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[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

Lots of opportunities to come up against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues in London these days:

a review by Maya Jaggi of Gail Jones’ recently published novel Sorry in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday 26th May in which the reviewer explicitly mentions National Sorry Day. Gail Jones herself will be speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts that is on this week and next;

• the opening this coming week of Ray Lawrence’s film Jindabyne with its ‘creepy Aboriginal’ theme (I haven’t seen the film yet and can only surmise from reviews);

• the opening next week of Rolf de Heer’s film Ten Canoes (unfortunately, I’ll miss it because I’ll be in Taiwan at the Austronesian Endangered Language Documentation conference);

• a half-page full colour advertisement on p19 of Saturday’s Guardian that features pictures of young Aboriginal people in angular dance poses against a desert landscape backdrop with the strap line “We’ve got all dressed up. The band’s on its way. And we’ve been rehearsing for 40,000 years. So where the bloody hell are you?” – the latest commercialisation of Aboriginal images brought to the UK by Tourism Australia

A nice mix of stereotypes here for us all to enjoy.


I saw both Jindabyne and Ten Canoes on the plane from LA to SYD a few weeks ago (and before you ask no, these weren't the generic films on offer in economy). I'm not sure what they mean by "creepy Aboriginal theme", whether the theme is creepy and it's about Aboriginal people, or it's about [creepy Aboriginals] (certainly not the latter), but it was a good illustration of how insidious racism is and how it can lead otherwise fairly decent people to do terrible things, apparently through "thoughlessness" or "panic" as well as through deliberate malice aforethought.

The other good thing about Jindabyne are the themes to do with white ppl being *overly* sympathetic toward black ppl. I thought the movie dealt with all its themes very intelligently and they were very wide ranging. Good cinema, nothing trivial about it.

Well, I was in Tokyo last night (3rd June) and what should I see on Japanese TV but that execrable Tourism Australia advert that I referred to in my original post. But wait, it was a bit different -- there were the same images of bikini-clad girls on beaches, kangaroos on golf courses, and fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge etc. all with spiffy Japanese subtitles, but one segment of the original advert was missing. Yep, the one with the "we've been rehearsing for 40,000 years" line - either Tourism Australia has come to its post-colonial senses or someone decided that blackfellas don't play well in Japan. Hmm, hard to know what to think, eh?

The dancers from the ad are from Bangarra Dance Theatre, a well-known, internationally-travelled Indigenous Contemporary dance company. I haven't seen the ad, but I'm not sure what you find so offensive about it...

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