Six Australians. 28 Days. One Epic journey. How have their lives changed?
Airdate: 
Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 21:30
Channel: 
SBS

Join guest host Stan Grant for a special live show featuring all the participants from the First Contact series.

After a journey of conflict and discovery, Sandy, Trent, Alice, Jasmine, Marcus and Bo-dene will be reunited and joined by Indigenous people they met and a studio audience.

First Contact is a landmark documentary series that took a group of six non-Indigenous people, from different walks of life and with strong and varied opinions, and immersed them into Aboriginal Australia for the first time.

Insight asks: How have their lives changed?

Presenter: Stan Grant

Producer: Kyle Taylor 

Associate Producer: Saber Baluch 

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter, posting on Facebook, or commenting below. 

Web Extra

Catch up on First Contact

Episode 1

The six participants are brought to the heart of Aboriginal Australia - Uluru.

Episode 2 

The group arrives on Elcho Island where around 2,500 Aboriginal people live in some of the most deprived conditions in the western world.

Episode 3

After almost three weeks immersed into Aboriginal Australia, the group is about to face their most confronting experience yet.

'I can't believe I was so naive and ignorant': Bo-dene

When Bo-dene Stieler returned from her journey on SBS's First Contact, her life was turned upside down. But, as she writes in her own words, her experiences on First Contact helped her get back on her feet. Read her comment piece here.

Ray Martin: The Great Divide

"Everybody it seems has an opinion ... Yet, the truth is SIX OUT OF TEN Australians have never even met an Indigenous person," writes the First Contact host.

Click to read a personal reflection from acclaimed journalist Ray Martin.

Big Sky Gallery

See the photographs taken on location by Ray.

Teaching resources

Your school can take the discussion from screen into the classroom with these resources here.

Interactive: The Block

These are the stories about a patch of land in Sydney, steeped in a rich history of Aboriginal culture, activism and hope.  Explore this online documentary about the meeting place here.

First Australians

Over seven episodes, First Australians depicts the true stories of individuals - both black and white - caught in an epic drama of friendship, revenge, loss and victory in Australia's most transformative period of history. 

Click here to watch the award-winning series which chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people.

Young Mob

A raw and personal edition of Insight offering a look into the lives of Aboriginal teens in Alice Springs.

Transcript

STAN GRANT:  Welcome everyone. Glad you could come along and join us for what's going to be a great discussion over the next hour. The six of you were chosen to represent the six out of 10 non-Indigenous Australians who haven't had much contact with Indigenous Australians. Sandy as well as the others, she couldn't be here tonight. It's been an extraordinary journey. We're going to look over the next hour how the journey has touched you and what it might mean not just for your lives, for Aboriginal Australia, but all of us together. Bo-dene, six months since the filming ended and you've gone back to your regular life. When you reflect on it now, the journey and the change in you, what was it?  

BO-DENE:  Um, I think, yeah, having time to think about it 'cause Fitzroy Crossing obviously really touched me. 

STAN GRANT: And that was obvious to you, wasn't it?  

BO-DENE: Yeah, and then sort of thinking about it and especially watching the series back, the first couple of episodes. I was like, "It's such bad things to have said." I found it hard to watch it, I was so ashamed of the things I said. 

STAN GRANT: That's a profound change in you?  

BO-DENE:  Yeah. I felt really bad. 

STAN GRANT: Jasmine, am I right in saying that you were more resistant to changing your views, and I saw at times that you were genuinely affected by what you were seeing but you were still holding on to a lot of those pre-conceptions. Why? 

JASMINE: I think it's just because I feel like it was drilled in me. Like, from - obviously I said and - you know, like about the media and I guess, like, growing up and everything - like, you know - the incidents in Perth, you know - that I had when I was younger, just kind of sat with me. So I guess I wasn't open as much as the other guys and it took me a long time, but I got there. 

STAN GRANT: Trent, six months, I suppose being in law enforcement as well, you were confronted by a lot of what you saw. How have you taken that into your life?  

TRENT: Look, it has been a big change. You know, I said some pretty terrible things to start, and watching back, you know, episode one, it's confronting to see yourself saying those types of things, especially after such a significant journey. But, yeah, I've certainly taken it back into my workplace. I was back to work the next day after I got home, and I can start applying some of the things I learnt and sharing that knowledge with the police. 

STAN GRANT: And when you do share that, do you get resistance from colleagues? Do people sort of go, "What's changed in you? Why are you so different now?"  

TRENT:  Of course and you're going to get that anywhere. Just like the six of us, when we started, we had certain opinions and prejudices and unfortunately they didn't have the opportunity that I had. I guess that means that - I'm a leader in this area. When I say "leader", I can go into my workplace and start encouraging change which is exactly what I want to do. 

STAN GRANT: Alice, you were someone who I could probably say, sophisticated in the sense about some of the issues. You had read about it, you were exposed to it and there was a degree of sympathy and empathy for what Indigenous people go through. But did you have the opposite effect? Was there ever anything that challenged your view, your empathetic view that made you think, "Well, maybe people should be lifting their game in some way, maybe people should be moving on in their lives."  

