Flying Fox Dreaming–or nightmare?

A year ago I posted “Nightbats” on YouTube.

Well, they have certainly increased since then! See this story, and some excellent pictures, in The Illawarra Mercury.

A flourishing colony of flying foxes at Figtree is driving some businesses and residents batty. It is estimated that tens of thousands of grey-headed flying foxes have turned a patch of bushland just north of the freeway exit into their summer home.

"The smell is overwhelming and they gather at dusk in numbers that completely blacken the sky overhead," said Chris Caroutas from Figtree Cellars.

WIRES bat co-ordinator Sandra Leonard has called for patience, assuring people the flying foxes are crucial to forest regeneration and will move on once the bush food runs out.

But Mr Caroutas said numbers had been steadily increasing each year and so had the stench. "Customers are constantly commenting on the smell, which is not good if that’s the first thing they notice when they get out of their cars," he said.

It has been likened to cat urine, marijuana and lantana.

Hakan Karama from Star Kebab House described the bats as "annoying and smelly". "Customers are always complaining and it seems worse when it rains," he said.

Juliette Fox, an assistant at Pet Barn, said the squealing and flapping did not bother her. "Their numbers have definitely increased but that’s probably because they have been displaced from their natural habitat," she said.

Nearby resident Con Stefanou from London Drive estimates the bats have multiplied 10-fold over the past few years and believes such numbers are unhygienic…

Since I was going shopping at Figtree yesterday I thought I would call in on the bats as I walked by. And the numbers are indeed amazing, something my camera could not really capture.

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Australian poet Les Murray wrote a wonderful poem “The Flying Fox Dreaming” – “finger-winged night workers… Upside down all their days…” They are a significant element in Indigenous culture also, as in this painting by Jimmy Djilminy (2000).

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See also a site of questionable authenticity — but nonetheless it may please some – an attempt to do a tarot on indigenous symbols. Very New Age. There is a lot of that around. Nice art work though.

Who remembers the disgraceful Marlo Morgan and her bullshit exploiting Aboriginal Culture?

1996: Dr. John Stanton (Berndt Museum of Anthropology, WA) “said the book contained misleading and damaging information about Aboriginal people” [5]. He was not sure, he said, “whether the damage the book had done to the overseas image of Aboriginal culture, which was complex, diverse and vibrant, could be ever undone.” Morgan promised a written apology, which she actually never produced [6].

Not saying that Wildspeak site is totally doing a “Mutant Messages Down Under” shtick – but one does need to question such things.

This, however, is authentic:

Oh, and after photographing the bats I called in at The Hellenic Club and…

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BUFFET LUNCH
& DINNER
All you can eat with
a combination of
Traditional Greek
and Australian Cuisine

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How NITV and ABC News 24 have transformed my TV habits…

… and enriched my life.

I do not jest. They really have, and I can only commend you follow suit, if you are here in Oz. On NITV I have posted several times lately.

  1. Twenty years after Redfern
  2. Bran Nue Day (2009)
  3. Jimmy Little — 1 March 1937 – 2 April 2012
  4. On NITV again and related issues
  5. Women of the Sun on NITV on Tuesday nights
  6. NITV best option for Christmas Night–in my opinion

Even last night instead of watching Edwin Drood on ABC – I am sure it was excellent – I could not bypass seeing the third episode of Women of the Sun (1982) and am so glad I did. Heaven knows what I made of it way back in the 80s. Did I believe it? Did I think it was exaggerated? I really don’t recall. But it certainly didn’t occur to me then that the key incident in the plot – the 1939 mass walkout by Aborigines from a government mission – was pretty much just as it happened. And the screenwriter, the late Hyllus Maris, would sure have known.

Hyllus Noel Maris (1933-1986), Aboriginal rights campaigner, community worker, educator, poet and scriptwriter, was born on 25 December 1933 at Echuca, Victoria, third of nine children of New South Wales-born parents Selwyn Roderick Briggs, labourer, and his wife Geraldine Rose, née Clements. Hyllus was of Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri (Woiworung) descent and spent her early childhood at Cummeragunja Aboriginal station, New South Wales. Her grandmother educated her in Aboriginal culture, genealogy and history, and both parents were activists; her father was also a prominent sportsman.

