Sentenced for alleged involvement in the 1865 Fenian uprising in Ireland, John Boyle O’Reilly was transported for 20 years.
A poet, journalist and fiction writer, he escaped and only four years later arrived in Philadelphia as a hero amongst the Irish immigrant community.
This is a song written about him by Bono and The Edge :
Controversy continues over the extent of the genocide of Aboriginal peoples since their country was invaded.
Rarely is the loser’s version of history ever heard.
Here is one of the most balanced, factual attempts to tell the story on behalf of the Kurris that I have come across.
This 2009 Australian movie flopped in it’s homeland (not surprisingly).
By portraying the barbaric, gruesome yet strangely endearing nature of the early convict groups to arrive in 1822, it ran far too close to the bone for mainstream Australian tastes.
Razor sharp directing by Jonathon Van der Heiden, it is renowned as one of the most realistic cannibal movies ever made.
He was nearly beaten to death during making the film, walking home through Brunswick when eight teenagers with clubs decided to “beat the shit out of us for no reason whatsoever and I nearly died”.
His approach to this highly controversial part of Australian history is similar to my own. There was nothing glorious about being sent to the other side of the planet to work as slave labour for a so-called “colonist of the British Empire”.
This is what Van der Heiden had to say about the making of the film :
“I wanted initially to alienate the Australian audience to this picture perfect Australian wilderness. To these convicts they would never have seen anything like this before in their lives. They came in from the rolling green hills of England, Ireland and Scotland which have been cultivated for centuries, but this is completely untamed rain forest, untouched by man. So it would have been terrifying for these men, hence why they keep calling it the inferno or hell – because it did contain the unknown. For them it was the lost world and they were terrified by it and so I wanted us to see it though their eyes…We wanted the wilderness to be bleak and terrifying and I think by tearing the colour out it does that and it also takes you into a different world immediately, like you are going back in time and seeing footage of Australia’s colonial past. And also with pulling the colour out like that, it does make these convicts like the ghosts of Australia’s past in a way, walking through our forests.”
I am the sum total of my ancestors
I carry their DNA
We are the representatives of a long line of People
And we cart em round everywhere
This long, long line of People that goes back to the beginning of time
And when we meet, they meet other lines of People
And we say
Bring Together the Lines of Men
Maori elder, C2000
Love this particular track from 1 Giant Leap, Jamie and Duncan’s brainchild, lovechild even.
Particularly love Robbie Williams’ contribution – listen what he says about his Dad…
Ngarawundi stood pensively, spear in hand, left foot crooked gently on right knee, listening to the jabber of the Bleached Ones stumbling around like toddlers in Wirrado (Snake Valley) below.
How can these creatures communicate with each other, he wonders.
They never look into each other’s eyes.
As he watches their unruly brawling and aggressive shaking of identically shaped shards of quartz crystal water gourds, he starts to see a pattern in their strange lurches and gestures.
This must be some traditional dance to celebrate a past battle he concludes. Maybe a ceremony to determine who will be the leader in their next encounter?
The short, overfed one on the right appears to be the dominant character in this strange opera, shouting down each one of the group in turn, establishing his superiority.
The dance continues for several hours under the Ngarawundi’s careful gaze until the leader falls slowly and ceremoniously from the vertical, simultaneously pointing his magic quartz shard to the heavens, presumably to indicate the star path to their next planned battle.
The others gradually slump around the primitive and wasteful tea-tree camp-fire they have built. Clearly these creatures have no knowledge of the sacred timbers so vital to his own tribe’s rituals.
Are they human, or some curious tailless offspring of the Kangaroo totem?
They adorn themselves in ill-fitting and desperately permeable bark-like coverings.
The choreography of their dance appears complex yet naive to his trained eye. As if their elders have not properly coached them in the importance of each gesture, each sound, each step.
Maybe they are outlaws, tribal rejects who have transgressed some unspoken taboo and have been forced to leave the careful nurturing of their tribal elders before they were able to fully achieve initiation.
How many times since the last full moon had he watched them stumble aimlessly past waterhole after waterhole, nutritious plant after nutritious plant, seemingly oblivious of their value.
Ngarawundi felt he was beginning to know the whitefella. And he did not like what he saw.
The excellent SBS series First Australians chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. First Australians explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire.
Over seven episodes, First Australians depicts the true stories of individuals – both black and white – caught in an epic drama of friendship, revenge, loss and victory in Australia’s most transformative period of history.
Episode 2 focuses on the events that took place in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) around the time that Benjamin and Warren arrive from England on the convict ship Elisabeth (1831).