Straight after the first episode of First Contact, NITV’s flagship current affairs program Awaken delves deeper into the issues raised when journalist Catherine Liddle asks some of Australia’s best thinkers for their first responses to seeing the show.
First Contact sees six well-known Australians immersed into Aboriginal Australia for the first time as they embark on a 28-day journey which is at times confronting, emotional and uplifting. By presenting an Indigenous perspective on issues explored in the program, Awaken provides greater context for a national conversation, on the home of Indigenous story-telling, NITV.
Guests include leading academic Shane Houston, award winning author Thomas Keneally, Black Comedy icon and writer Aaron Fa’aoso, artistic director Lydia Miller, and Shireen Morris from the Cape York Institute.
"By bringing together these powerful Indigenous representatives, we can reflect and discuss in-depth the incredible stories and lives of those in remote Aboriginal communities, and to provide greater understanding of Indigenous life to a broader audience," says Catherine Liddle.
Aaron Fa’aoso is a film actor, screenwriter and producer of Torres Strait Islander, Samoan and Tongan descent.
Aaron was a sexual health worker in the Cape York Peninsula and played rugby league in the Australian Rugby League competition before his acting break. In 2004 Aaron played Eddie in the SBS mini-series RAN for which he received nomination for the Logie award for Most Outstanding New Talent and an AFL nomination. He then joined East West 101 in the final two seasons as detective Sonny Koa, appearing in The Straits and Black Comedy as well as taking his place on the couch of NITV’s League Nation Live.
“It’s so important First Nations people are being able to have platforms to be able to engage not only to showcase our culture, heritage and songs, but to have a platform where we are able to share.”
Lydia Miller is a Kuku Yalanji woman from far north Queensland who has had a long career in the arts.
Lydia started as an actor with the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust in the 1980s and 90s where she learnt her craft from greats such as Oodgeroo, Brian Syron, Kevin Gilbert and Jack Davis. She starred in the films Backlash (1986), Deadly (1991) and Jindalee Lady (1992) and has amassed more than twenty years’ experience as a performer, artistic director, producer, administrator and advocate. She has extensive experience in the arts, health, justice and community sectors and was previously the Executive Officer of the NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council. Lydia is now one of the country's most senior arts administrators.
“We should have memorials in this country to the conflict that happened so we can actually have markers to enable us to really go beyond what we’ve had to deal with and into a future that we can build together.”
Shane Houston is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Sydney and draws on his extensive experience in both the health and higher education sectors.
Shane began as an advisor on Aboriginal employment to the NSW government, before travelling to Canada where he spent time working for the United Nations-affiliated World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Upon returning to Australia, he was elected coordinator of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Organisation and later took up health policy roles in both the Western Australian and Northern Territory governments. He moved into higher education in 2011, assuming his current position at the University of Sydney and is the first indigenous Australian to be appointed to such a senior role at any university.
“All of the evidence tells us that too few Australians actually get an opportunity to get to know Aboriginal people, to experience Aboriginal life-to understand the complexity and the challenge of it.”
Shireen Morris is a Senior Policy Adviser and Constitutional Reform Research Fellow at Cape York Institute and has a strong legal education.
Shireen studied for a Bachelor of Arts (English) at Melbourne University before completing a Master of Laws (Juris Doctor) at Monash University in 2011. She was then admitted to practise in the Supreme Court of Victoria and completed her PhD in in constitutional law at Monash University in 2013. She began her current position in early 2011 and has published in the areas of constitutional law, racial discrimination and native title. Shireen also is the co-editor of a book titled The Forgotten People: liberal and conservative approaches to recognising indigenous peoples published by Melbourne University Press in 2016.
“So many Australians are estranged and dispossessed from our most ancient of heritage. I think [this program] shows we need so much more of that [contact and dialogue] accessible to all Australians, to be able to connect to our shared Indigenous heritage because it’s the heritage of all Australians.”
Thomas Keneally is a one of Australia’s most popular and prolific writers, publishing more than 30 novels, dramas, screenplays and non-fiction works.
Tom spent his early years in northern NSW before moving to Sydney and initially studied for the Catholic priesthood before suffering a nervous collapse. He worked as a schoolteacher, coached football and studied law part time while he wrote his first novel which was published in 1964. He has twice received the Miles Franklin Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times before winning for Schindler's Ark, later made into an Academy Award winning film. His novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is an Australian classic.
“Every individual Australian needs to have an experience, when the view of the history is reversed. Everything you thought you knew is cast up in the air, and that hasn’t happened with white Australia sadly.”
First Contact airs on Tuesday 29 Nov, Wednesday 30 Nov and Thursday 1 Dec at 8.30pm on NITV Ch. 34 and is available On Demand
Awaken: First Response airs on Tuesday 29 Nov at 9.30pm (AEST) on NITV Ch. 34
First Contact contains themes that may distress or upset viewers. Please click on the links provided for support on issues such as;mental health and suicide,stolen generations,domestic violence and children and education.