In 1939 more than 150 Aboriginal people ‘walked off’ Cummeragunja in protest at substandard conditions. Their actions provided a catalyst for the greater politicisation of Aboriginal people throughout Victoria. The Briggses were among a group who then settled on the ‘Flat’ in the Mooroopna-Shepparton area of Victoria. The Flat’s close-knit, family-based community championed social reform campaigns into the post-World War II era.

Growing up in a river-bank tent, Hyllus was acutely aware of the impoverished conditions under which many Aboriginal people lived. Her father was the first Aboriginal man to be employed by the Shepparton council, providing a regular income and stability for his family. She attended school and trained as a hospital dietician. Committed to securing basic human rights for Indigenous people, however, she decided not to follow that career path. In 1956 she married Andrew Marimuthu at Shepparton and adopted the surname Maris; they had no children and were later divorced. Moving to Melbourne, in 1970 she joined her mother, a sister—Gladys Nicholls, the wife of Pastor (Sir) Doug Nicholls—and others in founding the National Council of Aboriginal and Island Women, for which she worked as liaison officer. In 1973 she assisted in establishing the Victorian Aboriginal Health and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal services at Fitzroy…

See also Cummeragunja. Jimmy Little the singer also knew, as became apparent in the documentary about his life recently screened on NITV, though what follows is from ABC’s Message Stick, linked to the start of this sentence.

FRANCES PETERS-LITTLE: We go back now to Eddie Little, my dad’s grandfather. Now, his story is that he was born and found somewhere near a massacre site in Queensland. And he was found as a baby. And he was raised by a white family and they gave him the name Little. And then he came down to New South Wales and settled in the Southern Highlands area. And he met with Eliza Penrith and they married in 1902. And they had three sons and two daughters. And one of their sons was named James Edward Little, who we know now as Kunkas. And then he married Frances McGee at Cumeragunja. And their first child was James Oswald Little, which is Jimmy Little.
JIMMY LITTLE: I remember, fondly, Mum and Dad performing on stage. with other artists from the Cumeragunja Music Group, playing instruments, like mandolin, banjo, guitars of course, harmonicas. I thought – "Gee, that’s nice." Music had an attraction for me. As much as playing sport and just running loose around the bush… and hunting and all of that… One, two, three, four…

DEBORAH CHEETHAM: Well, it was three years ago I first discovered the story of the walk-off from Cumeragunja Mission. And I decided I wanted to create an opera around that story. And so writing an opera and writing a libretto around that story of the Cumeragunja walk-off, and then discovering that my own grandparents were part of that walk-off and that they took Jimmy as a young baby and walked across that river into Victoria in protest of how they were being treated To be writing an opera about that… (LAUGHS) ..to be in the process of writing it and then to discover that my own grandparents were part of it, I mean, it’s been a huge journey for me.
JAMES HENRY LITTLE: Right across the board, there are so many musical people in the family. Aunty Monica’s daughter, Deborah Cheetham, is a fantastic opera singer, who I never really got a chance to know growing up. I think she was taken away at an early age.
JIMMY LITTLE: I know about Deborah being part of the family… but I didn’t know the story behind her adoption.
DEBORAH CHEETHAM: I am a member of the Stolen Generation. I was taken from my mother when I was three weeks old. I was given to a family in Sydney. I’d be told, when I was very young, that I’d been abandoned by my mother, that she’d put me in a cardboard box and left me in a field. So as far as I knew, I’d been abandoned. Of course, this wasn’t the case but I didn’t learn that until much later in life.
JIMMY LITTLE: I was looking forward to eventually meeting her with her mum, my sister. And when that happened, there was a… there was a sadness and a gladness… to at least relate, family-wise, both ways.
DEBORAH CHEETHAM: I knew about the existence of Uncle Jimmy. In fact, I think when I was seven years old, I met him. My adoptive parents took me… I can remember quite distinctly, they took me to a shopping centre where he was making an appearance and I actually got to meet him…

Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls, eventually Governor of South Australia, was also A Boy From Cummeragunja.

