Centuries later, suddenly the irredeemable sins of humanity are revealed. Actions often seem shocking when they are devoid of the justification which made them acceptable at the time. A reoccurring theme lies in colonialists perception of themselves as superior to the indigenous populations they overthrow; a convenient myth which allows them to perpetrate genocide, for which the justification fades severely under the light.
What becomes clear in John Pilger’s documentary is that these myths of a white utopia have had a lasting effect on Australia. Racism has been unavoidably ingrained into white Australian consciousness, which has led to widespread apathy towards Aborigines and those in power to ignore their mistreatment.
We await the literature, film and art that attempts to articulate this contemporary situation. Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) is an example of this, and I would ask for more of the same explorations into the effects of past colonial tragedy.
In my view, if Australia desires to inspire the world, they must fully acknowledge this aspect of their past and start seriously working towards a more equal society.
The current mainstream nationalistic attitude was brought to light by Pilger when he interviewed people celebrating ‘Australia Day’ in Sydney. One family with face-painted Australian flags, when posed the simple question ‘what do you think the Aborigines would think of Australia day?’, chose to walk off camera muttering criticisms (the majority of responses were not much more positive).
Anyway, Pilger’s focus throughout the film is not on white people. He explores the Aboriginal communities and the individuals within. Straying away from the mentality of victim-hood, they tell their stories with a dignified air of acceptance, revealing the reality behind the propaganda spin which dilute perceptions of patently racist government policy. The Aboriginals have been fighting back, they have been striving for better treatment and they have been learning to cope with an unfortunate situation. Their families continue and their memories and historical scars are kept alive, albeit in asbestos ridden bungalows that are fit for four and house thirty two.
The solution to the problem lies in the acknowledgement and acceptance of how modern Australia was built.