The 1970s - Imperialism and Racism
Resisting overseas cultural domination, the New supported the “TV Make it Australian” campaign, lobbied Prime Ministers McMahon and Whitlam to support Australian content on the ABC and oppose media monopoly, and was one of the first subscribers to Currency Press.
Australia’s sell-off of its natural resources was a theme in Exposure 70 which included Pat Flower’s “I love your sunburnt country” for a Japanese speaker, and “Crime does pay”:
Yet when I look round at our mad world today,
At the jokers who make prices soar
And the guys who come in to extract all our wealth
And manage our land from next door.
The same revue commented on apartheid, at an England v South Africa cricket match:
Commentator: It’s wonderful weather here today, the tear gas has cleared overnight, not a cloud in the sky, and a slight south-easterly breeze from the demonstrators’ end. The sun is glinting brilliantly on the barbed wire around the boundary, the trenches in the outfield are immaculately trimmed, the minefields at the bowlers’ approaches have been relaid … I’ve never seen the fortifications at Lord’s looking better …”
Reviewed well but with small houses, Niugini! was a program of plays written by members of a creative writing class at the University of Papua New Guinea, a forum for indigenous writers to express the attitudes of an emerging nation at a time when the Free Papua New Guinea Association opposed Australian colonialism.
Three of the four works dealt with European/indigenous relations. The cast included Simon Burke and Deborah Kennedy. Full body make-up was again a costly budget item.
In The Unexpected Hawk a Kiap (white patrol officer) comes to a village “like a hawk coming to catch a rat” to take young men away to work as stretcher bearers, and to force villages to amalgamate.
Villager: We cannot move this village. Our fathers lived and died here. Their sweat and blood fell on this land. We cannot give our strength to other villages and other people’s land. We cannot move into their village like women. We are men with penis and testicles. You do not understand us. You are like a floating log, on the river without any roots. We are like snags in the river. We watch you floating past, wherever the currents lead you. You fail to look down into the water to see our roots embedded in the mud.
The Ungrateful Daughter examines the cultural dilemma of a young native woman forced into marrying an Australian by the Carneys, a white couple who have adopted her.
Mr Carney upbraids the houseboy.
Carney: Tom, Tom! Come here quick time. How’s that you no wash him clothes belong Missis yesterday? You lez again?
Tom Tom: Masta mi no ken.
Carney: What do you mean you can’t?
Tom Tom: Tasol masta mi no nap. Em I tambu long ples bilong mi. Man I no ken holim tanget belong meri, bae I kisim sik, bai I no nap painim pis or kapul na baembai I no nap grow. Em I tambu long mi long washim klos belong misis.
Carney: What on earth makes you think you’ll get sick touching a woman’s clothes?
Mrs Carney: He’s just making excuses. He’s lazy that’s all.
The Old Man’s Reward concerns Danuba, an old man whose two sons were killed by Japanese in the Second World War. Awarded a medal by the Australian External Affairs Minister, he is given an old coat and pair of shoes to wear for the ceremony but has to return the “government property” afterwards. Danuba drinks at the ceremony, is locked up for being drunk and disorderly, and becomes bitter and disillusioned.
In the last scene Dorei an evangelist enters with a Bible and prayer book.
Dorei: God be with you all. May the Lord bless Danuba’s house.
Danuba: Get yourself blessed first. Leave me. I don’t want to see your face.
Dorei: What’s wrong with Danuba, the most faithful Christian in the village? The bad spirit must have entered his mind. I’ll read you an extract from the Book of Job.
Danuba: Read it to yourself. Keep your God. He is the white man’s God. I gave all my land to him – now see how he allows his people to mock me.
Dorei: Take courage. Have you not got the medal? Is that not a big reward for all your suffering?
Publicised as a satire on French colonialism and a modern morality play, Boris Vian’s The Empire Builders was staged in 1974. Directed by Sean Surplus, the cast included Mark Onslow and Alastair Stewart (a medical practitioner in real life).
Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith told the story of the US black singer who died after being driven around trying to find a treating hospital after she had been involved in a car accident. Publicity stressed the race relations parallel between 1937 Tennessee and anti-apartheid demonstrations in the 1971 South African Rugby tour of Australia.
Jack: Ma’am … I got Bessie Smith in that car there …
Nurse: I don’t care who you got there, Nigger. You cool your heels!
In its group-devised companion piece 1971 – A Race Odyssey a green-skinned race persecute a purple-skinned race. Author Bill Noonan had been in New Guinea during the Second World War and observed how paternalistic Australians were. The cast included Wayne van Heekeren (who grew up on a Port Moresby plantation) and Jean-Paul Bell.