Then just the other day I was delighted to be able to see again my good friend Kristina being beautiful and brilliant in the 1986-7 AFI winner The Fringe Dwellers.

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Kristina – just as she was when I first met her in Roy Garner’s Forest Lodge Coffee Shop in 1987.

There is a very strange Indian article on Aborigines in Australian cinema I have just found. It does tell you a lot about The Fringe Dwellers, but the folk at Dear Cinema seem to have let their prejudices and apparent ignorance of Australian film since around 1990 allow their thesis on Absence of Aborigines in Australian Cinema to run rampant.

Year – 1987. Even as ‘white’ Australia was preparing to celebrate 200 years of white settlement, the oppression of aborigines – the original inhabitants of the continent – continued apace. The oppression is naked and heartless in outback settlements, but exists in subtler forms in Australian towns and cities. I have in one of my scrapbooks an agency report dating back to that year which speaks of a high court judge who wept as he listened to harrowing accounts of racism and denial of justice to aborigines in a remote New South Wales community. The judge wept and said : “I have been to Soweto in South Africa, to German concentration camps, but this is my own country…”

Despite an occasional admission such as this, not many white Australians are willing to face the truth that colonization has done little to improve the lot of the indigenous people. Australians are yet to acknowledge in large numbers that prejudice against the remaining 150,000 aborigines is rife. Unlike recent arrivals from Asia and Europe, many of whom are more than comfortable in the role of the comprador, the aborigines have never been integrated into the mainstream. In a society predominantly by, for and of white Australians, it is hardly surprising that the aboriginal question should be calculatedly glossed over…

Seeing that I marched with the Indigenous in the 1988 Bicentennial and had the enormous privilege in Kristina’s loungeroom in Forest Lodge of being told a dreaming story by a genuine songman, meeting at least one of the Page boys now so famous in Australian dance, and so on and so on, I rather resent the absences in Mr Chaterjee’s account of Aborigines in Australian cinema. And that is not to deny things in Indigenous Australia could be a whole lot better. However, the presence of Indigenous Australians in music, cinema, theatre, dance, the arts is actually quite remarkable given their numbers… Not to mention sport!  So save your snootiness, Mr Chaterjee, and concentrate on the many and varied injustices of your own country, of which lately we have had a glaring example. And now that we have a dedicated mainstream free to air channel for Indigenous programming – which has thus far no problem finding things to show – Indigenous stories are there for all Australians to share.

Back to NITV then. They constantly surprise me, one example being a scoop that seems to have passed over the heads of too many of us: Join NITV’s Political Correspondent Jeremy Geia with his exclusive documentary Julian on the Inside.

Recently too there was a brilliant documentary by Ivan Sen on the death of the sister of actor/presenter Rhoda Roberts: A Sister’s Love (2007). Then there is a quite delightful and informative children’s program, also seen on ABC3 – Bushwhacked.

Bushwhacked!’ is a 13-part series hosted by Brandon Walters and Kayne Tremills as they set off on the adventure of a lifetime to remote corners of Australia, meeting the country’s weird and wonderful wildlife, and learning about Indigenous rites and rituals. The series brings the bush to the ‘burbs, as Brandon sets Kayne a new challenge each episode, to track down one of Australia’s unique animals. But it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. It’s a fun-fuelled, adrenalin-pumping, fast-paced adventure following these two colourful characters — one an ice cool bushman; the other a skateboarding city-slicker who’s never been into the heart of Aboriginal Australia. Whether it be chasing down dangerous spiders, killer sharks and venomous snakes, or friendly penguins and loveable turtles; adventure is never far away, as the boys challenge each other with rock climbing, skydiving and zip-lining. Along the way, Brandon introduces Kayne to friends from local Indigenous communities who get the boys involved in everything from traditional smoking ceremonies to investigating local bush tucker and bush medicine. Humour and high spirits are a trademark throughout the series, as Brandon and Kayne often find themselves out of their comfort zones as they take the journey of a lifetime together.

