"I’d like to think a bit of that ethic of public service filtered down through the genes."
Genevieve Dwyer

15 Sep 2016 - 4:16 PM  UPDATED 22 Sep 2016 - 2:44 PM

Peter Garrett: activist, rock-star and politician. His identity as a character of firm passions and beliefs is pretty firmly entrenched in the public psyche. 

After losing both his parents at a young age, in tragic circumstances, a lot of his family origins have, up until now, remained a mystery to him.

Investigating his ancestry on Who Do You Think You Are? Garrett will uncover some shock hidden family secrets, unraveling a 50-year mystery, a secret love affair and family involvement in an island that was home to a little-known, dark and shocking chapter of Australian Indigenous history following European settlement. 

Below, he talks about what he learnt throughout the experience: 

Q. What was the most interesting thing you learnt about yourself during the series?

PG: How little I’d been told about my family background, and how much it ended up meaning to me.

Q. How does knowing about your family history change how you see yourself and your family?

PG: Knowing where you came from, and who inhabited your skin before you were born is an incredibly powerful thing. It opens your eyes to the endless struggle that life is, but also points to the efforts, in my case almost herculean, of those who came before you. It helps you connect with the world around you in a deeper way.

Q. Do you see a connection between any of your own traits that could be attributed to your ancestors? How so?

PG: I was struck by the way both ancestors, in this case women, worked incredibly hard to help others. I’d like to think a bit of that ethic of public service filtered down through the genes.

Q. Are there any lessons that contemporary Australians could draw from your own family history and experience?

PG: The most striking thing for me was to discover both of my ancestors had been right in the middle of an incredible period of our early history. In the case of my Gran it was a period that impacted heavily on Aboriginal people, where there was a program to round up Indigenous Australians and remove them to remote, offshore islands ostensibly to treat them for diseases that had been introduced and spread by the very same people now removing them from their country, and yet we know very little about these events today.

Peter and other stars Julia Morris, Delta Goodrem, Rachel Griffiths, Mal Meninga, Jane Turner, Shane Jacobson and John Newcombe feature in Season Eight of Who Do You Think You AreTuesdays at 7.30pm (AEST) on SBS.

Stream Peter's episode now at SBS OnDemand or watch below: 

BONUS: Watch the first seven seasons of Who Do You Think You Are in full - streaming now at SBS On Demand.  


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