Tuesday, 21 October 2014

When will we ever learn

It's been a torrid week in some ways and an uplifting week in others. The Melbourne Festival is currently on and I seem to be drawn to all things indigenous in one way or another. And that's a good thing - in one way or another. 

It started with the opening of the Festival at Federation Square (our Federation not the indigenous peoples of our land). But it was a 'welcome to country' by the local 'tribes'. (now I know that many of you will already be rolling your eyes as the 'welcome to country' is seen by many as 'tokenism'. But that is just one point of view). So let's begin with the Festival opening - the photos don't really reflect what was occuring but....
The smell of eucalyptus burning - so evocative

Federation Square transformed (the little ones were 'right into it')

And then I went to one of my favourite dance companies - KAGE - to see the world premier of their current production The Team of Life. I was keen to see it as 2 years ago I had been invited to attend a 'workshop' of their plans for the production. It was fascinating to see the progression after it had been 'workshopped' over that period. It is the story of a South Sudanese boy-soldier - David Nyuol Vincent (his book The Boy Who Wouldn't Die) - and his journey to live in this country. In 2011 David was appointed as Australia people Ambassador and one of Melbourne’s Top 100 most influencial, inspirational, provocative and creative people. One of his connections to 'life' and this country was through playing soccer (originally with a newspaper pushed into a sock to make a football and then playing with the real thing). On the other side of the stage was an indigenous couple - he obsessed with Aussie Rules and the 'oval' ball. Although I felt it didn't quite gell and combine the two types of football or the two types of 'blacks' (their words) - I felt they did a stirling job to show us that humanity is pretty much the same. See the review here
Former boy-soldier David Nyuol Vincent (what a smile) and Leila Gurruwiwi (Jeff Busby)
And then last night it was off to see Big Hart perform Hipbone Sticking Out - a frenetic, amusing, poignent and shattering story of the history of the indigenous peoples of this land before and after colonisation. It was funny, clever, and ultimately devastating to hear the story of 16 year old John Pat a young and 'up and coming leader of his community' who died in custody in 1983 from a kick to the head by a policeman and then left for dead in the Roebourne lockup. (you can read the horrifying account here) But it was also the story of the colonisation of the Pilbara which denied the indigenous the power to speak - and to be heard. His mother was in the audience. She finally received an apology from the Western Australian Parliament in 2013. But it doesn't bring her son back. See the review here
Trevor Jamieson playing John Pat (if he had been alive today) (the age)
And then we read in the paper that on Saturday night a young indigenous student Joshua Hardy from Darwin who was studying at Melbourne University to be a lawyer (having won an indigenous scholarship to the prestigious Melbourne Grammar School) was kicked in the head outside a McDonalds and died. Yet another life cut short for no reason.

Joshua Hardy with his sister Rebecca just hours before he died
Senseless. Shattering. Continuing. When will we ever learn?

The Australian National Anthem (rewritten by Judith Durham of The Seekers fame) will end this post. You can hear her sing it with Kutcha Edwards (who sang it at the KAGE premier) here. I hope you enjoy and agree that the words are more 'suitable' than the olde worlde words we currently sing!

Australia, celebrate as one, with peace and harmony.
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect and share,
And honouring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us stand as one, upon this sacred land.
A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.
Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

Australia, let us strive as one, to work with willing hands.
Our Southern Cross will guide us on, as friends with other lands.
While we embrace tomorrow’s world with courage, truth and care,
And all our actions prove the words, advance Australia fair,
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.

And when this special land of ours is in our children’s care,
From shore to shore forever more, advance Australia fair.
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance ... Australia ... fair.

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