Reconciling the Nation
From Thursday May 25 to Saturday June 3, SBS Television will break new ground in a historic season of programs, Unfinished Business — Reconciling the Nation. The season's schedule includes nine new programs, dramas and documentaries commissioned by SBS Independent, most made by Indigenous filmmaking teams. The focus of the season is Corroboree 2000 and National Sorry Day on May 26. Speaking in Sydney at the launch of the programs, former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Pat Dodson, said that it is in the telling of the people's stories that the process of healing can begin. "It is in the understanding of the stories that learning and respect can grow", he said. "And ultimately, as when we as a nation come to understand the fundamental story of how this land was in the possession of the Aboriginal people and became transferred to the British, then we'll understand what `unfinished business' is really about." Mr Dodson praised the contribution made by SBS "to this ongoing dialogue, communication, to this ongoing raising of awareness ..." THE PROGRAMS Thursday May 25: 8pm sees the return of ICAM (Indigenous Cultural Affairs Magazine) for 13 episodes in its ninth series. In its first program, a two-week special, ICAM will look at issues pertinent to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts to achieve reconciliation. Part one will deal with the legal justice system, in particular mandatory sentencing, incarceration rates which are higher than ever, and the increase of deaths in custody. The spotlight will also be turned on the Howard Government's Native Title Amendment Bill — which overturned native title rights — and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination inquiry into that government policy. At 8.30pm, the SBS current affairs program Insight will feature a forum on the pressing issues that are part of reconciliation. It was held held in the NSW country town of Kempsey, whose chequered history includes the town's "no" vote in the 1967 referendum to end constitutional discrimination against Aborigines. The rest of Australia cast a 90.8 percent "yes" vote. Friday May 26: In Surfing The Healing Wave at 12.30pm, SBS cameras go to the annual Indigenous surf carnival at Fingal Beach on the east coast of NSW where, amid the fierce competition, families, relatives and friends gather together and share stories. Following at 1.30pm is Glad, the story of Glad Milroy who was taken away from her family as a child. Glad's story was put into print in 1987 in a book by her daughter Sally Morgan, My Place. Like many of the stories being told of the stolen generations it was valued as a story of the past, not the present, but far from closing a chapter on history, the retelling of these stories has brought many unresolved issues to the surface. Now 70, Glad journeys back to the country she was taken from, looking for the family she has never known. At 2pm in A Memory, Auntie Grace Lenoy from the Birriburra nation recalls events of 65 years ago, gradually revealing the ill treatment and abuse she and many other children suffered. At 2.15pm in Peeping Through The Louvres Phyllis Bin Baker, a Kimberley woman who was taken from her family, traces her mother's burial site in Derby 56 years later and makes a joyful pilgrimage to meet her family in the Yiyli community. Chris Edwards was nine months old when he and his siblings were taken from their mother Alice Edwards. Alice was also taken from her mother as a child. Cry From The Heart, at 8.30pm, tells the story of how Chris and his family have struggled to come to terms with their lives. After being taken from his family Chris was sexually abused from the age of four and continued to be a target of abuse in juvenile detention and jail. He then began to correspond with a relative, Auntie Lola, which made him reassess his life. After ten years in jail he finally succeeded in gaining parole and began to make contact with his family. Saturday May 27: As host of Corroboree 2000 SBS will provide live coverage of the events surrounding this historical occasion — 9am-12 noon and 1pm-2.30pm - - from the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. Beginning with a traditional welcome by members of the Aboriginal community, the program will include as speakers national leaders and youth representatives. In keeping with the tradition of a corroboree, live performances will portray the vibrant and living culture of Indigenous Australians. In addition it will be a celebration of the cultural diversity of contemporary Australia. May 27, 2000, marks the 33rd anniversary of the historic 1967 referendum, the third anniversary of the 1997 Australian Convention and the beginning of National Reconciliation Week 2000. At 7.30pm in As It Happened: Stolen Generations, Indigenous filmmaker Darlene Johnson draws on personal stories and commentary to describe the experience of Australia's stolen generations. Historians Henry Reynolds and Marcia Langton detail these these historical practices and refute claims that have been made that Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families might be seen as "rescued". Bessy Singer (Moola Boola), Cleonie Quayle (NSW) and Bobby Rendall (Croker Island) describe their own experiences and reflect on the meaning of separation in their own lives. The drama My Mother, My Son, which screens at 9pm, will be previewed by Tom Pearson in the next issue (May 24) of The Guardian. Sunday May 28: Coverage of Corroboree 2000 will begin at 8.30am and conclude at 12.30pm. It will include the walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge — a People's Walk For Reconciliation — in which hundreds of thousands of Australians are expected to participate. There will be popular personalities taking part and bands of roving entertainment. (This coverage will be live everywhere except Perth, Darwin and Adelaide.) Musician and performer Archie Roach was about three years old when he was taken from his family. His mother was born in Framlingham Mission, south western Victoria. In Land Of The Little Kings, at 8pm, Archie tells of how his mother, who was on the road a lot with his father, decided to "come back home with all her family — and bang — they take us away from her". This feature-length documentary contains personal accounts of the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families. Archie's partner, musician Ruby Hunter, recounts how her brothers and sisters, living with their grandmother, were offered a trip to the circus by a couple of government officials: how they excitedly went off dressed in their best clothes and never returned. Their grandmother never saw them again. On her death bed she still cried for her little ones. Tuesday May 30: When the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established in 1991 it encouraged the formation of study circles aimed at improving relations between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Whiteys Like Us, at 8.30pm, focuses on one such study circle held in 1998 at Manly Community College in Sydney. These confronting sessions, which dealt with guilt, welfare, racism and social justice, are filmed in a fly-on-the-wall style. There is bickering, arguments, lost tempers and explosions of anger. Ultimately the participants acknowledge this hard path has advanced their understanding of Aboriginality and the reconciliation process. Thursday June 1: The second of ICAM's two-part Unfinished Business program, at 8pm, looks at the current state of reconciliation and asks whether it is achievable. Community leaders, prominent Australians and ordinary people are interviewed to gauge public sentiment. Friday June 2: The drama Dust, which will screen at 8.30pm, will be previewed by Tom Pearson in the next issue of The Guardian. A chance meeting on the banks of the Canning River in Western Australia brings together boyhood adversaries in Where Two Rivers Meet, at 9pm. The film follows Clive, a middle class white banker, and Rory, a disillusioned Nyoongar lawyer, as they journey through the landscape of their childhood conflict. Saturday June 3: The Habits Of New Norcia at 7.30pm in As It Happened, is the story of New Norcia Mission, now a tourist destination, north east of Perth. "An orphanage crowded with no orphans", the Aboriginal children at the Mission suffered terrible hardship as child labourers, including brutal beatings and were forced to eat food set aside for the chickens. At 8.30pm in the satirical drama Confessions Of A Headhunter two Aboriginal men are suspected by police of having committed over 150 crimes around Australia in a series of decapitations. The heads that roll, it turns out, are icons of white occupation that turn whitefella heroism on its head. Road, at 9.05pm, is a unique collaboration between Indigenous filmmakers and young people from Sydney's inner city Redfern community, telling an authentic story of youth survival in the city, friends on the run from trouble, connections made and the development of friendships.