ALICE: Um, no, I guess I did grapple, I guess, with the fact of personal choice and - yeah, no, I didn't. I didn't. In terms of, you know, the... conflicting… 

STAN GRANT: So where you started is where you've finished, perhaps even more so. 

ALICE:  Well, it was more that I had my eyes opened to the complexity and to the magnitude of all the problems or not even all the problems but we were shown a small amount of what the problems were that were facing Aboriginal Australians. So, yeah, it was definitely eye opening in that respect. Yeah - and just how – you know, how deep the problems went. It's not just as easy as a simple choice or - you know, there are so many factors involved. 

STAN GRANT:  We're going to get to a lot of that over the course of this program. Marcus, am I right in saying there was a little bit of disappointment in you at the end of the series? That there were some parts of the series that you didn’t feel as if it didn't really achieve what you wanted it to achieve?  

MARCUS:  Yeah, in a sense, but I guess it's not really about what I want a series to achieve, so I think it achieved its purpose, not mine. 

STAN GRANT: What was yours?  

MARCUS: Well... Mine was... 

STAN GRANT: What did you hope to get out of it but didn't?  

MARCUS:  Personally I guess learning stuff but I guess my aim was to be a vessel more than anything. Just to be there so people can live through me on this show, or learn through me on this show, which is hopefully what happened, just watching the mistakes I made or - I don't know, conversations that we had. 

STAN GRANT: Darren, you were part of the production of this program. You're hearing what people are saying here now. How does it make you feel about a program that you set out to do to provoke a response, to get people talking and hearing what you're hearing here tonight?  

DARREN DALE, BLACKFELLAFILMS:  Yeah. Look, I take my hat off to the six. I think they were incredibly brave to be, as Marcus said, a vessel. People got to experience and confront some of the things they think, the stereotypes that they have about black fellas. I think we deliberately set out to make something provocative, we wanted peopling talking about the series and we wanted people to talk about the Aboriginal issues. We wanted that conversation not just to extend just to these guys and not just to white people but we wanted that conversation to spark with Indigenous people as well. 

STAN GRANT: Rachael, we don't want to turn this into a critique of the program. But how have you reflected on how the program has been received in the last couple of days? There's been some criticism but there has obviously been a great response as well.  

RACHEL PERKINS, BLACKFELLA FILMS: Yeah, well, you've been one of the critics Stan, I think, but overwhelmingly people have been really positive about it, and particularly Indigenous people because I think, you know, we – we know that there are these things said about us. I mean, it's in reconciliation, Australia's data, the myths about Aboriginal people, but those things aren't really put out there. So here's an opportunity for people like June and for people like Shane to talk directly to really a wide Australian audience about these myths and I think - you know, reveal them for what they are, which is a myth so, a great opportunity to reach a big audience. 

STAN GRANT: I suppose to the extent of my criticism it would have been I wonder if a format like this can wrestle with the complexity of the issue but that's probably not what you would expect from a program. One particular program either, would you?  

RACHEL PERKINS: Look, we've made a lot of different programs at Blackfella Films - we've made documentary series, we’ve made monies, we’ve made TV dramas, we’ve made all sorts of things, and this is another part of our work to bring Australians together. And there is some serious work that needs to be done there, we know that. We've got a referendum coming up. We want Australians to back the constitutional change so our film work is talking to a number of audiences on a number of levels and a big part of the audience we want to talk to is our fellow Australians. We don't want to just talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and that's why we have these fellow Australians going on the journey through Indigenous Australia. 

STAN GRANT: Let's have a look at a little bit of that journey now. I want you to take you to an area which was confronting for some and was part of a journey that took you to various parts of Indigenous Australia. Let's have a look at a clip from the program. 

 

FIRST CONTACT CLIP:

 

SANDY: Seriously, you wanna live here all your life? 

ALICE: Some people do. 

SANDY: Yeah, but there's more out there. That's why all the whites and that came to these countries 'cause we explored. You don't just stay in a place like this forever. It's beautiful. You come to places like this for holidays. 

ALICE: That's you, though. 

SANDY:  Hang on, what, would you live here forever, you gonna live here forever? 

ALICE:  The pursuit of happiness to you is different to you than me. 

SANDY: It's not about the pursuit of happiness for me. 

ALICE: It is the pursuit of happiness. 

SANDY:  It's about exploring. Other than exploring in the bush which is the (BLEEP) the same from here to where we came from practically, it’s just bush. Don’t just stay here… 

ALICE: Ask them. I’m pretty sure it’s not a cult, I’m pretty sure they are not tied here and like brainwashed into staying here. 

SANDY: Go and experience life. Well we'll find out.

 

STAN GRANT: Let's find out. Marcus, there was a question that's being raised here and that is about sustainability of communities. What is it about a community like that, that is or maybe not sustainable?  

