Look beyond the postcard Sydney skyline and peek into the other side of the tracks with the pivotal landmark series Redfern Now this week.
Non Indigenous Australians need to do the work but also here are resources mentioned to get involved beyond tweeting and signing petitions:
Adrian Russell Wills
Adrian Russell Wills
Released: November 2012 – April 2015
Production Company: Blackfella films
Network: ABC & Netflix in some countries
Cast: Wayne Blair, Dean Daley-Jones, Deborah Mailman, Richard Green, Lisa Flanagan
Breakdown and Analysis
- We absolutely fell in love with this series particularly the anthology nature of season 1. The richness we don’t get to see on general Australian screens of Indigenous people. Oti expresses his praise in the storytelling throughout the series. KT offers the successful straddling between addressing heavy issues and providing natural levity. The vibrancy of Redfern is demonstrated through the considered cinematography. The series had a lot of tonality and was beautifully balanced throughout.
- When the correct people are telling their own stories the richness is undeniable.
- KT reflects on when she lived in Waterloo/Redfern. Being Tongan there is a sense of kinship even though she was potentially part of the gentrifying of a once safe refuge for Indigenous Australians. She felt moments of growing up in Western Sydney. Being Indigenous across the pond in the Pacific Ocean, KT has a lot of Indigenous tax and this extends to Aboriginal people. Like in our Matrix episode, this show can be enjoyed by all but will hit deeper for Aboriginal people.
- We see varying levels of housing in this series that was made possible through the considered detail and love for the people.
- It’s almost impossible to have a conversation about mental illness in the Aboriginal community and not acknowledge colonisation and dispossession. We get to see how the community works in Redfern tying into support networks. Grace goes to the family and no one was willing to help, this time. Sometimes life is hard enough that you can only look after yourself. Oti shares his frustration on feeling as though the women were not doing enough, especially as the world is against you. Looking away because it doesn’t affect them, the despondency. Logistically everyone has helped which doesn’t make it better but patience, resources, love and care… How much more can you pour into someone else’s cup when yours is empty?
- How do we pick up the pieces of a community without hurting ourselves? Grace’s family was suffering while she was trying her best to do the right thing. As vibrant as Redfern is, not all the Aboriginal people in Redfern are from Redfern, speaking to the relocation and dispossession over decades in Australia.
- Barring it being created a white man, KT refers to what we enjoyed about Candyman in that the stories speak beyond the characters and how it impacts the whole community.
- Stories can happen for characters but wholly resonating narratives occur when they consider the community around them.
- We discuss Julie’s experience in getting to Redfern with a racist taxi driver. KT wistfully points out that it is normalised to be outrightly racist towards Aboriginal people and to become offended when called out on it. Julie was traversing being Aboriginal and not ‘looking Aboriginal enough’ within Redfern and broadly.
- Coral was adamant that Julie would avoid all heartache by finding herself a white man. This may speak to her daughter’s experience of what Coral has experienced around her. KT notes how in Tongan culture it is normal and expected that female family members will take on that informal carer role. Coral refused to receive proper care and we also see this with Ernie in season 2. Oti shares his experiences as a kid and how over the counter medications became the community ailment.
- When the conflict arises and Raymond suspects everyone it opens up a broader dialogue of tall poppy syndrome. People don’t want to see you succeed and would rather put their energy in seeing others fall. We really enjoyed his award’s speech because he was calling people out on their shit. KT appreciated the way Raymond ran it straight. He is completely flawed but you know what you are getting with Raymond.
- KT didn’t even realise until Stand Up that the Australian national anthem only gets sung in sporting events. There are layers within the Aboriginal community and we see that with Joely’s parents. Not that the mum is fully leaning to the colonial white world but she understands to get somewhere you need to play ball. However there were moments that felt too embarrassing and shameful. Inasmuch as it was one of the lighter episodes, it raises a lot of vitriol because people get very passionate about what they believe Australia is. The progression of the episode highlights the grappling between whether they are words with no meaning or whether he genuinely felt uncomfortable. We were all for the approach to stand up and refuse to sing the national anthem. Joely inspired a movement. KT talks about how parents getting upset and working to remove the kookaburra song because the use of the word gay, even though it was in an identity context.
- The cultural identity of Indigenous Australians existed before Captain Cook, apparently, discovered this country.
- The opening of Sweet Spot has Indigo talking about accidentally killing a kid. Oti furthers this by saying when you land a punch you can’t control how it is absorbed by the other person. Indigo escalated in his violence and while it was uncomfortable to watch it needs to be addressed and we appreciated it being covered in the series.
- Indigo has been abusing Allie for a while and everyone knew about it but did nothing about it. Oti laments that these same people will be out on the streets with placards yelling injustice when we need to be better members of the community. KT also loops in Janine and Justin receiving no support but they came with their dolls, flowers and vigils. If you don’t care when I’m struggling, don’t bother Oti exclaims. KT agrees with keeping that same energy. Realising not all your people are for your people.
- Aaron Davis has the most appearances throughout the series and this is reflected in the dimension offered by his character. He cares about his people but can, and has a very human moment. We dissect the situation involving two Aboriginal men. Oti focused on the story and Aaron’s negligence in ignoring his duty of care. Because we are still witnessing hundreds of Indigenous deaths in custody, KT is unable to separate the story from reality. These characters become faceless interchangeable Aboriginal men that will continue to die because the system isn’t set up in their best interests.
- Oti shares his frustration on the countless opportunities that Aaron squandered in showing growth and healing within the community. Despite everything, Mona points out he is still needed because the alternative is much much worse. Oti shares how he could have seen it being portrayed as how it should be, not how it currently is.
- You can’t ‘community love’ yourself out of systemic inequality. You can be the best of the best. The best cop or person in the community or a kid going to a private school but if someone with power in the police force wants to have a go at you, it doesn’t fucking matter.KT loved that homophobia was addressed in the series even though it was Red Cross level of disgusting.As a woman, KT doesn’t know how she would respond so cannot feel frustrated with Robyn not being able to face and report it. Oti shares how Lorraine was left to face it alone and it didn’t feel fair despite the fact of understanding he was hoping in the show to have action where Lorraine wasn’t shouldering the whole burden. To criminalise the criminal all of the onus rests on the victim which KT felt uneasy about.
- Even if we could allow ourselves to be happy with the outcome in Promise Me, we know that there will continue to be instances where this is not the case.
Unrelated but vital points
- The themes in Redfern Now are so comprehensive that we didn’t cover everything. Like watching something your work goes beyond watching, listening to the podcast and getting tangibly involved.
- Write your own bloody stories. KT references Aaron Sorkin’s comment on being able to write characters that are not of your experience.
- If you’re not ready to accept the history that you benefit from and puts you in a great light isn’t the truth, then sit on our Jupiter’s cocks cause we have a hard conversation to have with you.
- KT has burned her ‘Boogeyman in Redfern’ screenplay, we can all breathe again.
- Oti makes a smooth Boondocks reference as we discuss everyone having an uncle ruckus in their family.
- KT experiences for the first time being fearful at a man saying ‘Keep your dollies’. Oti is not one to play with.