COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Amidst the frenzy to stop the avalanche of juvenile delinquency, hate posts ricocheting around the social media echo chamber, as law and order is chosen by the CLP for its banner election policy, as shops are closing and long time locals are leaving town, Dujuan Hoosan seems to be the wrong kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He confesses to have been right in the midst of the nightly mayhem in the streets of Alice Springs. The movie In My Blood It Runs, in which he is the hero, sets out to provide an explanation for his behaviour.
But when the lights went up after the local premiere on Saturday the nearly 500 people in the auditorium had just three questions for the star, and the six members of the production team on the stage for a Q&A: Is his brother jealous of his stardom? (Yes.) How can the community better understand Aboriginal problems? (See below.) And the one which KIERAN FINNANE is leading her review with.
Are we in the same town as the keyboard warriors and the would-be vigilantes? The people clamouring for a curfew? Baying for more cops? Are we on the same planet? Just three questions about a movie that is seen around the world and and portrays Alice Springs people as barbaric towards Aborigines, especially kids?
Here we have a 10-year-old who gets mostly Es at school, as the film reports, but has developed a world view that makes him want to say to the Prime Minister “stop killing Aborigines” and who wants whites to get out of town.
Is this a documentary? No, it is not. It is propaganda, on the back of this child’s story, for an agenda, some of which may be honourable or at least well intentioned. But it is propaganda.
“In My Blood It Runs is not just a film, we have a multi-year impact campaign that dovetails our film release,” as the film’s website makes it clear.
This campaign includes addressing racism; supporting an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led education system; making schools culturally safe; a restorative youth justice solutions instead of punitive youth justice; raising the age of criminality from 10 to “14/16 years old”; and so on.
And cash: “Your donation will directly support Children’s Ground to establish a school in Dujuan’s homelands, Mpweringke Anapipe.”
So what’s driving this project?
Jane Vadiveloo (at left), one of the leading production team members, the CEO of the Alice Springs NGO Children’s Ground, in town for 20 years “and still learning,” gave an indication during the Q&A which had a lot more As than Qs: “I think we all know the horrendous human rights injustices and abuses that happen every single minute of every single day in every single sector, whether it be prison, education, health. Aboriginal children are 23 times more likely to be in gaol … the constant fear and surveillance that people have to live under.”
That is a remarkable statement given that a huge number of people living and working in Alice Springs are focussed on Aboriginal people, responding to their needs, courtesy the taxpayer, of course. Half of the town’s workforce, directly and indirectly, would be a reasonable guess.
Ms Vadiveloo could have added housing, police and youth work to the sectors where Aboriginal needs are massive and disproportionate, and the multi-million dollar budgets of Aboriginal controlled NGOs.
The film’s Leitmotiv is: Alice is a bad place, for Dujuan and kids like him, but all’s good in the homelands (Dujuan has two, Sandy Bore in The Centre, his mother’s, and near Borroloola, his father’s).
The sustained failure to develop employment opportunities on homelands and the costs of servicing are not issues this film spends any time on.
Long-time campaigner William Tilmouth summarised what he took away from the movie. One of the film’s major points is that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people love and care for their children” – something being questioned while kids as young as eight are out in the streets, night after night.
Mr Tilmouth says the answers must come from the families: The one which created this film, the many which sustain Aboriginal society with mutual support, but also those who currently are neglectful, failing to provide a safe home for their children who are plunging the town into its current turmoil.
“The leadership in the film came from the family,” he said.
“It never came from the leadership that you see today, from people who live on high wages, have comfortable homes, food in the fridge.
“Those people profess to be leaders, because they head up large organisations, they meet with government people continuously, they have large meetings and sit around drinking copious amounts of coffee, and at the end of the day, nothing comes out of it.
“They ensure the organisation they work for is compliant. No-one asks them to lead.
“In this case here [the film] you could clearly see that the community took ownership and they took control. They handled the solution and they tackled the problem.
“Think about leaders [as people] who will take you to a place where solutions seem impossible, and make them possible. That’s true leadership.
Mr Tilmouth (file photo).
“Dujuan, his father, his grandfather, they made that solution so easily possible.
“When you see the amounts of money that is thrown at these non-existent solutions … how much would it have cost to bring in police in camouflage?
“No-one wants to listen. It’s a dent in their ego. Get back into your box and be the bureaucrat you were designed to be, because you are definitely not a leader.
“[With this film] the control came from the families, and with a little support, they achieved what every government department, every Aboriginal leader, tries to aspire to.”
Was it just the auditorium lighting or had Mr Tilmouth reddened some faces in the crowd, so short of questions?