Down and Under 1

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This four part documentary series looks into the issue of racism in Australia. Despite what it seems Australia is a nation built on the foundation of racism. Aboriginal men and women were killed from the onset of the establishment of settlements in Australia and later on aboriginal children were kidnapped and forced into schools under the pretext of education and assimilation. These very children latter became known as the stolen generation who brought about shame and regret for the Australian government. Yet despite the government apologies and the spirit of reconciliation the problem of racism is imbedded in Australian society, and it is not merely aimed at indigenous Australians. This documentary reveals the racism felt first hand by immigrants and Aboriginals alike.

Down and Under-p1

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Stephen Ridgway, Aboriginal Elder:We are in a place called Prefer lee Mission, its situated 3 kilometers from the main town Taree on the mid north coast of NSW, we are standing on the ground of my people, and I was born on the back of this mission in 1948. This place brings a lot of memories and I love it very much. As the Old People told me, my Mother and my Grandparent, I was born in 1948 but my mother being sixteen and the Aboriginal protection board being around then so she was constantly on the run from the Aboriginal protection board and she never registered me till a year later, 1949. Around Taree, We lived off bush food and the sea and the river, so pretty healthy until we were put on rations, our people were put on rations, a bit of flour and sugar so it changed our lifestyle, other than the manager being there. He controlled everything. We didn’t have much say. You are only allowed in the town at a certain hourI had a good upbringing from the Elders there and they led us through wisely.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Stephen Ridgway, Aboriginal Elder:But it wasn’t until January in '57, I think it was, that these blokes in suits came into the door and they were the Aboriginal protection board. I was 9 years old and it was exactly platform one here, this was the north coast line which went to Kempsey. Behind you, yeah, over this way, and behind me a couple of platforms back was the south coast line were my brother and sister were taken to Cootamundra, yes, and that was my first encounter with the police. That's my mother. That's what I remember her as when I left central, a young woman. This was us three, before we got sent away. Mum's gone now. She has been dead for a while. I think she died from a broken heart really. The racism back in them days, you know, you can imagine. Yeah, I never had seen my sister until I turned fifty. We were separated that long, we never got to knew each other. Ah, my brother Les, he lives in Redfern.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Stephen Ridgway, Aboriginal Elder: The police dropped us off at this institution, Kinchella boys home. It was about 40 miles out of the main town, on the river, on the Macleay River. The river was just across the road from the boy’s home. It was a 32 acre farm and they had a school, two dormitories, you know, we all had jobs but the sad thing about it, we never had names and we had numbers, Very traumatizing experience, sometimes well. All we had was each other the boys. We are all families. That's me there. We couldn’t even talk to our own people when we were going to the school. What they used to call the mission blacks, that lived in these homes and we were under the Aboriginal protection thing so we was like we were white. That was one of the main punishments in the boys home, when you land there, they drilled into your head that you were white. So, yeah very sad really, but it happened you know its fact.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:The governments of this country actively took Aboriginal children from their parents and changed their names and put them out to other people. There are still people out there who can't find their families and there are still those out there who don't even know about their Aboriginal heritage. My earliest memory is, I must have been about four or five with my adopted family and prior to that I have no recollections. Now my mother, my adopted mother, she was very strong that I and especially the government, were not to know that I was of Aboriginal background otherwise they could take me again.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_14:14

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:It was only in my mid-30's that I found out about the Aboriginal side but she wouldn't give me any names. I don’t know why. Maybe she didn't want me going off on that tangent. Maybe she just wanted me to be what I was supposed to be, part of the normal race, you know, I don't know. She died. So I have no idea why she done that. I was told that my birth mother came from Orange which is over the mountains and I've been to Orange and I've tried to find people, Aboriginal people, who might know something but they don’t know anything. It’s very very difficult when you don’t have names so I've just got to let it go. I mean, I am 72 now so I don’t know how much longer I am here, whether it's one year or ten years or what bloody every but without names you're gone,. the Stolen Generations that were apologized to by Rudd still have that trauma, still have that biting need to know, if they don’t know their family. They have the pain of being taken from their family, not just from their birth mother or father, but from their family. Their community. Their culture. The whole thing.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Kevin Rudd, Former Prime minster of Australia: “It’s time to reconcile, it’s time to recognize the injustices of the past, it’s time to say sorry, it’s time to move forward together as prime minister of Australia I am sorry, on behalf of the government of Australia I am sorry, on behalf of the parliament of Australia I am sorry and I offer you this apology without qualification. I know that in offering this apology on behalf of the Government and the Parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally. Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that. Words alone are not that powerful, my proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia. And it is to such a new beginning that I believe the nation is now calling us”

