Last Friday evening, I attended – with three or four thousand other people – the premiere of John Pilger’s latest film, “Utopia”. It was screened in the open air in the park opposite Eveleigh St, Redfern – generally known as “The Block”.

The BlockBefore white settlement, this area was inhabited by the Gadigal people, part of the Eora clan. On Friday, there were indigenous people from many parts of the country there to mark the occasion, and to support John Pilger’s impassioned plea – in the film and in person – for radical action to address the problems which still exist in the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country, as well as the social welfare of indigenous people. In particular, he called for a treaty.

The timing of this event was no doubt chosen to be in the run up to Australia Day – or Invasion Day as it is sometimes called – on January 26th.

The “Utopia” in the title refers, apart from its obvious meaning of a perfect or highly desirable society, to the aboriginal community of that name north-east of Alice Springs. The film starts with a stark comparison between living conditions in the Canberra suburb of Barton and those in Utopia. It then catalogues the many problems that exist for indigenous people today – health, housing, education, incarceration, the NT Intervention, etc.

While many of these matters have been – and still are – indubitably problematic, Pilger, our very own latter-day Jeremiah, presents them in an unrelievedly bleak style, and one could be forgiven for concluding that there is absolutely no good news. Pilger might respond by saying that a more balanced presentation would be unlikely to jolt anyone into action – which is probably true – and action is clearly needed.

The point is well made that in many areas, progress in dealing with problem issues has been extremely slow or even non-existent. In particular, his interviews in the film with various politicians give one to wonder how our assorted governments ever achieve anything worthwhile. Indeed, he suggests that since for over 200 years, our (white) leaders have failed to effectively resolve these problems, non-indigenous Australians are in fact incapable of doing so, and that we should therefore be seeking help from “outside”. I think this certainly bears thinking about. I for one – and I’m sure there are very many others – have in recent times felt that the range of candidates we have to choose from at elections is very unsatisfactory. We need a radically different way of locating and nominating people who have the intelligence, wisdom, vision and (even) compassion to govern us – indigenous and non-indigenous Australians – in a better way.

And a treaty? Yes, I think that could be a major step forward.

I hope that many readers will find an opportunity to see Pilger’s film. (See http://johnpilger.com/ for some of the screening times.) It certainly makes you think. And please leave your comments here on this critical issue.


About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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9 Responses to Utopia

  1. Kev says:

    I agree with your thoughts on these issues… I Certainly think a Treaty as well as freehold title to Aboriginal land to allow them to build and buy their own homes would be a great starting point ! Aboriginal people need to own their homes, not living in the Government “Handout Homes”
    The land is their Mother & they look after & respect it as such… I’m sure a hell of a lot of white Australians could learn a lot about life values from them !! Regards Kev

  2. Pete Wanger says:

    How very interesting and coincidental that your blog post reaches me in the United States on January 20th, Martin Luther King Day, our honoring of the one person who did the most to advance the civil rights movement.

  3. I’d love to see John’s latest film. It looks like it is essential viewing. Thanks for discussing this important issue. 🙂

  4. Anne Newton says:

    I’m not sure how effective a treaty would be. There are so many different groups, with so many different issues. Undoing the past mistakes isn’t an option and no matter what interventions are undertaken, they may be perceived as patronising or paternalistic by some. There are many facets to the problems facing indigenous people and it is easy to say that non-indigenous are incapable of resolving them, but in fact indigenous people are incapable of resolving them too. There are many people who claim to be indigenous, but do so to manipulate the system…And there are many many non-indigenous manipulating the system to take advantage of all the money thrown at the perceived issues. I think it would be easier to rid Australia of Cane Toads, than it will be to solve the terrible issues of alcohol fuelled domestic violence, diabetes & glaucoma, sub-standard education and housing issues. And a treaty won’t fix these woes.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Wise words, Anne. I suppose I should have asked one of the indigenous people who were saying how important a treaty would be just what they wanted it to include. Maybe it would be no more than some nice words — but sometimes nice words, if sincere, can be helpful. And maybe they can include some undertakings about the future.

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