First Australians

Just wrote an email to an old friend in the UK and this is what I wrote about the SBS docco “First Australians” that has just finished. If you’ve not watched it already please go and watch it on the SBS website or pick up the DVD when it hits the SBS shop in December.

There’s been a really good series on TV here called “First Australians“, it gives the indigenous point of view of their history since the British landed and it’s been pretty heavy stuff. Whilst I knew a bit about the colonisation, killings, poisonings, repression, racism and the Stolen Generation the sheer scale of what was done is still shocking. Donna has been telling me that in school they were never taught at all about the sort of things that happened, just really skipped over the whole issue.

This is really the first time it’s been so publicly presented and I think it’s shocked a lot of people about what has been done by non-indigenous Australia. To their credit SBS (which is sort of like Channel 4 back there) has put it up on the ‘net and allows people to comment on it and it’s interesting, inspiring and depressing to see the various reactions it has had from disbelief and sadness through to denial, revisionism and anger.

I’ve ended up with tears in my eyes after most shows, it’s really quite affected me as I have to acknowledge that I come from the country that was responsible for this. There are stories of resilience, strength, solidarity, courage and dignity in it and also some rare examples of colonists who have seen indigenous people as people and who have stood besides them in mutual respect.

Hmm, that’s all a bit heavy, sorry! That’s because we’ve just watched the final episode about Mabo vs Queensland, the case that finally extinguished the doctrine of Terra Nullis – the myth that Australia was unpopulated before the English arrived because the indigenous people didn’t count and laid the way for indigenous land rights claims. That was only in 1992 when we were both in Aberystwyth! It’s crazy, they were only allowed to vote in federal elections in 1962 and were only really counted as citizens in 1967 after a referendum to change the constitution.. 🙁

Here is what my wife, Donna, wrote about this series.