Old Country New Country

Old Country New Country (SBS), presented by (George) Negus, tells the tale of Bardi elder Roy Wiggan, 78, who teaches nephew Albert the traditional Aboriginal craft of raft-making. As they build the raft, the dialogue between Roy and Albert centres on their thoughts about the destruction of their “old country” by industrialisation of the “new country”.

Roy laments he is living in “two different worlds”. He was taught to look after his world by his ancestors. “Our job is to respect this land, it’s in our Dreaming,” he says. To Albert, his country gave life and family and he says financial compensation for the land means nothing. “Why can they not just appreciate this is blackfella country?” he asks. “What are we going to spend money on? We already belong to a country… we don’t need a flash house … this is our home, this country owns us.”

Written by Lisa Calautti
Published by: The West Australian

Veteran journalist George Negus freely admits his kinship with WA’s Kimberley is professional and personal but there is one thing he wants to get off his chest.

Discussing his latest television project which is about his beloved Kimberley, Negus hit back at recent comments about him by Kimberley MLA Carol Martin.

Earlier this year, Ms Martin said Negus’ backing of conservation group Save the Kimberley’s campaign to stop a gas hub at James Price Point, 50km north of Broome, was “so all his mates can pay $10,000 for a tour”.

Negus says his support of Save the Kimberley had nothing to do with any so-called desire to take part in expensive tours of the region.

“Tell her (a) I don’t fish, (b) I don’t go to the Kimberley with millionaire friends and (c) to watch what she says before she opens her mouth,” Negus said. “That’s not a threat, it’s a comment. She should check on a few things before she goes off like that.”

After tiring of endless “pollie speak” by Premier Colin Barnett and other politicians on the issue of industrialising the Kimberley, Negus decided to let the indigenous people of the region speak for themselves in his mini-documentary, Old Country New Country — The Journey of a Raft, which he co-produced with wife Kirsty Cockburn.

“This so-called economic growth and development is not a good enough reason for mauling a place,” he said. “I’m not against indigenous development … what I am asking is, do we have to stuff up this culturally important part of Australia, one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses?”

Old Country New Country, presented by Negus, tells the tale of Bardi elder Roy Wiggan, 78, who teaches nephew Albert the traditional Aboriginal craft of raft-making. As they build the raft, the dialogue between Roy and Albert centres on their thoughts about the destruction of their “old country” by industrialisation of the “new country”.

Roy laments he is living in “two different worlds”. He was taught to look after his world by his ancestors. “Our job is to respect this land, it’s in our Dreaming,” he says. To Albert, his country gave life and family and he says financial compensation for the land means nothing. “Why can they not just appreciate this is blackfella country?” he asks. “What are we going to spend money on? We already belong to a country… we don’t need a flash house … this is our home, this country owns us.”

Negus hopes people who watched the 30-minute documentary will walk away realising that perhaps they did not know what “country” meant before. And, he says, if they find themselves with a lump in their throat at the end of it, they should ask themselves why. “It’s a little film with edge — it’s far less innocent than it looks,” he said.

Lisa Calautti

A spiritual connection By Paul Kalina - June 4, 2009 -' The Age'

Doubts grow over Kimberley gas hub Rebecca Le May, AAP (news.com.au)