In this country the Aboriginal story has been buried deep beneath the 247-year-old accepted Australian narrative. The story of Aboriginal Australia has in many cases been warped beyond recognition, often devoid of Indigenous input and belittling the enormous contribution Aboriginal people have made to the building of this nation. In effect, this distortion of the truth paints the story of modern Australia beyond recognition. Now the natives are getting all historical and Aboriginal filmmaker, Trisha Morton-Thomas, bites back at Australian history.
All was well in Aboriginal Australia. People thrived, and went about their daily lives raising families and maintaining healthy communities. Customs and laws developed over 80,000-odd years provided solid foundations for stable societies and national agriculture, balanced with environmental sustainability. Life was good, people were happy and then……
All hell was about to break loose.
Captain James Cook, a hero to most Australians but a thief to Aboriginal people, sailed along the eastern coast of Australia in 1769, then stole the continent with a British flag. Of course, the Aboriginal people had no idea what Cook was up to. They continued on with their lives, blissfully unaware their 80,000 year kinship with their lands was about to be tested beyond their worst nightmares.
18 years after Cook, hostile invaders arrived, extremely violent and intent on occupation. Without regard for the land owners, the invaders razed a civilized society and its infrastructure, ravaged and slaughtered men, women and children on a bloodthirsty path of domination and genocide, and finally enslaved those who survived the killing times.
Yet in the face of tragedy and complete annihilation, Aboriginal people fought back, but numbers and guns were against them. During the battle, heroes emerged. Resistance warriors ready to shed blood for their people against all odds. In one of the longest, ugliest wars ever fought on Australian soil, brave men, women and children died in defence of their country, yet the European narrative buried their heroic stand and failed to mention their names and deeds.
Eventually the first peoples of this land were brought to their knees and modern Australia was born. New laws, new customs, new people. Paradise lost. Government policy iced the cake, and as winners, the invaders wrote the history. A history built of the concept of terra nullius, a land without people and so the existence of a black story became an inconvenient nuisance to the narrative of a newly-formed, white Federation of Australia.
But that inconvenience transformed into a stain. Somehow, the Aboriginal spirit survived, and in the early 20th century, much to the chagrin of the Australian public, the nuisance blackfellas stood once again and insisted they be heard. What did they want? Land Rights! When did they want it? Well, Now! A little bit of human rights, dignity and a place in their own country wouldn’t have gone astray either.
Who was listening? Who cared? According to the Government and media, nobody. Move on, nothing to see here folks, and yet the voices of Black Australia would not be quietened. Their spirit and resilience captured the imagination of the Australian public and the attention of the International community. The new movement began to gain traction. Pretty soon it became a contemporary political issue, and a speck of light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
Old stories, cruel unimaginable stories, were retold to a public who now had both ears pricked and wanted answers. The tide was turning and the concept of reconciliation became an ideological mantra, but achieving that goal became a political football for decades, and is still getting a good kick around the park today.
In the 21st century, is it too late to reshape Australia to include the 80,000 year old history of the original Australians? No, it’s not. The truth needs telling and consciences need clearing. Education, beginning with the full facts, would put some much-needed stitches in the wound of this country, and breathe life into the prospect of a reconciled, united and healthier Australia for all our children.