Overview of RISING Festival Performances: “Hearing the Voice of the Elderly”

The play is based on Tamiru’s real-life repatriation experience during his time with an organization overseeing the cultural heritage of the Bendigo region in Mildura.

“It was work that I knew our people had been doing from a very young age,” he says. “One of my cousins… kept bones in his garage at home! Which was quite strange when you’re a kid and you hear these stories, quite scary, dark. But what he did was store them and hold them until they found a way to bring them back.

Jason Tamiru: ″⁣I found there was a strong urge in me to handle leftovers with my own hands.″⁣

Jason Tamiru: ″⁣I found there was a strong urge in me to handle leftovers with my own hands.″⁣Credit:

“So when work [of reburying our people] happened, it completely turned my world upside down. It was a very confronting work, very moving… [but] it was a normal thing to do,” he says. “In this industry [the collection of artefacts] they dehumanized us, and they dehumanized us for a number of reasons, so that they could work with us, alive or dead, without any emotion.

“[Our people] were labeled and stored. As part of this disconnect, they wear gloves when handling the remains of our people. I found there was a strong urge in me to handle the remains with my own hands, that this is how they would have been handled in the first place. I wanted to give them back their humanity and I hope this piece captures that.

The repatriation process is ongoing, as institutions and private collectors still possess the remains of First Nations people. “With plays like this, we’re talking about things, people who have been locked up in institutions for years, not talking,” Tamiru says. “Maybe we can get people to think about sending these people back where they belong. Blameless.

It’s one thing to tell the true story, it’s another to inject humanity into the stories of our people of old, to try to paint a picture of what people felt facing insurmountable challenges.

John Harvey felt The Return.” loading=”lazy” src=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.379%2C$multiply_0.4431%2C$ratio_1.5%2C$width_756%2C$x_1%2C$y_0 /t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/f996e5074607f36b921a7f983fb9bfaed889ba19″ height=”224″ width=”335″ srcset=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.379%2C$multiply_0.4431%2C$ratio_1.5 %2C$width_756%2C$x_1%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/f996e5074607f36b921a7f983fb9bfaed889ba19, https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_0.379%2C$multiply_0.8862%2C$ratio_1.5% 2C$width_756%2C$x_1%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/f996e5074607f36b921a7f983fb9bfaed889ba19 2x”/>

John Harvey felt “the weight of the material” while writing The return.Credit:

This was the task John Harvey faced when he wrote The return. “After long conversations with Jason about his experience and the subject, I started to feel the weight of the material, so one way to deal with all of that was initially to write for myself, not for the team,” says -he. “I would just write in response to the material. I would start with a scene, or a theatrical response to something I read to help me understand it all and especially process it.

These two works, which cover the heaviest subjects, come at a time in the cultural life of this country where the voices of the First Nations are at the heart of its expression. In all artistic disciplines, First Nations peoples are now able to hold up a mirror to society.

That wasn’t always the case, as Bennett, a member of the pioneering band Tiddas, recalls: “I was pretty militant in my early twenties; Tiddas was seen as an activist group when we were just telling the truth. We weren’t trying to cause trouble or be against any type of grain. We were just saying that the mainstream was not working for us.


“Now I look at this protest in a different light: now is the time to let the young people get back to fighting. Things have come a long way since then and there are more opportunities than ever to be heard.

Likewise, for Timaru, there is a recognition of the path travelled. “I honor and respect those who made these jobs possible for us,” he says. “I think the country is more open now to hear these tough stories, to hear the truth no matter how bad, and there’s so much more to come. For me, it’s about filling in the missing links about who I am and where I come from. That’s part of why so many of us are working in this space right now.

The return is at the Malthouse Theater until June 4; malthousetheatre.com.au. Wurukur Djuanduk Balag – The ancestors are calling is at the Ullumbra Theatre, Bendigo, on June 1 and at the Melbourne Museum on June 3. Daniel James hosts Return to Country: Repatriation and Resilience, a discussion with John Harvey, Jason Tamiru and Kimberley Moulton, at Wheeler Center May 31; wheelercentre.com

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