MARCUS LACEY (SPEAKS ABORIGINAL):  Just like to acknowledge the traditional owners and the leaders, past and present. It's very hurtful to hear that. But it's a fact. We didn't come from somewhere. We came from here. So, our dream and goal is to be here. But... to sustain, it's part of our culture. It's part of who we are. It's part of our DNA. It's like a tree that will never - you know, never, never die. So we are doing everything we can from our end to try and not teach but share the knowledge. 

STAN GRANT: So the identity is in the place and the people.  

MARCUS LACEY: Yes. It starts with the place. Place was here long before we were. Therefore, the place - we don't own place. We don't own the land. The land owns us. In the end we go back to it, one way or the other. 

STAN GRANT: Alice, you were very vocal in that, and supporting that view. When you look back at that conversation, what was going through people's minds? 

ALICE: I just don't think she really got the connection that Aboriginal people have with the land, and it's not a - you know, we found as well when we went to another area, that they didn't want to leave. Some people had left, gone to Brisbane, and they all went back because that was the connection. That's where they were born, that was their kinship - that was where - you know, that was their home land. So, you know, it's not - you know, they are able to be there. They're able to stay there. That's their land. It owns them. Yeah. And it was a really beautiful place to go and really beautiful to see. 

STAN GRANT: Jasmine, did you ask yourself that question, though? OK, yeah, this maybe part of what you are, part of your identity, but where's the work? How do you sustain a life? Was that something that you wrestled with?  

JASMINE: I guess, like, I couldn't really understand - I had, like, a - obviously a difficult time at one area, and I kind of felt conflicted. I guess, like, I know - like, - like, the people that live there feel connected to the land and it was obviously, you know, said to us and stuff like that, so I guess, like, trying do understand - I never really - while we were there I didn't understand it. Now, like, now that I look back on it, like, Alice actually made a point. It wasn't a cult. We weren't really forced there to stay. So, I guess I didn't respect what they're trying to do and what Marcus was trying to teach us so, yeah. 

STAN GRANT: Is that - that's changed for you? 

JASMINE: Definitely. 100%. I was ignorant. Not racist, ignorant. 

STAN GRANT: Bo-dene, is there something that you wrestled with as well when you were there, the thought that, "OK, this works on a level but what about schooling, what about work? There's a world beyond that world as well." Did you think, as Sandy has said, what are people doing here? OK, it's fine, I'm here now, but is this all you do for the rest of your life?  

BO-DENE: I think I did because, I understand, like, how Marcus and a lot of the elders in the community were saying, you know the connection with the land and obviously how we got the turtle and stuff. But I guess I sort of found it hard - like, when the kids got to, say, my age, like, 'cause obviously being born a bit later, like maybe it was harder for them to make a sustainable life there, I guess. 'Cause I know there was a lot of young kids and Marcus and a lot of the elders there and, yeah, I think it was a bit hard for me to get my head around in the beginning. But, as Jasmine said, I think at the time I don't showed enough respect to Marcus, and I'm sorry for that, because I think watching the series back and - yeah, I'm sorry if I didn't show enough respect because I can understand... 

JASMINE: Sorry. Marcus actually made a really good point that obviously wasn't in the show. And it was - I was trying to, I guess, like grasp, I guess, 'cause I've got children, you know, my children go to school and he's like, "The children on the island know how to speak four languages by the time they're six. 

MARCUS LACEY:  English is our 12th language. 

STAN GRANT: 12th language? 

MARCUS LACEY:  12th or 13th language. 

BO-DENE: That's it. My kids don't even know one. OK. Barely they know one, alright. Do you know what I mean? So I guess, like, that kind of sunk in, too. The fact that the kids took us out to the bush, like us girls out to the bush going, "This is what we use for soap if we don't have Western soap." This is what we do for this. My kids couldn't go and do that. So I have so much respect that they actually teach their kids, even though they have coke, you know, or you know? Western food and stuff. 

STAN GRANT: In essence that is sustainability. 

MARCUS LACEY:  But if you're talking about sustainability in employment or whatever, like in the modern world, well, we do run cross cultural tourism there and we own our own corporation. Yeah. 

STAN GRANT: But this is a real question that is being grappled with in remote communities and just the past week there's been a big discussion in Western Australia about cuts to Indigenous funding that may mean that over 100 communities, small communities, may have to fold because they metre going to be sustainable. Trent, when you hear that, how does that make you feel? Do you feel the people will be missing something or that this is just economics?  

TRENT: Well, Stan, this is going to affect the communities. Of course it is. Like, Marcus - many people that we spoke to talked a lot about culture and, you know, they talked about elders who were there looking after the spirits of people that had passed. So imagine taking away that community, leaves their culture nowhere. We're just going to have all these same issues that we face - the alcohol. It's a flow on effect, if they're going to start doing that, imagine the issues that we're going to start facing again. 

STAN GRANT: Vic, Indigenous people make this choice themselves as well - move to the city, get a job, get a house, give your kids a chance at an education. When you make the personal choice like that, what drives that choice? 

