Here’s my guilty admission. I sat through Samson and Delilah and I wanted it to end.

The violence, the petrol-sniffing, the exploitation – white and black, and the indifference were all confronting.

But it wasn’t my squeamishness that had me longing for the closing credits. What did me in and left me feeling completely bombed was that for much of the movie you are placed in the shoes of Aboriginal young people who have seemingly little to live for.

Through his young stars, Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara, director Warwick Thornton shows the unrelieved, grinding boredom young people face. There is no lightness of being for these star-crossed lovers. Just day after day of the same. In Samson’s case this means getting up, getting stoned and going nowhere. 

When I think of the young teens growing up in suburbs like Gladesville, Epping and Ermington in my electorate of Bennelong, they enjoy a cornucopia of choices. They too have their problems, but they can still dream big dreams.

Even those who stumble along the way will get second and third chances or more.

All Australians should see this movie. It will open many eyes to the reality faced by thousands of Indigenous Australians.

It is not without hope – in fact the movie succeeds because in spite of the hardship and unfairness visited upon Samson and Delilah their bond to each other is ultimately stronger than the forces which pull them apart. The glimpses of salvation that book-end the movie come from the strength of spirit of the Aboriginal women. Somehow they manage to keep functioning amid the chaos.

Warwick Thornton deserves all the kudos for such an amazing debut film. I hope he, Rowan and Marissa manage to keep riding that fickle wave of success. They’ve glimpsed the fishbowl of celebrity that is Cannes, but have now come home. 15 year-old Rowan is back in his home in Hidden Valley near Alice Springs which he shares with six or seven others. He now has an Xbox – one of the trappings of success. The beautiful Marissa is determined to finish Year 12.

I wish her well. Today only one in ten Aboriginal people over the age of 15 complete Year 12 in the Northern Territory. 

Across Australia the retention rates for Aboriginal students are almost 30% less than non-Indigenous students. That’s not a situation we can tolerate any longer, which is why we’re working hard to close the gap.

Translating the hope of so many Australians embodied in the National Apology into rebuilding Indigenous lives and communities is something we are determined to do as a Government.

It’s time for politicians of all persuasions to reach across the aisle and support that effort. We need to make sure that any sequel to Samson and Delilah can stay true to the original’s hopeful ending.

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10 comments

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    • Your name: says:

      07:51am | 05/06/09

      Then why take over town camps. Why support the NT Governments push to abandon homelands? Why take so long to get the RDA working again?

    • Hanny says:

      09:12am | 05/06/09

      Why bother writing this article Maxine? Your party has lied and let the australian people down at the state and federal level. You have failed us in economic management, health and employment. Why am I unemployed? Why was I better off under John Howard? How do you sleep at night?

    • John says:

      09:21am | 05/06/09

      Gee Hanny, way to stick to the argument. Are there any other wild and irrelevant accusations you’d like to sling across?

    • JaneAgatha says:

      09:27am | 05/06/09

      I gained something different from the movie; a sense of the spirit and character of the people and their different view of the world. The strength of the film was how directly it portrayed their lives, with openness and without judgment or offering a solution, which is rare and makes it a winner. I somehow linked this with a recent editorial in the MJA by Tamara MacKean, on healing and indigenous health which also opened my eyes. If healing and reconciliation are to occur we need to suspend judgment and refrain from rushing in and imposing our own values or social programs . We need to understand the people first…

    • RJB says:

      10:34am | 05/06/09

      Well said Hanny, this ABC hack is looking for opportunities to gush out her warm and fuzzies while the rest of Australia is burdened by the ineptness of her government.Concentrate on introducing yourself to the electorate the greenies handed you, and leave those best able to help indigenous Australians.

    • Anthony says:

      12:27pm | 05/06/09

      “I wanted it to end”

      Well, I’ll take that as a commendation.

    • Bob Simpson says:

      12:36pm | 05/06/09

      Dear Maxine, what will you do to bring justice to these young people portrayed in the movie? What will you do to mercifully remove the causes of their situation? One thing you could do better than most of us is to fight against the imposition of political and bureaucratic ideology. You’re in a better position to cause government to find a better; and there is a better way. Regards, Bob

    • Sid says:

      04:08pm | 05/06/09

      Thank you Maxine for expressing similar sentiments to my own whilst watching the film.  I found the film disturbing because it felt real and, as others have said, shows that there are different perspectives on how to live in this country. For me there were two other subtle messages from Delilah in the film: i) we all need something to believe in, it can be as simple as a crossed stick;
      ii) traditional ways and inculcated identity are as important as democracy in setting indigenous Australians free.

    • Geoff says:

      06:57pm | 05/06/09

      As superb and uncomfortable as this movie is 2 quibbles about your comments Maxine. 1. star crossed lovers? Hardly. and 2. while the end does show the strength of spirit of aboriginal women the ending could not/would not happen. What was this girl doing seemingly devoting herself to this by now brain damaged, emotionally wrecked petrol sniffer. His demise was symbolised by his acceptance of that horrible country reggae music he so hated.

      Elsewise Thorntons honesty has made a great movie that everyone would be a bit richer for having seen.

    • shannyn says:

      11:09pm | 05/06/09

      So has the movie highlighted the need for better policy for indigenous people Maxine, colonialisation hasnt worked for them and neither will the intervention, these people need to be part of their recovery, they need to be able to assert their will and to direct us as to what they think is best for their community.  I loved that the young women knew in her heart to walk away from violence and addiction and reconnect with her spiritual self.  Given that indigenous australians have been around for 10,000 thousand years I suspect it is they have something to teach us not the other way around.

 

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