A photographer and a mission to shed light on Aboriginal life

(Transcript from World News Radio)

An art exhibition in regional New South Wales is bringing a new perspective to Aboriginal mission life as recently as the second half of the 20th century.


Asher Milgate, a non-Indigenous man, has gone back to his home town to learn about the side of life he never really knew — the Aboriginal side.

This report by Lydia Feng and Biwa Kwan.

For Asher Milgate, it started simply as a personal interest.

He wanted to learn more about the Aboriginal community in his home town of Wellington, in central-west New South Wales.

“I had always had Aboriginal friends growing up. As I got older, I realised I actually didn’t know very much about them. The further I delved into my friends’ parents’ and grandparents’ lives, I just realised how little I actually knew and how much I could learn from just sitting down and speaking with the elders.”

Mr Milgate began photographing and recording the untold stories of the Aboriginal elders he interviewed.

Five years later, with the help of government funding, that process has culminated in the art exhibition “Survivors,” now on display at Dubbo’s Western Plains Cultural Centre.

It features a series of black-and-white portraits and recordings of 18 Wiradjuri elders and elders-in-waiting who grew up on Nanima Mission in Wellington.

Established in the early 1800s, Nanima was the first inland Aboriginal mission and Australia’s longest continually operating Aboriginal reserve.

Visitors at the exhibition can put on headphones and listen to the stories of those who lived there, from 95-year-old Uncle Billy Lou.

“Ah, man, I think of those days, I wish everything would start all over again.”

To elder Aunty Joyce Williams, remembering being taught to swim.

“They used to throw us in the river. And we’d be nearly drowning, and they’d pull us out. Scouts’ honour. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”

The fear and displacement experienced at the mission left an indelible mark on elder Denise Kelly.

“As a child, losing a lot of my family members in the Stolen Generation and having my grandmother remove me so that I wasn’t part of it … you know, just being told to get off the mission and not having the choice to live out there on the Common anymore … We were told we had to move, and one family member was told, as a baby, if you weren’t removed from the mission, that the baby would be taken away.”

Even today, Ms Kelly says, deep injustice exists on missions in Australia but remains shrouded in secrecy.

“You still have missions out there where people aren’t allowed to say what’s going on. They still don’t have the freedom of speech. They’re still being dictated to by the hierarchy and the white society.”

Ms Kelly says the prejudice still lingers beyond the missions today, too.

“I’m 56, and there are still some shops that I can walk into and, if there’s a white person in that shop, they will get served before me, regardless of whether I’ve walked in there. And I have walked into shops in town now, and I still have security walk around the shops with me.”

She emphasises the importance of change — but from Aboriginal people, too.

“Like a lot of the younger Aboriginal people don’t like the white people because of how they treated their families back then, but, you know, you’ve got to change. Like here I am working in a Catholic school … I was not allowed in a Catholic church. But if I don’t break down a barrier, then who’s going to break it down?”

By featuring in the art exhibition, Ms Kelly says it enables the Aboriginal community to tell its side of the story.

She says she trusted Asher Milgate.

“I knew that, with him doing it, it would give us a chance to have our own voice, be able to talk out and not be able to get in trouble for doing it, whereas, before, we weren’t allowed to talk out, weren’t allowed to say what was inside.”

Curator Kent Buchanan says “Survivor” is an integral part of Australian history, helping establish a dialogue with the Indigenous community.

“By examining this aspect of New South Wales, we are able to really shed a light on the experience around Australia. And I think many people forget that the Aboriginal people of the east coast of Australia were the first to be colonised.”

Furthermore, Mr Buchanan says, it fills a gap in people’s understanding of practices towards Aboriginal people in Australia’s history.

“I think, for the most part, people aren’t actually aware of the kind of segregationist practices that were a part of setting those missions up, the fact that Aboriginal people living on those reserves were essentially banned from practising culture.”

Interestingly, the Indigenous elders reveal, they found a friend in the Chinese.

“The Aboriginal people in the Wellington Valley, their main ally was the Chinese market gardeners, who had market gardens down by the river. The Chinese who ran those market gardens would provide food to Aboriginal people, they would provide them with jobs, and so there was a very strong connection between essentially these kind of two outsider groups.”

Asher Milgate’s work has been praised as a powerful symbol of reconciliation.

But he says the work behind the exhibition has been a learning experience for him.

“This work is really acknowledging the Aboriginal community, and, myself being non-Indigenous, it’s a great example of two different communities coming together. And if you look at the history of first contact, Aboriginal people have always had to adapt and learn from how to deal with the white people, basically, from back in those early times, and I think it’s probably about time now that the white people start to learn about Aboriginal people.”

Mr Milgate says crafting the exhibition proved cathartic as well as life-changing, an experience he hopes to impart to others.