VIC MORGAN:  I think there are a lot of factors that drives that focus and that move and push forward. A lot of it is family, and I think the environment that you live in as well. And our people are so diverse across the country that I think that's the main driver. You know, I have grown up in an urban city and, you know, all I know is how to live in the white man's world. I feel a little bit jealous of my brother here because what he's got you can't buy. 

STAN GRANT: But you have something else as well, equally as valid and I think this came out in the discussion and what's reflected in the program are the range of lifestyles and experiences and choices that Indigenous people make that, there is not one Indigenous community. 

VIC MORGAN:  Yeah, there is, and, you know, as we said, you know, it is a variety and a - you know, a wide, wonderful world we live in and our people have so much to offer to the rest of society that this is a perfect platform to start from. It's opened the conversation, and I think it's a conversation that Australia's ready for now. 

STAN GRANT:  Shane, you're from Redfern and we see in Redfern that it draws particularly people from NSW, from some of the smaller communities who come into the city. But you see that transition that people perhaps lose something, perhaps they gain something else. What is that experience like?  

SHANE PHILLIPS: I suppose growing up in an urban setting we see a lot of kids who have a disconnection in a lot of ways. So it's so important for us right now, at this time in our history, to move the lens. Move the lens. 'Cause everyone's telling us that sustainability is about economic development, it's about capitalism, it's about just making money, or fitting in with the Jones and it isn't. So we sustained this land for thousands of years and we had everything that was important to us then and it should be important now, but we have got an opportunity to help everyone learn this now. 

So, this maybe an opportunity to focus on what our strengths are because, you know what? In this whole exercise, all of our children focused on what they can do and what they wanna be and they know, if they reflect on the greatness of our people, the deficits that other people had about us, we wanted to enlighten them in it. So this journey's really simple. I mean, we've got to make sure that it's practical and we move - move that lens to show that stuff that we know is tangible and it connects us all. But it's not just about making money, fitting into the time slots. The balance of this all can make a huge difference to our identity in in part of the world. 

STAN GRANT: But Sharyn, but there are personal choices and sometimes very difficult choices that people have to make, to make a living, to live, for want of a better phrase, in the white man's world and you end up estranged or perhaps separated from our own, tell us about your experience?  

SHARYN DERSCHOW: I'll only talk on my own behalf 'cause as we do. I live in both worlds. I have a western lifestyle. I speak academically, I speak an Aboriginal language, I speak Aboriginal English and a whole mix English in my home with my children. I also - my sons have been through law and ceremony. I have one left to go. I still participate in that. I still - very much that's who I am. So what we call a third space, not all of us can do it. But I sit in that third space and it isn't all about sacrifices. 

STAN GRANT: What about if it clashes? What about if there is something that requires you to be back home, if there's a ceremony or a funeral, and you can't go? There are work demands?  

SHARYN DERSCHOW: My family represents me. My four sons will represent me. We're not a nuclear family, which I think in these moments is very good because our extended families represent us. We're not based on a nuclear family. You know, extended families has its good and bad but when you're talking about funerals we may not attend or show our respect then, as for my four sons or my siblings will go and represent them, and if - if I can't attend. 

STAN GRANT: I'm interested in something you said as well that, reconciling an Indigenous identity with an Australian identity, feeling Australian, whatever that may mean that, travelling overseas, and I can speak from my personal experience, having lived overseas for a long time, it's a liberating experience for an Indigenous person and sometimes you can feel like an Australian for the first time. Is that how you felt?  

SHARYN DERSCHOW: Yes. In the training delivery that I do now and when I talk to people it’s really, The only time I felt Australian is overseas, I have never once for this time in Australia have felt Australian. I have always carried my skin heavy. But going overseas, when they hear you're Australian, think they you're rich, their mannerism is, "Wow, come sit down here." It's amazing. I feel like a Queen. I feel like I'm important, like they promote Australia around the world. But when I walk back in through Customs, through immigration and all that, I pick my skin back up and have that racist radar and such, those emotions, carrying the anxiety again. Only when I'm out of Australia do I feel Australian. 

STAN GRANT: Marcus, just before we go to a break, this question of sustainability and viability. If we look around the world, it's a globalised world now. Borders are coming down. We're sending people and goods around the world at a rate that we hadn't ever before and it's opening up enormous opportunities but it also demands that people sometimes move. China has lifted a quarter of a billion people out of poverty because they've left villages and they have had to move to the city to find an economy. You're talking about your children having to go away to get an education. In 50 years, will communities like yours, the island, will they still be around and will they still be sustainable?  

MARCUS LACEY:  A tough question. Depending who the government is. I mean, whether we take on the challenges that our leaders, cause that'll be finished. If we are - if we ready ourselves now, but in terms of education and that's the main goal now from my perspective, is that we educate our young people now. 

STAN GRANT: In both - ways? 

