GREAT DI­VIDE

Take six peo­ple with in-built prej­u­dices and let them ex­pe­ri­ence how Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple live in a va­ri­ety of places ... the re­sult is sur­pris­ing

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - COLIN VICK­ERY

Ray Martin is haunted by disturbing scenes from his child­hood and early days as a re­porter. The shock­ing images have driven the 69-year-old to de­vote a ma­jor por­tion of his life to in­dige­nous is­sues.

Martin has been chair­man of the Fred Hol­lows Foun­da­tion and the Aus­tralian In­dige­nous Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion. In 2011 he was made a mem­ber of the Or­der of Aus­tralia for ser­vices to in­dige­nous Aus­tralians, char­i­ties and the me­dia.

“When I was grow­ing up in coun­try New South Wales I re­mem­ber go­ing to the swimming pool in Gunnedah, where my mum’s fam­ily came from.

“I was only about 9 or 10 and the life­guard at the swimming pool would hose down the Abo­rig­i­nal kids be­fore they were al­lowed to jump in. I had no idea why they should be hosed and I wasn’t.

“Typ­i­cally at the pic­ture the­atre there you would see all the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple would sit on the floor down the front – seg­re­gated from oth­ers.

“That wasn’t as bad as what I saw in out­back Western Aus­tralia in 1967. That was real apartheid – bru­tal racism. Black­fel­las were con­fined to black­fella pubs. I found it un­ac­cept­able and shame­ful.”

Martin con­tin­ues his quest to pro­mote un­der­stand­ing of in­dige­nous is­sues by host­ing First Con­tact, from the pro­duc­ers of Red­fern Now, Mabo, The Tall Man and First Aus­tralians.

“This is one of the most im­por­tant shows I have ever done,” Martin says.

First Con­tact cen­tres on six non-in­dige­nous Aus­tralians who spend a month com­ing face-to-face with Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

The six are 41-year-old mother-of-five Sandy, law en­force­ment of­fi­cer Trent, stu­dent Alice, mum-of-four Jas­mine, surfer Mar­cus and check-out chick Bo-dene.

None of the six have had any sig­nif­i­cant con­tact with Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, but that doesn’t stop them hav­ing strong opin­ions – most of them neg­a­tive. Abo­rig­i­nals are la­belled ad­dicts, wel­fare cheats, freeload­ing, lazy, dole bludgers, prim­i­tive, and vic­tims by the par­tic­i­pants.

“Give them houses and they burn them down,” Sandy says. “You think that’s racist, well I don’t f---ing care.”

Time for a re­al­ity check. Martin meets the six at Uluru but it is not long be­fore they are sent pack­ing to des­ti­na­tions all around the coun­try.

In Western Syd­ney, par­tic­i­pants spend a night with ed­u­ca­tor Vic­tor Mor­gan and his fam­ily. In in­ner-city Red­fern they meet Shane Phillips who runs a box­ing pro­gram for lo­cal youth.

Nyinyikay, in far north­east Arn­hem Land, is so re­mote there is no shop. Lo­cals har­poon a tur­tle for their meal.

Other des­ti­na­tions in­clude El­cho Is­land, where some fam­i­lies live 20 and even 30 to a house, a hos­tel in Alice Springs, and Roe­bourne Re­gional Prison.

“I’m not sur­prised (by the views of the six at the start),” Martin says. “I have heard the same opin­ions from lots of Aus­tralians.

“It is not racism, it is ig­no­rance. Th­ese are peo­ple who have got their opin­ions from talk­back ra­dio.

“What I liked about them, even though they had ex­pressed out­ra­geous opin­ions, was they went out and asked ques­tions and tested their prej­u­dices with real (Abo­rig­i­nal) peo­ple at the coal face. They were po­lite. They never con­fronted them in a rude way. They all were moved by what they saw.”

News­man Ray Martin says First Con­tact

is one of the most im­por­tant shows he has done.

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