As if all these examples are not enough to persuade you to sample NITV – but you may get hooked! – then there are odd movies that you may not see elsewhere. For example, Christopher Reeve being very good as NOT Superman in The Aviator (1985), which I saw during the past week.

And The Motorcyle Diaries is coming up next Sunday at 9.30!

The remit of NITV extends to world Indigenous TV, so I saw a brilliant documentary about the Mohawk construction workers of New York.  Did you know about this? I didn’t.

Meanwhile I have grown fond too of ABC News 24. Check out just one of their regular offerings: One Plus One. The episode of 28 December had passionate educator and composer Richard Gill saying just what needs to be said about education these days.

Jimmy Little — 1 March 1937 – 2 April 2012

In  NITV best option for Christmas Night–in my opinion I commended the Jimmy Little Celebration Concert, originally broadcast in May 2012. That link takes you to a video still on the Opera House site: “Highlights from the Celebration Concert which followed the State Memorial Service in honour of the late Jimmy Little. The story also includes interviews with Paul Kelly, Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Col Hardy, Don Walker and many others.”  Fortunately NITV broadcast the entire concert commercial-free. Smile

Members of the public can attend the Jimmy Little Celebration Concert on Thursday 3 May commencing at 8pm in the Concert Hall. The concert will celebrate the life of the wonderful Jimmy Little. Family and friends will come together to honour in story and song the extraordinary contribution this Yorta Yorta elder has made to the cultural life of Australia. Artists including Col Joye, Judy Stone, Archie Roach, Lou Bennett, James Henry and Paul Kelly to name a few, will pay tribute to Jimmy’s amazing sixty year legacy as an artist, performer and champion for his people.

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On Boxing Day NITV followed up with a documentary I had not seen before – Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey. You can see it also today on NITV Ch34 at noon. It was originally on ABC.

From poverty and personal tragedy to Australia’s first Aboriginal pop star – Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey is an intimate look at the life of a pioneering artist who defied incredible odds.

This timely ABC TV program touchingly traces the trials and triumphs of a remarkable survivor celebrating 50 years in the business. Awarded an Order of Australia Medal and named as a Living National Treasure earlier this year, Jimmy’s life has just recently been reinvigorated when he became the recipient of a kidney transplant.

With another new album out in June, Australia’s first gentleman of song, whose voice melts ice, continues a trailblazing career that has gently been opening doors and minds throughout his life. At a time when Aborigines were not even recognised as citizens, Jimmy Little broke down white-dominated cultural barriers as he painted images – past, present and future – with his songs. Jimmy was the first Aboriginal person to feature regularly on television, and with his incredible talent and success, subtly swept aside ignorance and negative stereotypes.

Ironically perceived by some as a conformist, Jimmy has determinedly and consistently pursued his own independent, gentle path refusing to conform to a variety of ‘bandwagons’. It is a path that has brought trials and triumphs but he has stuck to his convictions and as an artist rather than activist he has changed attitudes and encouraged reconciliation with a simple and honest love of music and humanity. Over a career as a musician, actor and educator spanning 50 years, Jimmy Little has proven himself to be a survivor whose talent and determination remain solid.

Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey provides an intimate and comprehensive biographical portrait of his life and times.

NITV best option for Christmas Night–in my opinion

Why?

  1. 7:30pm Jimmy Little Tribute Concert

    To celebrate Jimmy Little’s life Australian musicians from around the country will gather and sing. Family and friends will come together to honour the contribution of this extraordinary Australian. News (TBC)

  2. 9:00pm Women of the Sun

    As the seal-hunters discovered the rich bounty off the southern coasts, they supplemented their isolated lives by kidnapping Aboriginal women. Drama (M)

  3. 10:00pm Bush Bands Bash Bush Bands Bash is the biggest concert on the Alice Springs calendar and one of the most vibrant Indigenous events in Australia.

Last night ABC News 24 repeated an Australian Story from April 2012.

This is a story of rags-to-riches and back again, introduced by actor Heather Graham.

From a working class upbringing in Adelaide, Scott Neeson built a career as a top Hollywood movie executive, promoting blockbusters such as Titanic, Braveheart, Independence Day, and X-Men. It was a glamorous lifestyle, walking red carpets, partying with celebrities and dating models.