MARCUS LACEY:  In both ways. On the island or in Arnhem Land, they've shut down all the ESL schools into mainstream now and only our island and one other is operating and we're basically holding on the weight of the whole Arnhem Land on our shoulders. But, we still have our ceremonies. Even if they miss out if they go into college, and they come back, they'll still be part of that and still find their true spirit in there. But it's up to them whether they pursue other venue, job, job opportunities, whether that's in the cities, whether it's for sport, going to - going into dance college, and we try not to... 

STAN GRANT: I suppose what you're saying really here is that you want to create the potential for both to co-exist. 

MARCUS LACEY:  Yeah. 

STAN GRANT: In a perfect world.  

MARCUS LACEY:  At the moment we're in conjunction with some corporate groups that's investing into a big major cultural college where we will open our doors to the outside world, and in that way the door will swing both ways. 

STAN GRANT: That's what you did here as well.  

MARCUS LACEY:  Yeah.

STAN GRANT:  There was a lot of debate in the program about the question of personal choice, and how much agency and authority Indigenous people have over their own lives. Let's look at one conversation that you all had inside a regional prison.  

 

FIRST CONTACT CLIP: 

 

BO-DENE: Still don't believe it. I don't think that issue in a family gives you the same issue to be a new person. 

TRENT: I think it does. It's an influence. 

BO-DENE: It is but at the end of the day... 

TRENT:  A big influence. 

BO-DENE:  But at the end of the day it's your choice. 

Jasmine is on Bo-dene's side. 

JASMINE: Nothing about your upbringing. I had the shitiest upbringing, drugs in my family and that, like my mum leaving me. Like, I'm A OK beside a few phobias and stuff. I think it's got nothing to do with your upbringing. 

STAN GRANT: Jasmine. You still believe that? Is it a choice? Do people have a choice separate from their upbringing? 

JASMINE: Um, I'm just trying to separate myself from it obviously. 

STAN GRANT: The people that you met inside the prison there, and their own experiences.  

JASMINE: I don't think they had a choice. Like, it came down to the fact - I think it was, like, if an elder tells you to drive them, they've got to drive them - I can't remember the exact world but it's like disrespecting them and so then they're like pushed on the outside of the family if they don’t. So it is actually worse consequences if they didn’t follow through say with helping that family member drive to the bottle shop or drive here or something. So I think definitely majority of Aboriginals don't have a choice. 

STAN GRANT:  And do they - Trent, people deserve to end up behind bars for that?  

TRENT: I don't believe at all, no. They should have opportunities to get out of those troubles. They should be supported by the community. And you know, personal choice was something that was starting to bug me quite a bit, and me and Bo-dene had a number of chats about that. In fact, one part in the prison that wasn't shown, I pull up Bo-dene and say, "You've lost a big opportunity. You're not asking these people questions to really, you know, get down to the nitty-gritty and start challenging your thoughts." I'm so glad I did do that. 

BO-DENE:  I'm glad you did it too. 

STAN GRANT: Because it did have an effect on you significantly.  

BO-DENE: It did I think. Going in there, I had the pre-conceived idea that I didn't want to be bothered talking to any of these people. 

STAN GRANT: Because they were criminals?  

BO-DENE:  Yeah, I thought they were just criminals and I quess I'm very for - if you do the wrong thing you deserve to be in jail. I didn't listen to their stories. And then Trent said, "You wasted your time here. You didn't even be bothered to listen." I guess that really hit a nerve with me, because it's true. I was wasting my time. Why go somewhere if you're not going to even have the decency to listen to someone's story. Everyone has a story and then it's your thing, that you should listen to it, and listening to Lucas and hearing about the cycle that got him into jail, yeah, it was hard. 

TRENT: To Bo-dene's credit she did do that, and that's fantastic. 

STAN GRANT:  Rachael, the question of personal responsibility is a really big one right now in most Indigenous communities and what we saw reflected in that prison, there are many other people in jail as we know for much more significant crime, 15% of all homicides in Australia are committed by Indigenous people and about the same percentage are the victims of homicides. We do see a range of offences but the question about personal responsibility, it goes really to the heart of the future of policy and it's debating vigorously in our communities, isn't it?  

RACHEL PERKINS:  Yes, it is. I mean, it's a key issue, whether we talk about - well, we have this historical context that - of colonisation and, of course, that has put us at the bottom of the social scale because we have lost our economies of land, we have lost our lifestyle, racism has limited our employment and education opportunities. We know all of that. So that is the past and now we need to look to our future and we think, "How can we change that?" There is a dialogue that is going on in black Australia about do we look at the symptoms of that do we look at the current social situation and class and think about... and how we can change it. 

STAN GRANT: It's hard to separate the two. 

RACHEL PERKINS: Obviously they are connected, but at a point we must break the cycle and we must think about, "OK, you know," - as other people have said, the only person who's gonna change your life is the person who you look in that mirror every day, and there's a truth in that. But people come from very difficult circumstances, as we have seen, so it's very hard to change your situation. But, personal responsibility is a thing that we need to embrace. It's part of self-determination, the right to determine our future, the right to be responsible and you've got great people here in the audience who are heros in that regard. People like June Oscar. 

