Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Luhrmann's low act

Why isn't this considered vilification? Consider how Baz Luhrmann portrays race relations in the early 1940s in his film Australia:

Nullah is a part-Aboriginal boy stolen from his white guardian, a British artistocrat played by Nicole Kidman, by corrupt police acting under a racist law that a pitiless mission official tells Kidman’s character is designed to breed out Aborigines.

As Nullah (beautifully played by the magnetic Brandon Walters) is marched down Darwin’s docks with other captured boys to be sent by boat to the Garden Point home on Melville Island, a sneering white boy holding a joey (yes!) stops and abuses him: “Creamy, didn’t your mother want you?” A racist white kid holding a kangaroo in a film called Australia - could there be anything more archetypally us?

To add to the white sin, the Japanese army is sweeping towards Australia and the boys are being sent to an island that one character notes “will be the first place the Japs hit". White women and children are being evacuated from Darwin in the background, but here the Aboriginal boys are being sent to their deaths by racist white men. To really grind in his point, Luhrmann has the Japanese not just bombing the children’s home at Melville Island (which they didn’t) but invading it as well.

Bear in mind that the film is sold in captions at its beginning and its end as based on historical truths, and is being reported as such, too.

But it's not the historical truth. Andrew Bolt goes on to explain:

But what of this story that Aboriginal children were callously and deliberately sent into danger at Melville Island, while whites were evacuated south?

In fact, Aboriginal women and children were evacuated from Darwin and nearby settlements - including Garden Point - and sent as far south as the Blue Mountains.

So Luhrmann is making stuff up to vilify the white Australians of the 1940s.

If you want a more balanced account of race relations (from the early 1960s) consider the story of Cecily, as told by herself.

She is a member of what has become known as the "stolen generations" - though she wasn't actually stolen.

Cecily tells us that she was abandoned by her Aboriginal mother as a baby, and then raised for a time by her grandmother and an aunt. However, the aunt moved away and the grandmother began to abuse alcohol.

The grandmother arranged for Cecily to be raised in a white foster home. Her life wasn't perfect: she was teased by other Aboriginal children for living with a white family and she felt different as an Aboriginal child living in a white environment.

As a teenager, questions of identity became stronger and she decided, with the support of her white foster mother, to return to live with her Aboriginal mother and siblings. However, she witnessed a shocking incident of domestic violence and went back to live with her foster family.

However, at the age of 17 "the pressure within me started mounting again. I was trying to establish my identity."

She finally returned to live in her Aboriginal community near Nowra. She met her Aboriginal uncles and put some of the missing pieces of her life together, so that "I felt like I belonged".

What does Cecily's story tell us? It can't be used to support the right-liberal assimilationist view, given that Cecily chose to return to her Aboriginal community because of the importance to her of her Aboriginal identity and kinship.

Nor does it support a Baz Luhrmann portrayal of white Australians as evil racist oppressors. This is what Cecily herself has to say of her white foster parents:

I know a couple of Kooris who were fostered by Koori families. They would say to me “I’m glad I wasn’t fostered into a white family”. I smile at these people because they don’t realise how lucky I was to be so loved and wanted. I was fostered for 12 years by a lovely white family in Bega on the far south coast of NSW. Overall I was grateful and I have always respected my foster family ...

Yes, the ideal thing would be for Aboriginal children to be fostered within their own communities, so that children like Cecily would not feel alienated from their own culture and people. But this doesn't mean that the fostering of Aboriginal children by white families was an act of racist oppression.

What has Baz Luhrmann done? He has fabricated an event in the past in order to malign his own countrymen - and then claimed it to be an historical fact. It is a low act.


  1. If the snake-oil peddlers like "Baz" want to believe their own dystopian myths, whatever... what get's my goat is that this film is being used as a calling-card for Australia accross the entire world. People of good will all over this planet who know little about Australia other than kangeroos and koalas, will see this film and think it history.

  2. Maybe Baz should just have made a movie about the 'Stolen Land'.

    Is that a myth? Name ten!!! Just ten aborigines who had their land stolen.

    This is a fraudulent post.


  3. Savvas,

    You've missed the point entirely, of course.

    His movie wasn't about 'stolen land', it was about 'Australia'.

    This land was settled, not stolen. And even if we are to accept the proposition that it was invaded, under both English and international law, territory can indeed be acquired via conquest. Get over it.

