Monday, 8 April 2013

"A culture of fairness"

So I'm sitting in my living room watching one of my favourite TV presenters from my childhood piss me off. Even worse, I'm watching Tony Robinson present a documentary series and I'm still pissed off. 

Tony Robinson Down Under follows Not-Baldrick-Any-More around the history of the UK's former social experiment. Whilst I admit to not watching the whole series, after several episodes, I finally felt like my TMJ-inducing jaw-clench throughout has been justified. They've missed something rather fundamental out. 

Where are all the Aborigines? 

Like, really. Where are they all? A history of Australia that promises "From the search to identify the Great Southern Land, through the Colonial trials and tribulations, right up to the establishment of a dynamic modern Australia, Tony Robinson uncovers the key events and major influences that define Australia and Australians today" which seems to extend only to white Australians. In episode five, which focuses on immigration, in particularly the massive waves of Eastern European and Asian immigration after World War 2, there is not one mention of the impact of that immigration on the native population. Not one. The episode I'm watching now, on the development of modern Australia, there's still no mention of the people who called Australia home for millennia. Not the stolen generations. Nothing. 

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on Aboriginal history or culture. At all. Or Australia, really. I've been there a total of two days and one flight transfer. But that's why I'm watching a documentary! I'm watching to learn about a country. A country that was not uninhabited when my people decided to go subjugate somewhere new with lots of lovely natural resources to thief. It makes me angry. Angry and embarrassed that an entire nation can be so cheerfully rubbed out of a history documentary that was made in 2011.

Oh, actually, I tell a lie. With five minutes to go until the ads, Tony looks sad while an Aboriginal historian tells him that it took until the late 60s before Aboriginal people were recognised in the census. They play Kevin Rudd's apology from 2008. There's minor key piano and footage of protesters hugging. Applause, cut to commercial. Let's all feel better about how we apologised.

I remember seeing that apology at the time, and feeling a lovely warmth from it. We were sorry! That's good, right? 

We're back from commercial. Footage of white people at a cafe, shopping, at the beach. His series conclusion takes place on a sailing ship. Apparently transportation worked out well for Australia in the long run. Stirring string music, photos of early white settlers. Kevin Rudd talks about Australia's "culture of fairness".

If you didn't know any better you'd feel all warm inside.

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