“What I’d really like for people to get out of the exhibition is to enter another world, enter a world that you’re not familiar with. These images are quite large — a metre on the longer side, and we’ve got 18 — so, when you walk into the gallery space, you have nowhere to hide, you’re in their presence. And they’re opening their hearts and their stories for you to listen, and all you have to do is put the headphones on. And I believe, if one person takes the time to listen to one person speak, that will forever change their life.”



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Karmichael Hunt says scandal a blessing

Karmichael Hunt has described his cocaine scandal as a “blessing in disguise” as he prepares to return from suspension with the Queensland Reds.


The code-hopping star returned to full training with the Super Rugby outfit on Monday but is not available for selection until next week’s clash with the Melbourne Rebels.

Hunt said he would be a “better man” for the experience he has gone through, which included copping a six-week ban from playing and training with his teammates after pleading guilty to four counts of possessing cocaine in September and October last year.

“In a weird way, it was kind of like a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“Everything that’s happened has kind of forced my hand to look at myself and make some harder decisions to correct my behaviour.

“That’s been done now and I’m thankful for it, as much disappointment and hard work it’s caused the organisation, my family, fans, friends – you name it.

“I look forward to learning from it, moving on and being a better man because of it.”

On top of his suspension, Hunt was stripped of the team’s vice-captaincy, fined $30,000 by the Reds and $2500 by the Southport Magistrates Court and was ordered to go through drug counselling.

Hunt said he would continue to see a psychologist to explore exactly what triggered his decision to turn to cocaine as part of an end-of-season celebration after finishing his commitments with the AFL’s Gold Coast Suns last year.

“I thought I looked after myself as good as I could but obviously there’s a part at the end of the year where I’d like to withdraw myself,” Hunt said.

“I have made a pact to my friends and family that I won’t be venturing down that path again.

“Everyone will probably see my situation, what I’ve gone through and maybe take a lesson out of it.”

Meanwhile, Hunt has not completely given up hope of representing Australia at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Hunt revealed he maintained contact with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika throughout his suspension period.

“I don’t want to give too much away but I just sent an e-mail to Cheik saying I want to focus on my return to the Reds and getting some good football under my belt before I get back involved with what he’s trying to do with the Wallabies,” he said.

“It starts today. Next week I can play some football and I look forward to putting some good performances in.

“If I’m there at the end of the year I’m there, but that’s a long way away at the moment.”

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IS claims responsibility for Tunisia museum attack

(Transcript by World News Radio)

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack at Tunisia’s national museum that killed 23 people, including an Australian man.


In an audio message posted online, the group has threatened more attacks, warning what took place in Tunis is just the beginning.

Manny Tsigas reports.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Tunisian officials say one of the two gunmen who stormed the famed Bardo National Museum in an attack aimed at international tourists was known to intelligence agents.

The two have been identified as Hatem al- Khashnawi and Yassin al-Abidi.

No formal links to a particular armed group have been established.

But an audio recording purportedly from the self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility for what it calls “the blessed immersing operation”.

The recording goes on to praise the attackers.

(Arabic, then translated:) “We ask Allah to accept them among the martyrs and to grant them the highest rank of the Gardens of Paradise, and to make us join them both.” (Arabic …)

Tunisian authorities say they have arrested four people directly linked to the attack, along with five others with indirect ties.

Two family members of one of the gunmen are reportedly among them.

Tunisian prime minister Habib Essid says an investigation is underway — with increased security deployed to major tourist areas.

(Translated) “Honestly speaking, we have very good leads. There have been arrests, but, once the operation is complete, we’ll have all our final results, which we’ll be ready to give you.”

The death toll from the massacre now stands at three Tunisians, including the gunmen, and 20 tourists, including dual Australian-Colombian national Javier Camelo.

Mr Camelo had been celebrating his university graduation by taking a cruise around the Mediterranean with his parents.

After docking in Tunis, the trio decided to visit the Bardo museum.

Mr Camelo was killed along with his mother.

His father survived.

Javier Camelo had also been working as an analyst for American Express in Sydney.

His colleague, Fran Fan, says he will be remembered as a caring, responsible and trustworthy person.

“He loved talking about his family and his parents and brother. Sometimes, we’d joke around, ‘You’re going all over the place, but you still make time to visit your parents.’ It cost a lot of money, but he said, every year, he makes sure he has time to go back to Colombia to visit his family. He was such a young age. I’m sure he had a brilliant future.”

Meanwhile, two Spanish tourists have been found alive after hiding inside the museum for more than 24 hours.

Police and consular officials had spent all night looking for Juan Carlos Sanchez and his pregnant wife, Cristina Rubio.

Mr Sanchez explains they were simply too scared to move — or even use their mobile phones.

(Translated) “We were leaving the museum, and we saw how they were shooting people by the door. When we realised what was happening, we hid in a room where they stored rubbish. We stayed there listening to everything, waiting for it to stop.”

The attack also appeared to be aimed squarely at Tunisia’s economy.