STAN GRANT: Yeah. We'll go to June in just a moment. Jasmine, I know you can really relate to this and I know that on a certain level part of you was saying at the start of the program, "Why can't they just all get over this, move on, do we do, go to work, send your kids to school, pay your bills. That's what it means to have a good life." Have you shifted? Do you have a broader view now?  

JASMINE:  I think I have a better understanding from when I first made the statements at the start. Once again, it was pretty arrogant I guess, and by visiting the communities that we did, we got a really good insight into seeing - like, sometimes it is hard. Like, there's no, like, bus services or most parents don't have cars so how do the kids get to school? Like, there's - I think more, yeah, needs to be done. So, I think - I guess, like, thinking back about what I said at the start, it just - it wasn't founded. It was up here. 

STAN GRANT: June, you're an example of someone who is doing this, though. That communities need to face up and say, "There's something wrong here and we're the ones who are going to fix it."  

JUNE OSCAR: Well, that is true, and you know, we need to pick what it is that we are wanting to face up to and deal with and find solutions for, and some of those situations requires us to seek out partners who can work with us and support us. But support us to be the drivers of that change. Support us to be able to be the partners, respect us and build on the successes that Aboriginal people have been achieving for a long time on some of these issues right across this country. And they're not noticed because it's the media that portrays the deficits, the negatives, and where the problems are for Aboriginal people. And, you know, it would be great to have some positive stories about what's happening right across this country in remote communities, in big cities, and, you know, communities along the way. 

STAN GRANT: And the personal stories, Vic, you've made personal choices in your own life. I think it surprises people when they turn up your place and your living in the suburbs, buying your house, and your sending your kids to school, your going to work. They may sound like simple things but as Rachel talked about, these are difficult things sometimes for people to overcome a history of disadvantage and dispossession. Your own experience and how you've taken charge of your life, is that a very deliberate act? Is that something you've thought very deliberately about?  

VIC MORGAN:  Yeah, and, you know, it comes from your foundation, your parents, your grandparents and, you know, the way that they wanted, the way they fought for us as Aboriginal people. You know, in the early years - I remember in the early '70s when they were still taking kids, you know. It was a - you know, it wasn't - we got taught to hide and we thought it was a game. But, you know, as late as the 70s. But, you know, at the end of the day, it is a personal choice and it's what I want for my kids that every Australian wants for their kids. The opportunities for our kids, like everybody else. We don't want anything more or less than that, and if we were given those opportunities, you'll see how much richness that can come from our knowledge and us being able to teach the rest of Australia. 

STAN GRANT:  Shane, I see you every morning doing exactly this down at the gym, 6am, kids are on the punching bag. I think you've said to me many times, a productive life, a good life, starts with a routine, getting people into a routine, taking charge of their day, and it starts at the start of the day, doesn't it?  

SHANE PHILLIPS: Look, absolutely. You know, functional families work on routine. Sometimes not everything is perfect but they have this start to the day. But we're sort of one program of many around the country. You know what? I mean, ultimately the solutions are coming out of all of these communities and that lens we keep talking about, and I'll keep saying it, it's slowly moving to those, and we need to make sure we proactively move that. What we'll end up doing, if we're going to condition people, just from conversations, condition them with empowerment, and that empowerment will come from the great things that will be said about those. 

Those kids in Redfern, we were doing it tough, at the bottom of the barrel for a long time. I see them with pride. The positive peer pressure, now peer pressure, no matter what anyone says, is real. If you live in a small community and you're in a remote place and there's hassles there, you've got nothing to do or - you know, sometimes the it feeds to the bad things, but when the good things comes and that changes, that base grows and that's what's happened with us. We've been fortunate enough now that that it's growing, that the place is growing, the safe space where these kids are part of it. 

STAN GRANT: But there's still resistance, isn't there? This is not something that's going to change immediately, and I know that your program came out of a situation where there was a constant level of animosity and friction in the community and with police.  

SHANE PHILLIPS: Absolutely. When we first started there were a bunch of kids in our community committing robbery offences and the police we had, they were polarised. I’m ashamed to tell you now but I had an anger and a hatred at that stage but I'm glad I'm enlightened about it that we learnt about each other and we saw each other through the simple exercise of turning up doing this boxing exercise in the morning, dropping our guard and seeing each other. These kids started to succeed. The police were talking to their friends. They were seeing there was less crime. There was less victims, less reports. It's not do gooder police - it's actually really good proactive policing and our relationship changed. 

These kids, people said good things about them so they grew with human nature. You love encouragement. Every human thrives on encouragement. These kids haven't committed another offence. In fact, robberies went down in our area 82%. Last year, we were - we used to be number one in crime around the state or maybe the country in robberies. Last year, one Indigenous kid in the whole year got caught for robbery or was charged with robbery. That's a big turnaround for us but it's not just about that. The more tangible stuff is the dynamics in families and everyone believing who they are. It's people like we see around the country, the great things that they're doing, and for these kids, they're their role models and now, they're not aiming at mediocre any more. They're aiming for the stars. They know to processes where they have got to look, turn up every day, simple but as the grownups in the community we have to keep putting that in front of them. There are so many people around the country that are doing it. 

