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.