Tourism accounts for 7 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

But since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, militant dissent has been on the rise.

Bochra Belhaj Hmida is a legislator from Nida Tunis, the country’s secular-majority party.

She says the dissent has become so serious that there could be as many as two thousand militants in sleeper cells across the country.

(Translated) “We believe most of them have returned from Iraq or Syria, so these are, more or less, the numbers we’re talking about. There aren’t exact numbers, because there’s no list of everyone who’s gone to places like Syria or Libya. So they can come back and lead these kinds of operations.”

Demonstrators have continued to gather outside the museum in a show of defiance against the militants.

And the Tunisian government says it intends to show it will will not be intimidated by reopening the museum.


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Australian ally killed by Afghan suicide bomb

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that has killed a former warlord who became one of Australia’s most significant allies in Afghanistan.


Matiullah Khan was the police chief of Uruzgan province who had a dark past and, in recent years, a close relationship with Australian forces in Afghanistan.

Greg Dyett reports.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Strongman, warlord, police chief and someone with plenty of enemies in Afghanistan.

And now, those enemies have caught up with him.

Matiullah Khan, police chief of the Uruzgan province where Australian forces were based, has died in a suicide bombing.

He reportedly was attacked after leaving his hotel in the capital Kabul with friends.

Matiullah Khan ran his own private militia, which made him a wealthy man.

The force known as the KAU would charge coalition forces to provide protection while they used the road from Tarin Kowt to Kandahar.

It led some to accuse him of extortion, a charge he denied in an interview with SBS News in 2011.

(Translated:) “No, it’s wrong. We don’t take money illegally from them. We escort them. We keep security for them.”

Some Afghans also accused him of having past links with the Taliban.

But Mattiullah Khan told SBS the Taliban was no ally of his.

(Translated:) “It’s not true. Some people must preach against me. The thing is, I have lost 420 personnel guys this way. If I had any links, I wouldn’t have any casualties.”

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai appointed Matiullah Khan as police chief of Uruzgan province.

At the time, Australia’s Colonel Dave Smith welcomed the appointment.

“We’re looking forward from here to how he can do his job well into the future. And he is certainly a man that, in my time here, has worked very hard to be benevolent and to help people.”

But Afghanistan specialist William Maley, from the Australian National University, says Australia’s decision to work closely with Matiullah Khan was ill-advised.

“The Australians saw him — I’m quoting an Australian general here — as ‘our man in Uruzgan’. The Dutch, who were also deployed in Uruzgan, were much warier of engaging with Matiullah because he had a fairly grisly human-rights record, but Australia promoted him as the individual on whom it could most effectively rely in Uruzgan. And the fact that he’s now dead is a classic illustration of the dangers of that particular approach, because, in the long run, it pays to try to develop institutions rather than simply promote one individual. A bomb can take out one individual very quickly and very effectively.”

William Maley says the death of Matiullah Khan should give Australian military leaders pause for thought.

He warns it could undo much of what Australia did.

“I’m afraid Australia’s approach to Matiullah, certainly on the part of the military over quite a considerable period of time, was profoundly naive. And one hopes that at least some will learn lessons for the future from this particular case, that there’s now a risk that Uruzgan will slide into some kind of internal civil war. And if that’s the case, then a great deal of what Australia forces achieved through very hard work in the province at the grassroots level may well end up being lost.”



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Swami Army swarms across Australia

Returning World Cup cricket champion India is making its presence known on the field, but it’s the noise coming from the stands that is really attracting attention.


The Swami Army, the Indian cricket team’s largest group of supporters, has invaded Australia’s major town centres, following the side around the country.

Almost 10 years ago, the Swarmi Army formed in Melbourne, with a group of eight diehard cricket fans taking the initiative to establish an organised group.

Today, says co-founder Kartik Ayyalasomayajula, the group has nearly five thousand members across the globe.

“We started off just sitting together, a group of eight, a bunch of guys from Melbourne and Sydney, and then we thought, ‘Why don’t we make this something big? There’s so many Indian cricket fans who are out there, let’s make it a formalised group, let’s make it a formalised base.’ And so we’re just growing by the day, growing by the minute.”

Devotion to the game outweighs devotion to their spouses for some fans.

Mohammad Bashir travelled from Chicago for the Cricket World Cup, leaving behind his wife and family.

He says, once the coin is tossed, his phone goes off.

“Ah, now, I’m kicking! I don’t pick up phone. If she calls, I don’t pick up call. (laughter …) Yeah.”

But it is more than just a love of the game that brings them together.

Kartik Ayyalasomayajula says the Swami Army is a family organisation.

He says it gives Indian expats a chance to come together to appreciate each other, as well as cricket.

“Just following Team India wherever they play around Australia, around the world. Just basically trying to create the big carnival atmosphere and get the families and kids involved in it. Really have a Bollywood … a mix between Bollywood and cricket, I guess.”



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