• Clouded history host Marcus Corowa on the impact of tobacco on indigenous peoples and communities. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
COMMENT | In making the documentary Clouded history, I learnt the true history of tobacco. A currency that was used to keep Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander people dependent; and in turn, a way to control our people, says Marcus Corowa.
Marcus Corowa

9 Jun 2016 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 9 Jun 2016 - 11:20 AM

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following article contains images of deceased persons.

I am also the host of the documentary, Clouded History, a full-length documentary film that explores the history and consequences of tobacco within our communities. In the making of this film I go on a journey back home to speak to my family and friends about smoking, to try and get a sense of why it is so prevalent within our communities. Throughout my travels I personally learn and discover a lot about my family and also about the harmful impacts that smoking can cause.

In the film, I talk about my Grandfathers. Both my Grandfathers were smokers, and both passed away from smoking related illnesses. Prior to this documentary I had never given any real thought to how they began smoking or why they both smoked. It was just something they both did, and it was something that most people did back then as well.

As a child I remember one of my Granddads’ would sneak off from the family to go and sit around the corner of the house, and there he would have his coffee and cigarette. He’d never smoke in front of us kids, but same time, we’d always see him anyway. He’d come back now, and Grandma would cheek him and say, “We know where you were,” Granddad would reply and say “Yeah, I was just having my vitamin C.” That’s what he called his coffee and cigarette. My other Granddad would do the same thing as well, smoke around the corner, and he would try and roll them up real small. But in the end, all of those years of smoking tobacco shortened both of my Granddads’ lives.

For some of us smoking is a big part of our daily lives. Whether we are a smoker or non-smoker, it’s a big part of our society. We know that smoking rates are much higher in Indigenous people than in non-Indigenous people, and for many of us we have seen first hand the devastating affects that smoking tobacco can have in our
communities and families.

Throughout this journey I learn and share about how tobacco was introduced to us from multiple sources. It then became a form of currency that was used to keep Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander people dependent on Tobacco; and in turn, it was a way to control our people. Smoking became the normal thing to do and most people were unaware of how detrimental it was to their own health.

Executive Producer of Clouded History, Sean Appo says:

"The fact is, that tobacco has decimated both our people and our culture, and it is still holding us back in many ways – financially, through health, through the early death of many of our Elders.” 

And that is certainly true in my personal story. Throughout the film I go on to learn about what some of my own family are doing about educating and helping people give up smoking. I discover programs and services within the communities, designed to help people quit smoking; and I learn and share about the successes of these programs.

Clouded History is a powerful tool that can be used in our communities to educate and initiate conversations about the harmful affects of smoking tobacco. I hope the information and messages about the real truth of our culture and history, has a lasting, positive impact on our people, as we continue to strive towards
improving our health standards.

Together we are all stronger, and together we can make positive changes to move towards a healthier future for our generation and the generations to come.

Marcus Corowa is a musician, singer and songwriter of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent and the host of the documentary Clouded History. 

Watch it Clouded History on SBS On Demand HERE.