• Dick Blair, boxer, pastor and social worker, is a beloved member of the Redfern community. (Curious Works)
It was a personal journey for Mark Taylor, the director of the documentary 'The Heart of the Fight' to capture a portrait of a man beloved by so many, Dick Blair. The Aboriginal pastor is a former Australian middleweight champion and one of the inspirations behind The Block in Redfern.
By
Jerico Mandybur

6 Jul 2016 - 9:36 AM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2016 - 10:54 AM

Dickie Blair was one of the last in his league, originally a cane cutter from the North who came to Sydney during a pivotal time in the history of Indigenous Australia - he became a great boxer, and a Christian leader. Arriving in Redfern in the late 60s against the backdrop of the referendum and the new wave of the civil rights movement, Richard was a true fighter inside and outside the ring.

What inspired you to create a film about Dick Blair?

Initially it was Dick's son Shane who asked me to document the story of his father. I teamed up with Byron Arrelano who mentors a lot of young people in Redfern, Dick was also a father figure to him. Actually as we find out in the film, Dick was a father figure to the community as a whole. For me, Dick reminded me a lot of my own father who had passed away not long before I started filming, they shared many qualities, one was to accept people as they were without judgement, and just help them. There were not many men left of Dick's league and we needed to bottle his story.

What was it about him in particular that was so inspirational for so many people, do you think?

Dick was a fighter, both inside and outside the ring. If you were a boxer, still today, you are looked up to. Dick used his position to improve the lives of other people in his community, he fought hard for the establishment of The Block, and was one of the founders. He set up a drop-in centre where people could get a feed and sleep if they needed shelter. He became a spiritual leader along with his dear wife Yvonne and together they were a pillar of strength for their community through the darkest days of The Blocks history.

How did you engage the local community during film-making?

I had a very good connection with many people from the Redfern/Waterloo community through years of community arts work in the area. I had met Dick's son Shane through another documentary I produced a few years earlier about an Aboriginal Men's healing group that started up, and is still going. Teaming up with Byron was the key for this project though as we wanted young people to be part of the production process and Byron was able to bring young people on board and retain them. Between Shane and Byron we were able to find and interview a lot of older members of the community who could tell different sides to Dick's story.

Who are the people in the picture?

These are some of the young people who took on different production roles including camera operation and sound recording. We wanted young people from the community to learn the means of production and to be able to document a story from their community. A film project is a good vehicle to enable people from different generations to talk about life, there are not that many spaces in today's world where this is possible. This is where CuriousWorks steps in, as a community arts organisation, young people and empowerment through storytelling are at the heart of the project. CuriousWorks enabled Dick's story to be captured and the actual production to be inclusive of young people from the community.

 

What do you hope TV viewers get out of the film?

Dick's story is an inspiration to all, I hope it finds an audience far and wide. Dick's story transcends many vastly different era's in the history of Sydney, and we can learn a lot about resilience to adversity and how to nurture love in your community. We need to look out for and nurture the next generation of Dick Blair's around the country.

Watch Heart of the Fight right now on SBS On Demand HERE.