We know about the likes of Peter Lalor at the Eureka Stockade. We know about the workers’ protests for an 8 hour working day. But did you know there were aboriginal resistance fighters within two hours of Melbourne? Who marched to Melbourne demanding a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881- and got one?
Such significant stories are brought to life in the eye-opening ‘Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country’. These real life stories will astound as you hear the voices of indigenous people born before the arrival of white civilisation told as live theatre.
Set in the 1887 La Mama Courthouse, the presentation is stripped back and simply presented, on a stage bare but for the signs common to an inquiry- wooden benches, a witness stand, the high bar, and with B& W photographs of these original participants. The cast are a mix of indigenous and non-indigenous actors, including the renown elder, Jack Charles.
‘Coranderrk’ recounts the story of the ‘natives’ push for self-determination at their reserve farm at modern day Healesville. The parties caught up in this tale, not yet 150 years past, are brought to life via the verbatim records of the 1881 Inquiry, and adapted from letters, petitions, and newspaper articles written at the time. Led by famed indigenous leader William Barak, and Simon Wonga, the protest concerned decades of unpaid labour; the physical abuse of minors; alcohol abuse by managers; and the politics of fending off interested gazes from white farmers who coveted their land.
Much to the chagrin of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, the men and women of Coranderrk staged an official protest – to have a say in how they worked, how they were paid, and which white management they would work in partnership with. Hearing the stories of 20 year old indigenous domestic servants, and farm hands, of stockmen and cattle handlers, is compelling. We hear, also, the statements of religious men, local sympathisers, and women of influence who championed their rights.
Resulting from academic research in 2009, and in partnership with ‘Minutes of Evidence’ Project, between Indigenous and non-indigenous parties, the words of these true actors in history have been theatricalised to bring their stories to the eye of the general public, and to honour their brave actions.
A copy of the Inquiry is available in the State Library, accessible to all. The power of the individual speaks via the words of the petitioners and defendants. Our audience was moved not by the show of drama but by the sheer force of a true story told in original words. These words, and subsequent actions, hang in the air long after they have been spoken, and ring out across time. They weren’t all bad guys and you will be amazed at the bravery of those who spoke out, given the consequences they might face.
This show has been shown successively since 2010. In February 2016, it was enacted at Healesville to descendants of the original first peoples of the station. A version of this story will be performed by Ilbijerri Theatre mid-2017.
– Sarah W
Sarah is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On-the-street or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope!
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of La Mama.
The Season runs at La Mama Courthouse, Carlton, 3-7 August 7:30 pm, Sunday 4pm. The show has sold out. Booking Enquiries This venue is accessible.