STAN GRANT: Is it fair to say that when you first went to Redfern your image was the old Redfern that Shane was talking about? 

JASMINE:  Yep. I think that Bo actually had never heard of Redfern. Me and Marcus were telling her I'm like, "I'm not opening that door first. No." Push. Then we were greeted by Shane and - yeah. 

STAN GRANT: Marcus, when you hear these stories, what you have seen with Shane, Vic’s story, the personal stories, obviously it doesn't get the coverage in the media it should. It doesn't go to shaping the public view of what Indigenous people are and the changes that are taking place.  

MARCUS: Yeah. 

STAN GRANT: When you hear that, how do you respond to those stories when you look at someone like Vic? 

MARCUS: Well, it's - I mean - not just hearing those stories but actually experiencing them first hand and meeting the people behind them and the lives behind them. I think - I don't know, it's like an invigorating thing. But I think with media, it comes down to even if you presented a lot of these stories on the perfect platter in a newspaper or whatever it is these days, online, a lot of people don't want to read that or they won't read it, which is sort of a whole another question. It's like you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. I don't think people necessarily want to read these inspiring stories and be part of Them, I think people are pretty caught up in what they're doing and really self-focused and not really getting behind something that they should be. They should be excited about what's happening but really that's not what's happened so far. 

STAN GRANT: Sadly, the statistics still represent another story and just this week we've had a report from the Productivity Commission which shows just how wide the gap is still between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. When it comes to incarceration rates, for an Indigenous juvenile, 24 times higher than the non-Indigenous community, Trent, when you hear something like that, should race, should someone's Indigenous background, be a factor in sentencing? In terms of looking at it and going, "Maybe we need to find another way." 

TRENT:  Look, I think in certain aspects it should be. For Aboriginal people it should be a consideration because there are so many other issues that should be considered. So, on that side, yes, but on the other side, no, it should be equal. So, it's... 

STAN GRANT: Particularly for someone who was the victim of crime would say, "Why is that person gotten off because they've stolen my property from me."  

TRENT:  Yeah, there are two clear cut views there that many people probably have. In sentencing Aboriginal people probably - actually definitely should be considered in a different light because there's so many more other fundamental issues that we're not considering. 

STAN GRANT: Alice, what other alternatives do you think there could be? 

ALICE: I haven't thought about it. I was really inspired by both June and Shane in terms of making change and being proactive within their own community, seeing the problems and particularly with Shane, giving these young people hope within themselves and strength within themselves and belief within themselves, that they can make change to themselves and to their future. So I was - I didn't spend much time with Shane. We only heard a little bit about it on the boat when we went on the harbour. But it's - you know, it's really about that, in essence, is about creating the - creating that belief in themselves. You know, that they can - they are stronger than their circumstances. They are stronger than what people tell them or what people say about them or what the media says about them. You know, they are much stronger than that. So it's about personal power and personal development. 

STAN GRANT: Marcus, your own communities, when you look at the work that someone like Shane is doing and June is doing as well, what lessons are there for other communities? Can you take something that's being applied in one part of Australia and apply it elsewhere to Indigenous people?  

MARCUS LACEY:  A little bit difficult in our situation because you're dealing with not just one tribe. You've got all the different clan, clan group and it has to start from the top and bottom and then meet in the middle for something to happen. So, like, very inspiring... It's pity, though. All the money goes up there and you seen it - everyone's seen it. Where that money? You see, you know what's left of an oval. There is no area for children to hang out or there's no - you know, there's the social activity group or a centre. You know, you can fit that - you can fit it in this room and it's in a community that's, like, you know, just over 2,000 people and, majority of that is young people. And - so, that's a question answered for the people who always talk about, you know, all the money that goes up into all of our communities. We turn around and say, "What money?"

 

FIRST CONTACT CLIP:

  

BO-DENE: I think you're an incredibly strong woman Sharyn, I think that you're a really great role model. I think - yeah, you're very courageous and brave. 

SHARYN DERSCHOW: And in the same token, I think you two are very brave and courageous to come into the unknown, something you already had beliefs about. 

TRENT: It's been a pleasure. It really has. It's been my pleasure to be able to spend time with you. 

SHARYN DERSCHOW: And it's been my pleasure because you don't realise that you've healed me in a sense to be able to comfortably tell my life story so, yeah. So I think that we've healed two races. 

 

STAN GRANT:  Yeah. Amazing. You're all reliving it right now. I can see it on your faces there. Trent, healing, is that how you felt towards the end of the program?  

TRENT:  Yeah. What a journey and you know, we only see a very small snippet of the connections, the personal connections, that we made with these people, and it's a real shame that we don't get to see that, but big turnaround. I'm so happy that I was a part of it.

