Cinema Exposing Australian “apartheid”

Exposing Australian “apartheid”

Utopia, a powerful film by John Pilger, well-known Australian film maker and left wing commentator, explores continued racism against the country’s indigenous people – the Aboriginals. Through speaking to politicians, pundits, lay white Australians, Aboriginal leaders and activists, Pilger unravels a web of mistreatment, violence and bigotry (often endorsed by state policies) meted out on the minority group. The message is clear: in theory, Australia is an “apartheid” state.

Capture 8The irony in the title becomes apparent when Pilger visits Utopia: a far flung settlement near Alice Springs where 1400 Aboriginals live in abject poverty, without decent shelter, electricity or sanitation services. Various commentators ask: “How, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, is this level of destitution possible?”

Known for leaving no stone unturned, Pilger interrogates a few current and past government officials in Australia who have been responsible for policies that relegate Aboriginals to the status of second class citizens. He cites the recent case of the John Howard government’s intervention in Aboriginal homelands, based on unfounded claims of child abuse, which resulted in over 200 young children being taken away from their parents.

Pilger also visits Rottnest Island – a prison and concentration camp during the early 1930s where many Aboriginals were imprisoned and killed. Today the prison has been renovated into a hotel. The site makes little effort to acknowledge the island’s murderous past. Having made a film 29 years ago about the same injustices experienced by Aboriginals, Pilger shows, with shock and dismay, how little has changed.

-Welcome Lishivha

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