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:: John Pilger's Australia

Whenever the name John Pilger is mentioned, it often elicits a variety of responses from both sides of the political fence. Some deride him as being a bastion of the Left and label his work as manipulative. While others hail him as the only real Australian journo that has the gall to tell it like it is.

John Pilger’s Australia is Volume Two of his modestly titled Documentaries That Changed The World series, and over the 5 documentaries on offer here, Pilger questions and probes the many layers of ‘truths’ that we Australians have accepted or taken for granted.

In Welcome To Australia, a film shot on the eve of the Sydney Olympics, Pilger shines an uncomfortable light on the many aboriginal sportsmen and woman who were denied a place in Australia’s Olympic teams. In the Secret Country, a film released in advance of Australia’s bicentenary, Pilger questions Captain Cook’s discovery of Australia by stating that there were at leat 300,000 thousand aboriginals living in here at the time of his arrival.

The issue of aboriginal rights is a consistent theme through out the documentaries and this is where Pilger’s work as a filmmaker shines. His interviews with aboriginal leaders such as the late Charlie Perkins and images of aboriginal children living in the ‘reserves’ cannot help but raise indignation from the viewer.

Pilger asks us to question whether the sacrosanct term ‘lucky country’ can be attributed to Australia. On the facts that are produced throughout the films, Pilger does have a point. A great example of this is in Heroes Unsung, where Pilger explains that the great wave of European immigration that gave us our vibrant Lygon streets were all devised in reaction to anti-Asian hysteria that was gripping the nation throughout the 20th century. While in Other People Wars, Pilger examines Australia’s role in numerous foreign wars often against nations that have never threatened us.

After watching these five films, one could say that John Pilger does have a serious problem with his country. After all, he is residing in Europe where a majority of his fan base is located. But in reality, these essays on Australia are in fact a gift to his fellow Aussies.

Pilger states that in order for Australia to fully embrace its identity, we must first accept and address the many problems that are occurring within our own back yard. For how can we claim to be a country that supports the ‘little battler’ when the real battlers, the aborigines, are still being discriminated against politically and socially?

Again, these are uncomfortable questions to ask. But in a time where politicians are riding on a wave of nationalism and xenophobia with the aid of an implicit media, the voice of the loan maverick John Pilger is not only welcome but a necessity. Highly recommended.