor should we overlook, beyond her anger about that issue, the overall positive thrust of what she is saying.
You can judge Ivan Sen’s Toomelah for yourself on Sunday thanks to NITV, and see Marcia Langton feature in First Australians. Burned Bridge, I am ashamed to admit, I had never heard of!
- 7:30pm First Australians
This landmark series chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. It explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire, and depicts the true stories of individuals – both black and white. The story begins in 1788 in Sydney with the friendship between an Englishmen, Governor Phillip, and a warrior, Bennelong. Documentary (PG)
- 8:45pm Burned Bridge
In the remote Australian town of Brooklyn Waters, NSW, a police officer and a radio producer investigate the horrifying murder of a young Aboriginal girl. Starring Cate Blanchett and Ernie Dingo.
- 9:40pm Toomelah
Daniel is a small ten year old boy who dreams of being a gangster. He is kicked out of school and befriends a local gang leader, until a rival arrives back from jail to reclaim his turf.
It is worth it to give those program details as I see The Australian and The Illawarra Mercury haven’t yet registered in the print versions of their TV guides that NITV Channel 34 exists! The Herald Guide did so from Day One.
Check NITV programming here.
I will, however, watch the NSW Department of Education (that is, PUBLIC education!) rising above all the crap politicians and others fling at it and the funding they fling rather less, in what will clearly be yet again a fabulous Schools Spectacular on ABC1 at 6 pm.
The Schools Spectacular is a world-class arena production and one of the largest annual events of its calibre anywhere in Australia – and arguably the world. Since 1984 the Schools Spectacular has grown to become more than just a showcase highlighting the talents of the students of New South Wales public schools. It is an iconic cultural event incorporating students from diverse backgrounds and communities from the length and breadth of the state. The Schools Spectacular is a remarkable New South Wales success story and is proudly presented by the NSW Department of Education and Communities.
Images from the 2012 show – see the Schools Spectacular Gallery page.