“History tells us that the original inhabitants were hunter gatherers who lived in isolation for thousands of years. Blah, blah, blah.”
So goes the opening of writer and actor Trisha Morton-Thomas’ unique take on Australia’s history, Occupation Native. It’s one of four documentaries screening in the You Are Here series starting on NITV and SBS simultaneously on Sunday, 23 July.
These quality gems are particularly timely given this week’s scientific discovery proving, according to some, that Australia was settled 20,000 years before Europeans arrived in Europe.
Occupation Native’s title was taken from Morton-Thomas’ mother’s birth certificate, prompting her to ponder the downsides of being a “native”.
Putting up with 227 years of misinformation about her mob is one of them. Morton-Thomas uses recent social media posts as example.
“Is it true that abos have two sized nostrils? One for unleaded and for leaded?”
She uses her film to call for a full version of Australian history to be taught in all schools – reflecting the fact that 36,000 years ago, indigenous people were making bread, building houses and dams.
“I’m not an expert in Australian history but this film is the way I see it,” she says.
“What our mob has is the longest connection to laws, customs, beliefs and connection to land on the planet.”
We Don’t Need A Map – a film by Warwick Thornton of Samson and Delilah fame, opens the series.
This beautifully made film opened this year’s Sydney Film Festival.
In it, Thornton argues the Southern Cross, the southern hemisphere’s most famous constellation, is in danger of becoming the new swastika and synonymous with Australian nationalism.
Controversial, of course, but deeply revealing and fascinating at the same time.
In My Own Words – made by Thornton’s sister, Erica Glynn – follows on Sunday, 30 July at 8.30pm. It’s a very funny and moving look at Aboriginal students learning to read and write during a 13-week course.
Arguably the most powerful of them all is Connection to Country (Sunday, 6 August at 8.30pm). It’s a gentle film which documents the clash between Aboriginal people and mining interests in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
It could be depressing and a polemic but it actually shows that, with better communication, both sides can co-exist happily in this deeply sacred area.
Occupation Native is the last film out on Sunday, 13 August at 8.30pm.
White Australian audiences have struggled at times to embrace television programmes – documentary or otherwise – with an indigenous voice.
But here’s a chance to engage with four excellent documentaries, which are, in turn, funny, controversial and mind-expanding. And they will be on SBS On Demand for catch-up.