Our Generation was one of many documentaries being shows as part of Conversations in Film: The London International Documentary Film Festival, which is taking place in venues across London from 13th – 28th May. This documentary focuses on the lives of the Yolngu, a tribe of Australian Aboriginals.
Our Generation is advertised as a ‘powerful and upfront documentary on the Australian Aboriginal Struggle for their land, culture and freedom – a story that has been silenced by the Government and mainstream media.’ And it certainly delivered information that was shocking to me.
I had always assumed, as far as I spent time thinking about Australian Aboriginals, that they probably did live below the average poverty line for Australians and that they experienced racism. Perhaps naively though I assumed that the racism was mostly casual except for radical groups and that there were probably lots of charities attempting to alleviate the conditions they live in.
However, Our Generation, revealed a different side to Australia through blunt imagery and interviews with aboriginals, activists, historians and doctors. This was interspersed by particularly shocking facts in writing against a black screen. I found it appalling to see the cramped conditions that the Yolngu lived in. We were shown a small house shared by several (large generations) of one family and told how these cramped conditions and their poverty mean that various diseases are prominent. Trachoma, an eye disease that can lead to blindness, is easily preventable and thus considered a disease of the third world only. Australia is the only developed country that has cases of trachoma, because of the conditions the Aboriginal community lives in.
What was even more dreadful though was seeing Australian politicians promise to help these communities but only agree to do so if they agreed to sign over the lease of their land. One prime minister wanted them to sign a lease for 99 years while the next one wanted them to sign it away for 44 years in return for building them 50 more houses. A piece of legislation that was particularly shocking though was the decision to tackle child sexual assault in Aboriginal communities by sending in the police and armed forces to take over their land, in 2007. An act that coincidentally followed a refusal to sign away their land for 99 years and required Australia to suspend its own rules against racism. Only 4 possible cases of child abuse where then found amongst the thousands of children health professionals examined.
Our Generation is an absorbing exposé that doesn’t pull any punches in damning the Australian government. The term ‘thought provoking’ does not do justice to this documentary that challenges your perceptions and does not hesitate to show people clearly in great distress. However, while it commendably calls upon various sources to illustrate its argument, its very own hard hitting style betrays some slight weaknesses. A lot of the sources for the facts flashed very pointedly at us on the screen are from newspapers as opposed to official documents (although I concede official documents may want to conceal these facts). Also the government’s argument for their actions was never properly explored.
These gripes aside, I highly recommend that anyone interested in indigenous communities and their relations with the Western world see this documentary. It’s brazen in putting across its message and it’s message has some disturbing implications for a country that we would normally consider ‘civilised’.