STAN GRANT: Wow Bo, seeing you there with Sharyn and looking at you at the start of the program, that’s a different person. 

BO-DENE: I love Sharyn, she is such an inspiration. Just on a personal level, too, like, not even - you know, she's just incredible. I've got no words for it. 

STAN GRANT: And Sharyn, yeah, it was an emotional moment, and you were saying there, too, that you got something. We were looking at this as a journey that the people here on the stage have taken but you also felt it was a journey.  

SHARYN DERSCHOW: Yeah 'cause I remember when Jacob and them were trying to chase me for three months or so, to get me to be a part of it, I was actually - didn't - wasn't really engaging and they had to physically come and talk to me and I was saying, "What do you want? I don't even know what you want." So I sort of really was just like - my interest - I didn't - at the beginning it wasn't about my own personal journey. It was being part of building a bridge between two societies in Australia and being part of that bridge. 

Then, as I got to understand it more and seeing, you know, thinking about people who have negative views about Aboriginal people, I was one of the youths that they talk about today. So I was like, "What can I do for the youth? I can't talk for them now 'cause I don't live their life now but I can show them the youths that you see as destructive can change.” So I thought, “Let me share my life today." It was very emotional for me because not a lot of people have heard that story. People see me as a strong woman, intelligent, inspirational and stuff like that, but a lot of people don't know how I work, how I click. People say, "Why haven't you got a white picket fence and a home? Why don't you buy a home?" I said, "That's not what I find peace. I'm finding peace within my own life and that's what my dream is." 

So sharing it with Trent and Bo is very emotional for me because they have my life, that's the part of my life. My life sits in Sydney or Melbourne, wherever they go that is a piece of my life, that’s my dream time. That's something that they'll hold when my grandchildren as well, you know, and I see them as part of my family. Some of them have heard it for the first time last night, my family and a lot of people that know me, through my work and personal life, would have heard it for the first time. Yeah, so it then became a really personal journey for me. When I see the edit - I didn't see the edit I broke down and cried because the first time in my life I told people about my struggles. But it’s the first time - like people said earlier, you to look in the own mirror, to hear your story and take responsibility. That was the first time for me. 

STAN GRANT: Darren, when you look at a program like this, which probably starts out saying how far apart we are, but the personal connections always trumped the ignorance. Even from the start, when people walked in and saw another human being, there was a connection. Did you really - did that surprise you? Is that something you didn't plan on?  

DARREN DALE:  No. Look, we hoped that that would happen. I guess when you're in a room and your  sitting across a table or are experiencing some of these great people like June and like Shane, and like Victor and the way how people embraced and how giving and open. You know Marcus invited these people on to his country and the generosity of spirit, I think that can't be met with arrogance. I think that's what you see. That's the great thing about this program. You see that great change with these people and I think Aboriginal people we need to take a step forward as well and meet in the middle. And I think Sharyn is so right. This conversation that we need to have it's not just a one-sided conversation and I think that we need to extend our hand as well as much as these guys. I think that personal connection and that emotion really shines through. 

STAN GRANT:  June, one of the recurring themes - you hear this all the time, the failure of Indigenous policy, the failures, as Marcus has mentioned, the money that's spent and still the gap remains. Is it that people have not listened, not listened to Indigenous people, how important is it that we listen and hear and have a dialogue with Indigenous people are able to tell that story?  

JUNE OSCAR:  Well, it's critical that people who are supposedly making decisions for our benefit sit and include us in that conversation. You know, research in the world points to the fact that you need to include the people who you are trying to assist in designing, in planning, in implementing, the solutions. And that's the message here, that we know how we want to be able to be drivers of that change. The willingness has to be something that governments and others are open to and if they continue to not be open to that we will continue to see the failures. 

STAN GRANT:  Shane, just a final quick word on the change that needs to happen in our society reflecting the change that we've seen in the lives of the people here on stage.  

SHANE PHILLIPS:  You know what? We've talked about it here. Everyone has extended themselves and they wanted to be opened and enlightened people about the truth about what we are as people and we see that, it's evident, it's in our face every day. What June was talking about is really important. Owning the solutions is for us and in the old days we inherited what some Government policy gave to us. But what's got to happen is we've got to own it from the bottom. We've got to push it from the bottom up. That's when we'll see sustained change that we want, that we're all building as a community. 

STAN GRANT:  And that starts with a discussion and we've had the discussion, we've had the journey that you've all been on, and we've been privileged to be able to share that journey with you. And I have seen the change on your faces here tonight as I know you've been reliving each moment of it and I know all of you here who have been part of it and have probably taken something away in our own lives. It started with a point of ignorance, perhaps even racism and we finished with the words we've heard here tonight about understanding, accepting and listening to each other. Thank you all so much for joining us here for this special edition of Insight. That's all we have time for. Thanks again. You've all been part of a wonderful conversation tonight and that discussion is still firing on social media.