First Contact does provoke thought

One can be forgiven for being a bit unexcited about shows like First Contact. After all its excellent predecessor – Go Back to Where You Came From – had two great series and in the real world we got Scott Morrison and before that the wonderful new hairy chest of the failing Kevin Rudd Redivivus, and a public who largely have endorsed both of them. So much for the capability of a reality TV show on SBS to bring about real change! Mind you First Contact will have a considerable second life as a discussion starter in schools, churches and other places, though less likely in pubs or clubs, I would have thought. Don’t get me wrong; I quite liked the show even if Ray Martin was at times a bit of a distraction and the portentous voice-over rather too often annoying. But it was great to see Shane Phillips and to catch up with what’s been happening in Redfern since I left – and the news there was good.

I also think it not a bad thing that some of the more crass and inane – and indeed racist – things you can see in that trailer did get said out loud and in many instances eventually rebutted. Despite Sandy.

“I WAS only really aware of the fact that people think it’s bad to call them Abos when I was going on this show,” says 41-year-old mortgage broker, Sandy.

Of the six guinea pigs in SBS’s indigenous social experiment, First Contact, the mother of five seemed to be the most steadfast and outspoken. So it was a surprise when half way through filming, she suddenly quit.

In the program hosted by Ray Martin, which continues tonight, Aussies with little or no experience of indigenous communities had their views — mostly negative — challenged.

Sandy had been vocal in sharing her opinions from the start.

FIRST CONTACT: “If you think it’s racist I don’t f@#!ing care”

See also David Dale, First Contact ‘a positive’ approach. On the other hand on New Matilda Amy McQuire is very critical. Amy McQuire is a Darumbul woman from central Queensland, former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.  She also really got stuck into Noel Pearson’s Whitlam memorial speech the week before last.

The most disturbing part of Pearson’s Whitlam oration was its hypocrisy. Pearson paid tribute to Whitlam’s role in designing the Racial Discrimination Act, praising the act that helped cushion the High Court Mabo win, which lead to Native Title law.

But he does not mention his own hypocrisy in paving the way for the Northern Territory intervention, which required the Howard government to bypass the RDA to pass racist laws without free, prior and informed consent from those it would affect.

So I will be watching the next two episodes of First Contact on SBS/NITV. I suspect though that tonight I will forego the talking heads on NITV at 9.30 in favour of ABC’s Black Comedy.

Meanwhile in today’s news: Landmark report reveals scale of indigenous disadvantage. Again. From that report:


Thinking of that and some of what I have read on threads related to First Contact I find myself drawn again to a rather wise post by Jim Belshaw: Aboriginal division and the failure of Aboriginal policies in Australia.


4 thoughts on “First Contact does provoke thought

  1. I didn’t watch it, largely because I felt I’d been there before with “Go Back to Where You Came From”. Apart from the fact that this is our own country, and the lack of connection so many of us have with Aboriginal people, was there anything from this version that differed from the earlier programs?

  2. I was dubious, but I do think it did a great job in two areas, 1) Showing again the complexity that is “Indigenous Australia”. 2) Demonstrating that prejudices can be overcome. I did like it in the end,

  3. Sounds like the show could be re-done here in Canada. We have our own problems along the same lines, and I’m sure it would serve as a means of bringing up awareness where there is currently far too much apathy.

  4. See also SBS’s First Contact is the real ‘festering sore’ of the nation by Chelsea Bond:

    Clearly the television series hit a nerve, sparking a plethora of conversations around the country.

    These conversations tell us more about the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia than the racist soundbites in the show’s promo clip.

    TV viewers were understandably outraged at the views expressed by First Contact’s cast members. But as the nation gathers to vilify them, we must remember they are a product of the nation they live in … that we all live in….

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