But after a holiday in Cambodia, Neeson made a deliberate choice to give it all up. Gone are the slick designer suits, traded instead for the cargo pants and hiking boots required to navigate the rubbish dumps of Phnom Penh.

He now owns ‘nothing’ but says he couldn’t be happier as he works to help some of Cambodia’s poorest children.

The spirit of Jesus of Nazareth – and the compassion of the Buddha – is alive sometimes inside and just as often outside the community of believers.

SEVERSON: Neeson says he doesn’t belong to an organized religion but leans toward Buddhism, in part because it accepts suffering as part of life and has helped the kids endure their own suffering.

Mr. NEESON: And the one thing it’s really taught me, even more than, I think, spirituality, is the resilience of the human spirit. What these kids have been through is remarkable, and they come here, and they have a sense of real happiness.

And on a smaller scale, witness the kindness of the lovely Helen and the staff at the Yum Yum Cafe.  Here is what I scored this morning.

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Bran Nue Day (2009)

This has been on ABC TV several times but each time I missed it – until last night. Loved it.

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Review by David Stratton

And now to end on something uplifting – it is the festive season after all! So that brings us to BRAN NUE DAE…
Willie, ROCKY MACKENZIE, who lives in Broome, loves beautiful Rosie, JESSICA MAUBOY, but can’t bring himself to approach her. Willie’s mother sends him off to a boarding school in Perth run by strict Father Benedictus, GEOFFREY RUSH – but Willie runs away and heads for home accompanied by his uncle, ERNIE DINGO.
Rachel Perkins’ exuberant adaptation of the 1990 stage musical is a lot of fun, despite the fact that it has a rather insipid hero. The energetic staging of the musical numbers is just one of the engaging elements in a film filled with unexpected delights, such as the performances of MISSY HIGGINS and DEBORAH MAILMAN, who are both excellent.
GEOFFREY RUSH is very funny indeed, the pacing is brisk and it all looks terrific.
BRAN NUE DAY represents a really enjoyable visit to the movies this summer…

DAVID: I loved the musical numbers.
MARGARET: It takes a lot to make a musical these days.
DAVID: Yes.
MARGARET: And I think Rachael Perkins has done a fabulous job.
DAVID: I think so too. Yes, I agree.
MARGARET: I’m giving this four stars.
DAVID: Yes, me too, four stars.

It is worth reading the comments on The Movie Show site. One person found the movie racist! I am sure Jimmy Chi, Rachael Perkins et al would be quite surprised. There are people with no sense of humour out there, of course. Not that Bran Nue Dae is all laughs, as my YouTube selection shows. And sometimes the satire cuts several ways:

One of the famous verses from a song in the musical sums up Chi’s dry humour and sharp political approach:

There’s nothing I would rather be
Than to be an Aborigine
and watch you take my precious land away.
For nothing gives me greater joy
than to watch you fill each girl and boy
with superficial existential shit.

See also Bran Nue Dae.

Update

1. Following the success of Bran Nue Dae, Rachel Perkins and Blackfella Films  have gone on to make some really splendid movies and documentaries and, of course, the series Redfern Now. Meanwhile, many of the people in Bran Nue Dae may also be seen in 2012’s very successful The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair. Indigenous stories and voices really are being seen and heard! I notice however that too many TV Guides, including The Australian Review for 22 December, still hide the existence of NITV!

2. Cinematography on Bran Nue Day was by Andrew Lesnie – brilliant.

His work began receiving major attention after the release of the anthropomorphic pig story Babe (1995) and its sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. He was director of photography on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and received an Oscar for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002. Since then, he has filmed several other Jackson-directed films, including King Kong and The Lovely Bones, and will also film the upcoming The Hobbit films directed by Jackson.

Wikipedia needs to update that last line!

Andrew Lesnie’s son Phillip Lesnie is carving out a career in the arts. I did teach him briefly at SBHS. See Rani P Lukita and Phil Lesnie – Sydney artists / Hand to Hand and his site Monster Friendship Society.