    The heinous nature of the movie resides in the fact that it has taken a controversial matter, i.e. the existence of a 'stolen generation', mythologised it into a movie, and made it into many people's first contact with Australian history overseas.

    This is a very simple example of the curious mixture of (a) liberal self-hatred, and (b) elite narcissism.

    Self hatred insofar as the almost religious unquestioned acceptance of the fact that there was a policy to commit genocide in Australia.

    Elite narcissism insofar as these people, unelected and in most part uneducated (unless you consider a 'progressive education' educative in any way) clearly see themselves as the custodians of truth and conscience (a strange thing for moral relativists too).

  4. "Get over it", aye?

    You must be a lovely person to socialise with.

    Such an easy way to deal with all these issues.

    Yes, Baz is one of those wishy washy liberals who if he was fully aware of the controversial facts surrounding the 'Stolen Generation', and if he had the guts could have said, "Well, if they weren't stolen, how did we get to this position where we had to remove them? Is it because we stole the land in thr first place? If so, maybe I should incorporate that into the movie instead?"

    That would be a FACT, not a LIE like you and Bolt claim the Stolen Generation is.

    But of course people like Bolt, would then change the goal posts.

    If you want to kick liberals, go ahead, they deserve it to some extent, but why use the aboriginals plight as a football?


  5. Savvas

    Your assumption that pre-Settlement Australia was the Garden of Eden only makes you sound like a tit. Aborigines were happily bashing their women and abusing their children long before the arrival of the first whitefella. They didn't need any government programme to assist in their laborious endeavours. In fact, the programme that sought to remove children from Indigenous communities was intended to save Indigenous children from the rich cultural practices of the Noble Savages "Baz" and his ilk, you included, seem to worship.

    As Mr. Richardson stated, claims that the 'Stolen Generation' was the consequence of an Australia-wide government programme to commit genocide against the Aborigines is a lie, and mainly based on the comment of one twisted public official, who is then supported by a hysterical mob of cheer-leaders among the white-guilt industry and various Indigenous Australians with a political axe to grind.

    If this is the kind of evidence that can substantiate such a sweeping and gratuitous claim, especially in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary, then you can basically take any statement of any public official and use that to prove anything you want on any topic. All you need is the media on your side.

  6. My assumptions that they were better off prior to white settlement?

    That I believe the Stolen Generation?

    Sorry, mate. You have the wrong person. Where have I stated this?

    But this country was invaded.

    The liberals, since they have control of the media and entertainment industry, are letting us down by not showing the truth.

    But you would rather not see this truth. But I am not sure what you or the author of this blog want to see.

  7. Savvas, my attitude is straightforward and consistent.

    I would like the Aborigines to survive into the future as a distinct people; I would like my own tradition to do likewise.

    Australia is a big country, so I don't see why we couldn't have worked toward this.

    Liberals are inconsistent. They tell white Australians that a traditional monoculture is boring and oppressive and that diversity and multiculturalism are enriching.

    When it comes to Aborigines the line changes: suddenly the decline of a traditional monoculture is a grave loss to the world. There is no talk of Aborigines being enriched by diversity or by the transition to a multiculture.

  8. But this country was invaded.

    This "country" to which you refer didn't exist prior to the arrival of the British. Modern education may have left many Australians shockingly ignorant of history, but the indisputable reality is that the nation-state known as "Australia" is a British creation.

    The Aboriginals may have been living on this continent prior to the arrival of the First Fleet, but they never had their own nation-states in the territory that would become Australia. The various disparate tribes that we now refer to collectively as the "Aboriginals" never had any concept of nationhood and were certainly never the single, united people that they now claim to be.

    Using Savvas' logic, we could argue that his Greek ancestors "stole" their country from the pre-Greek Minoans and, thus, have no legitimate right to assert themselves as the historic majority people of that particular country.

  9. When it comes to Aborigines the line changes: suddenly the decline of a traditional monoculture is a grave loss to the world. There is no talk of Aborigines being enriched by diversity or by the transition to a multiculture.

    Nor does anyone accuse the Aboriginals of "racism" or "xenophobia" for trying to expel and kill the early European settlers.

    If "diversity" is so wonderful, then the arrival of the British should have been a wonderous blessing for the diversity-starved Aboriginal tribes.

    The fact that the multicultural brigade never makes this argument seems to suggest that "diversity" is something only white Australians are obliged to accept and celebrate.