TIME CODE: 14:14_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:There are still out there now, a lot of grandmothers, a lot of Aunts and Uncles, who having got over the pup piece that Rudd done and the crowd felt good on that day but yesterday, tomorrow there is no difference to your lifestyle. There is no difference to what you go through every bloody day. The police don't stop knocking on your door. Racism doesn't stop. It was not enough. I am not talking about compensation. I am talking about the apology for what had been done to the mobs in this country, the traditional owners. It’s more than just the stolen generations. It’s more than that. I think a greater apology was Paul Keating's Redfern Park speech in which he, Paul Keating, totally outlined the errors that had been done to the Aboriginal people, from the time that the invaders first came here in 1788 up to the present day.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Paul Keating, Former Prime minster of Australia: “The starting point might be to recognize that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.
It begins, I think, with that act of recognition, recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases, the alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice, and our failure to imagine that this things being done to us.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder: “It encompasses much more than just the stolen kids. Its much more than that. There were stolen wages, there were stolen land, there was stolen everything. We lived in peace for sixty thousands years. Over the last 225 years, since the invasion, we have lost practically everything. We have had to fight, scream, argue, march, rally, do all these things trying to get a bit of justice.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Len Ang, Director of Institute for Culture and Society: “Racism you can find everywhere, I think, so Australia in that sense is not unique but there are versions of racism in Australia that are quite historically specific to this country. We have to go back to how Australia was originally settled. It was Aboriginal land to begin with and back more than 200 years ago it was settled by the British, the Europeans and they became the dominant group in this country. It's a settler colonial country so I think the notion of settler colonialism is really important, that structurally Australia is a country that was settled by people from outside who came here to displace the original inhabitants which were the Aborigines. So in a way, that situation endures in this country. I mean, the Aboriginal will never get their country back. It's been taken away from them, now there is slowly some recompense and some reconciliation and so forth but structurally speaking it is the modern Australia, is an Australia dominated by the original European settlers. That is the starting point of modern Australia and I think we have to keep that in mind all the time when Australia became an independent nation in 1901, it was very much, the design of the people in charge of that process, that this would be a white outpost in an alien region so the white Australia policy which was established then was very much foundational for Australia as a modern nation state. Racism, was in that sense, was structurally embedded in the very foundation of Australia as a nation state.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_26:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:When we look at history and we need to do that. Going back to 1788 they brought the convicts out, they brought the troopers to look after the convicts and settle any other problems. Now, over time the troopers turned into doing acts that they called 'clearing the lands' which means killing our people, the genocide against our people. That ethos of the troopers of treating Aboriginal people as some sort of flora and fauna is still in the minds of the police today, because the police was born out of the troopers. The troopers became the police. That same ethos, that same historical understanding is still there. The Aborigine is the enemy of society. They want things. They want their land, they want rights, they want this and they want … why should they have it? We won. That's the attitude.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Stephen Ridgway, Aboriginal Elder: what happened back then is still happening now with our people. The coppers, as I say, divide and rule. It' still embedded, don’t matter how many generations you go through in white Australia.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:Any police officer in this country can kill, they know that. They could kill me when I go downstairs to the shop. They will then turn around and say that I attacked them with a knife but the knife is lost, but the knife can’t be found and because it is police who are investigating other coppers, 'that's the truth, Ray Jackson had a knife and he attacked me. I had to shoot him to defend myself'. That is their power and the governments allow them to get away with it. The police in this country can kill with impunity and immunity, that is their power and they are backed up by governments.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Protester: “We don’t recognize their sovereignty at all. This is our sovereignty and it always was and always will be.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Tony Abbott, Former Prime Minister of Australia:I was asked a question at a door stop yesterday morning and I made the point that a lot happened in 40 years and I think we have moved on from the issues of 40 years ago which caused the aboriginal tent embassy setup.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Ray Jackson, Aboriginal Elder:How do you change that? I've been involved in DIC issues since 1987. A damned long time and I don't mean just going on a few marches a year. I mean, everyday active in some way anybody who comes to a meeting as far as I’m concerned is a member of ISJA. If they want to stand with those involved with ISJA that consider you a bloody member. The situation now with deaths in custody is that ISJA is getting involved, we are doing the marches we’re doing the protests, public meetings. We are doing things We have a constitution that is very much English racist constitution I don’t call it the Australian constitution at all, I call it the English because that’s what it’s based on, and for many many years. Aborigines were forced off their land, forced into missions, their wages were stolen, their kids were stole and everything was done under the letter of the law. Since the end of May 1989 up to the present day, there has been over 300 more deaths in custody and it works out to be roughly, there is a DIC about one a month. So every month, there is a DIC, either at the hands of the police or in jails. That's national.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Protester: We are here to tell Kevin Rudd thathis got to recognise our seventy and we want to get rid of the intervention laws. We have got to demand that the intervention laws be dropped straight away.”

   

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