Takes my mind back to the beginning of the century, via this quote from the 2000 SBHS Annual Report. There’s a  name there that is now well known in Indigenous circles too.

Achievements in the Arts

The  school  has  a  very  strong  emphasis  on co-curricular  activities,  particularly  musical  and  choral performance  and debating.
•  The double  in debating  – GPS  Roat Shield  and State Hume Barbour Shield – was achieved. The firsts  (Oscar  McLaren,  Hilbert  Chiu,  Robbie Moore and Mike Martin) were undefeated.
•  Eugene  Schofield-Georgeson,  Jonathan Ailwood,  Morgan  Green  – Art  Express finalists.
•  Jack  Manning-Bancroft  and  Mihai  Sora participated  in  the  English  Teachers Conference.
•  Michael  Nelson,  Jason  Kok  and  Thomas Norrie were chosen to  play in the NSW Public Schools  Symphony Orchestra.
•  Robbie  Moore’s  play  ‘Wolves’  was  accepted for a reading by a theatre group.
•  Phillip  Lesnie  won  the  Sydney  Theatre Company’s ‘Young Playwrights Award’.
•  Peter  Hayward,  Justin  Hill  and  Thomas Beamish sang at the opening ceremonies at the Olympic  Games,  the  Paralympic  Games  and the Pacific Schools Games.

Women of the Sun on NITV on Tuesday nights

It was marvellous to see this amazing miniseries again.

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Naykalan Munung as Alinta in the groundbreaking TV series "Women of the Sun".

Episode 1, ALINTA: THE FLAME

This story brings its audience closest to the customs and culture of tribal Aborigines, and gives a fascinating insight into rituals and legends which has no previous screen counterpart. The lives of the Nyari people are completely disrupted when they discover two convicts washed up on the beach of their tribal lands. Subsequently, the Nyari people meet other whites, settlers searching for grazing land. The abuse of the Nyari’s sacred tribal ways follows and eventually leads to the annihilation of the tribe. Only Alinta, ‘The Flame’, remains with her child to carry the torch for her culture and the future.

Made in 1981, the four part Women of the Sun truly was groundbreaking.

In 2007 Sydney University’s Macleay Museum had a showing of episodes 1 and 2.

The first two episodes of the… television series Women of the Sun will be presented by the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney this Thursday – the day before the anniversary of colonisation.

Written by Hyllus Maris and Sonia Borg, Women of the Sun was first screened by SBS TV in 1981, and tells the stories of Aboriginal women over two centuries of colonisation, challenging the conventional notions of Australia’s past.

The series highlighted issues which would dominate Aboriginal affairs over the following decades and also attracted international and national acclaim, winning the United Nations Media Peace Prize and two Australian Writers’ Guild Awards.

The first two episodes, which will be presented by the Macleay Museum at the University’s Old Geology Lecture Theatre, are set in the 1820s and the 1890s and reveal the Indigenous experience of colonisation through the eyes, experience and language of two women.

Hyllus Maris was a member of the Yorta Yorta nation, passing away in 1986. She was also a poet.

Spiritual Song of the Aborigine by Hyllus Maris

I am a child of the Dreamtime People
Part of this Land, like the gnarled gumtree
I am the river, softly singing
Chanting our songs on my way to the sea
My spirit is the dust-devils
Mirages, that dance on the plain
I’m the snow, the wind and the falling rain
I’m part of the rocks and the red desert earth
Red as the blood that flows in my veins
I am the eagle, crow and snake that glides
Through the rain-forest that clings to the mountainside
I awakened here when the earth was new
There was emu, wombat, kangaroos
No other man of a different hue
I am this land
And this land is me
I am Australia

See also Return to women of the sun.  There is a study guide (PDF) from Metro/ATOM.

Do tune in to next week’s episode at 9pm Tuesday on Channel 34. BTW, a blogger sometimes mentioned here and on my Facebook was in Women of the Sun. So was Indigenous author Boori Monty Pryor.

On NITV again and related issues

I see the Herald has an extract from the upcoming final Boyer Lecture by Marcia Langton, a person who quite often says, rightly or wrongly,  what people don’t really want to hear. I rather admire her.

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.

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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.