A new TV show tells the colonial history of Australia from an indigenous point of view

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As an Australian who experienced living in London, I understand there are those Britons who assume that Australia is a racist nation. As such, I feel compelled to report back to the motherland, who colonised this continent of indigenous nations more than 200 years ago, about a recent development with the potential to shift the Australian consciousness.

First Australians is a new television series commissioned by SBS, Australia's multicultural broadcaster. It tells the colonial history of Australia from an indigenous point of view. This was a bravely ambitious undertaking. It's a truism that victors write history, and more so in a case where Europeans documented history, while Aboriginal people inherited a tradition of oral storytelling, much of which was lost through killing and assimilation.

Australians are not just being invited to recognise the tragedy of our past. We're being invited into the world view that found some of our realities to be both foreign and bizarre. These realities are based on concepts such as the Westminster system of government, the use and acquisition of natural resources to create money, cities built on coasts, clear-felling of trees, dams built along rivers, cattle and sheep being led into deserts to compete with native wildlife for food, and open-cut mines slicing the land. At a time of global warming and stockmarkets crashing, perhaps seeing all perspectives on our current situation is a healthy thing.

In a recent interview with the ABC's Radio National, First Australians' writer, director and producer Rachel Perkins, an Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman and daughter of the late indigenous rights activist Charlie Perkins, told of the challenge involved in making the programme. The seven-part series, which can be viewed online, begins with the Dreamtime creation story, cuts to the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788 and follows through to prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Australia's "stolen generation" earlier this year.

Perkins undertook extensive consultation with the descendents of those whose stories are told, she interviewed historians, and she read, drawing "tiny shreds of material" about indigenous experiences from European sources. Each episode focuses on one part of the continent, the people of that country, the way they were met with the onslaught of British expansion, and the indigenous leaders who rose to that challenge. There are stories of friendship and attempts at understanding, and there are stories of wars, murders and dispossession. The programme tells of violations against people, culture and country, which are indeed violations that fuel one other...

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