I can’t remember the last time I shouted out loud at someone I was watching in a television series, but I yelled at David Oldfield – former One Nation politician – while watching SBS’s First Contact, which airs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.
The second series of the show, hosted by journalist Ray Martin, takes a group of six “prominent Australians” around the country to learn more about the First Australians.
In addition to Oldfield, the group includes singer Natalie Imbruglia, former Miss Universe Australia Renae Ayris, comedian and broadcaster Tom Ballard, actress Nicky Wendt and media personality Ian “Dicko” Dickson.
What they see shocks them and, for most of them, opens their eyes to what it can be like to be an Aboriginal Australian.
Not so for David Oldfield, it seems.
He says Aboriginal culture is “not relevant” and “should have died out with the Stone Age”. He refuses to accept that Aboriginal is a legitimate and racial category (“We’re all Australians”) and dismisses the fact that the Aboriginal civilisation is one of the oldest in the world (“It wasn’t a civilisation, mate. You need to look that up in the dictionary”).
Of course, that’s why the producers (Blackfellas – a company founded by two amazing Aboriginal producers) have cast him and he clearly relishes his role, regardless of the offence he causes.
He asks Suzanne Kenny, whose four-bedroom, state-rented home houses 13 people, why there’s rubbish on her property, saying it wouldn’t happen at his house in Sydney.
Watch David Oldfield being asked to leave an Aboriginal home
Last time I looked, Sydney had a rubbish collection every week and I doubt that happens for the 10 houses in Elliott – halfway between Darwin and Alice Springs – where people live in appalling conditions.
Suzanne tells him to leave her home and he spends the night in the local caravan park.
He initially spurns a request to have his face painted in ochre during a welcome ceremony in a tiny Aboriginal community (“My skin is sensitive”), and he refuses to join the group as they catch fish for dinner (“There’s no necessity for me to do so”).
Later, he dismisses the obviously painful stories told by two men from the Stolen Generation – saying they can’t tell him why they were taken and he doesn’t accept the “stolen” terminology anyway.
And so it goes on.
The rest of his First Contact colleagues are on a learning curve – as are many other Australians.
They range from Imbruglia, who admits she has never had a conversation with an Aboriginal person, to Wendt who says she’s expecting cultural difference.
“I floss and brush twice a day, without fail. The hair’s going to be different. We’re going to smell different.”
Ballard paints himself as a bleeding heart leftie who’s not keen on “white, rich, privileged men” telling other Australians to get over the past.
Dicko believes everyone is “capable of getting off their arse and taking responsibility for themselves and their families”.
Ayris is anticipating being called names, seeing lots of drunk people and violence.
Watch the three episodes and you see that all have taken something away from their experience and changed their perceptions of Aboriginal Australians.
Oldfield regularly infuriates his fellow travellers but Dicko says that while he didn’t agree with much of what the former politician says, his views are “represented in loungerooms around Australia”.
I genuinely hope they watch this series and, like Dicko and the other travellers, open their minds to a different way of thinking about things.
Watch the trailer:
Disclaimer: Denise Eriksen was an SBS Executive Producer on First Australians – the first television series to explore the Aboriginal viewpoint on white Australia’s history.