I really enjoyed the film “Australia”. I went away really puzzled about why it has been attacked so much by the critics.
The best I can come up with is that I think the film “Australia” is about white Australia’s shame. It is sugar coated in a Hollywood style epic but it is still there.
The treatment of Aboriginal people and the cover up of the bombing of Darwin are two shameful episodes in our history.
I was really interested in how the treatment of mixed blood children was so much about the denial of the fact that their fathers were white men – maybe married, respected, even powerful.
Getting rid of these children was a way of removing the evidence that white men were having sex with Aboriginal women. Children of mixed blood were the white man’s shame. Their existence provoked a panic response.
Soldiers involved in the bombing of Darwin – like my father – also saw a very dark side of human nature. The very few times my father talked about it he told us, “There is nothing uglier than human panic.”
He told my brother that many bodies were loaded on barges and towed out to sea. The Australian soldiers were sworn to secrecy about what they saw and did. The official death toll goes nowhere near telling the real story. And that was on purpose – the government didn’t want Australians to know the true death toll from the bombing raids.
The soldiers themselves were shamed for the looting that took place as they left Darwin. They lived out their days with layers of secrecy and shame over what happened in Darwin at that time.
Given that Singapore had fallen to the Japanese several days before, many people feared the Japanese were about to invade Darwin. I think if there was looting, people might have felt they were taking supplies that would otherwise be left for the Japanese.
The film does not go into the detail of the Darwin bombing but it restores it to its rightful place in Australian history. It really did happen. More bombs were dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour. There were two attacks on the first day, and 64 in total over 18 months. Yet many Australians still don’t even know Darwin was bombed – it hasn’t been part of our story.
My father did not eat roasted pork. It wasn’t until after he died that my brother revealed the smell reminded Dad of burned bodies pulled from Darwin harbour.
My friend told me the other day that it takes three generations to get over a war.
As I sat in the cinema and watched the bombing of Darwin and the war against Australian children of mixed race I felt great admiration for the team who put this film together.
They are giving us back part of our true story. It is a painful gift and I believe that is why it has been so savagely attacked.