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The First Australians – We Hardly Knew You

  • On October 15, 2008

An extraordinary process of public education is unfolding in Australia, the like of which has not been seen since the British sailed into Botany Bay and claimed this continent as its own. Finally, after 220 years, the official history of colonization is being turned on its head, and it’s not a pretty sight. It’s the history that the unlamented Howard Government tried to kill, dismissing it as a cultural “black armband”. It is the history that we sensed in our bones, the history that was hinted at in the more adventurous museums, the history that was suffered by indigenous Australians, and now, finally, laid bare under the glare of a national documentary series, The First Australians. By Richard Neville.

The Second Australians are still reeling. “Why were we kept in the dark”, comes the common cry, as you will see in the outpourings on the SBS website, a taste of which are posted below “I feel shaken and almost in tears as I watch it.” Perhaps it is the fate a nation’s citizens to be lied to by Government’s and press barons and military officials. Australians have been long conned by the sanitized histories of our past, just as they are still being conned by the sanitized histories of the present.

Few people realize that the 2004 siege of Fallujah – widely considered a war crime – was commanded by Australia’s Major General Jim Molan. His recent book on the siege (promoted by Murdoch’s The Australian) claimed that the ferocious onslaught was “conducted strictly in accordance with the laws of armed combat”. It is a view shared by none other, not even the invaders. In a posting to the military blog, GI Special, a U.S. soldier described a nightlong assault on Falluja as seen from roof of his humvee. “More artillery, more tanks, more machine gun fire, ominous death-dealing fighter planes terminating whole city blocks at a time…this wasn’t a war, it was a massacre! We destroyed an entire city and killed thousands of its occupants”. It is this same Jim Molan who recently popped up on ABC’s Australia Talks Back to glorify the occupation of Afghanistan, never mind the hordes of murdered civilians (by us and by the Taliban). Never mind the will of the people (Go Home!). Never mind the famine. It’s 1788 all over again – invade, kill, lie and sanitize …. Let’s hope it won’t take Australians another 200 years to discover what really happened…..

Below are some of the reactions to The First Australians, followed by an SBS news report on the series.

Ashton Marsh from Kangaroo Ground, Victoria says:
What an amazing, eye opening look at a beautiful people. I am ashamed to be a part of the ignorant white culture that performed these atrocities. I hope that this series is shown in schools across Australia to children so they can learn the true history of this country and become aware and respectful of Aboriginal culture. I only finished school in 2004 and the only aboriginal history i was recieved through my school years was brief and in primary school. Great work SBS. From the bottom of my heart, sorry first Australians.

Deborah from Thornlie says:
We are drinking in everything this series had to offer. I’ve never heard the majority of this history before and am appalled that this has happened and been effectively hidden. It certainly brings many current affairs discussions into sharp autonomous rule and why indiginous australians are so disconnected from society sometimes.

Ross Mac from Moorooka says:
I am forty years old. We were never taught of these atrocities at school…I do remember learning the charming story of the friendship between Philip and Bennelong – not so “charming” now. We were also read the odd Aboriginal legend and did a project in class about the Rainbow Serpent, which involved sticking coloured paper on the back wall. I agree that this series should be mandatory viewing in all Aussie schools. “The First Australians”, a much more noble and beautiful name than “aboriginals” or “indigenous”, and an important and wonderful series – beautifully shot, scored and narrated. To face the truth in this way is a great step to the healing of this nation. I also think it’s time to change our nation’s flag.

Kate from Chapman ACT says:
Even as a non-Indigenous person who already had a pretty broad knowledge and deep interest in Indigenous Australia, I find myself stunned to think that so much of this nation’s history has been susbsumed by the colonial ‘vision’. I keep asking myself why so many of these events are not part of our common knowledge??

Mal from Frenchville says:
SBS, good stuff continue to enjoy the episodes of the early contact. Yes, as a Dharumbal man, it is never a comforting thought about the stories of anyone’s struggle to survive. However, positive comments here is incredible about truth being told…What will happen after this series is done? I would like to encourage all our non-indigenous brothers and sisters that have responded positively in this forum to get to know your local traditional owner group (whether in the city or coutry town) because I’m sure that the same experience that you have felt by viewing these episodes will be felt by sitting down with them, and getting to know them and importantly build a relationship of trust with them.

Jim Buckell from Thornbury says:
Congratulatioins on this superb series. Sell it around the world. Put it on school curriculums. The diversity of views is admirable. Telling contact stories through the voices of the descendants of those on the front line is a powerful device.

Manoli P from Heatley says:
Well Done! A truly brilliant film – a comprehensive series that exposes the good, the bad and the ugly history of this land over the last 200 years of colonization. At last the puzzle that is Australia begins to take shape in all its complexity and sacredness for all to see. I feel so fortunate to be working and living with Indigenous people on their own lands and in their own culture/law.

Martin Graham from East Perth, Western Australia says:
Indigenous Australians have lived harmoniously with these lands and seas for more than 40,000 years; still are in many cases – despite experiencing violence and suffering beyond the comprehension of most of we ‘white fellas’. I’m 42. Lived in Australia for 39 years. Travelled most of this State for years and whilst I imagined ‘our past’ I never ‘knew it’ like this series has shown it. I can only weep with shame and marvel at the Indigenous peoples’ strength of character and culture. I take solace in the knowledge that in all probability, when the ‘white man’s 200 year old fossil fuel driven fantasy’ passes, as it most certainly will soon, and the ravages of ‘climate change’ rebalance earth’s ledger, the true wisdom of indigenous peoples around the globe will finally be realised – sadly too late! The DVD of this entire series should be given as a gift (paid for with taxpayers money) to every new born child in this country from this day forward – ‘Lest We Forget’! Well done SBS!!

Stephen from Macquarie ACT says:
Dear Australia, I feel this show is revealing the precise truth of our countries dark history and provoking many emotions on all sides of the community. I feel shaken and almost in tears as I watch it. We may need community discussions about this TV show and its content for weeks to come. There is an opportunity to reconcile further with our indigenous Australians now that we have heard there version of Australian history. We may need some leadership from the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who said sorry to the stolen generation in February this year. Do you think he might talk to all of us about his feelings toward this documentary and its awful truths? I worry this opportunity will come and go and the First Australians will come last in our hearts ounce again.

Chris Bird from Lennox Head says:
In this day and age I find it hard to believe that such a crucial part of our collective history has been so clearly understated. And I’m intrigued by the parallels between that of the First Australians and numerous other indigenous cultures of the world. Congratulations on an excellent series, detailing what is a truly amazing people.

John from Kingsford says:
This is an awe inspiring and unsettling series which was waiting to be made and seen. Have always been fascinated with the Dream time and now know why Have always loved the history and wish it was taught like this when i was at school. Music is magical and hope the soundtrack is released also.

Rob Pearce from acacia ridge says:
Its a damn shame that the Christian ethos from Genesis chapter 1 that mankind is created in God’s image was sold out to all the useful sins, the biggest shame is that the Lord’s name was used in vain a lot in conjunction with this disgraceful genocide social darwinism and the ideology that somehow aborigines were viewed as less than human, half monkey if you will was probably a significant factor

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