Life in focus

FREE films celebrating Aboriginal women will be screened daily in Perth city centre during NAIDOC week.

The Goologoolup NAIDOC screenings reflect this year’s “Because of her, we can” theme, honouring “the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made – and continue to make – to our communities, families, and country”, says the organisation.

Darlene Johnson’s The Redfern Story traces the 1970’s story of a group of Aboriginal activists hailing from Redfern in Sydney, who created Australia’s first Aboriginal theatre company, National Black Theatre, and used the arts as a platform to protest for equal rights.

A Dunghutti woman, Ms Johnson says she spent her early childhood in Redfern, immersed with “eclectic and politically motivated people”.

She says as a child she would dance on the table while her mother engaged in political discussions and played music with the actors.

Forty years later she was inspired to tell others about the “strength and motivation of a group of Aboriginal people who came together to address big issues and fight for a chance.”

• The Redfern Story director Darlene Johnson with actor Bindi Williams. Photo supplied

“In the period when the National Black Theatre was set up, Redfern was the largest blackfella community in all of Australia, with over 20,000 people,” she says.

“People came from all over the place to join forces and rather than just ending up in land rights marches and being bashed by cops they decided to use theatre as a political tool to get their message across.”

The theatre company’s grassroots approach combined street performances, dance, demonstrations and workshops as tools to highlight the systematic oppression of Aboriginal Australians.

Ms Johnson says the movement paved the way for cultural, social and political change in an extraordinary legacy that still has an impact for her people today.

You can catch The Redfern Story at the State Theatre Centre at 2:30pm on Saturday July 14, and a variety of other films from the NSFA Black Screens collection and the WA Indigenous Community Stories collection, on July 8-12 at 12:15pm at the State Library Theatre.

by MOLLY SCHMIDT

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