Finding love and salvation amid poverty and despair
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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