This play in part, is a love letter to my family. A family (like all Indigenous families in this country) that has endured far more than they should have.
When I first began to write this play, I felt compelled to do something. People I loved were suffering. It is not often that Indigenous people aren’t being tormented by something, but this was different. This time, people I loved had been witness to something devastating. Something horrific, something so traumatic, it would alter the course of their lives.
I imagine, for some Australians, it may be second nature to think that tragedy won’t happen to you. But this is not something Indigenous Australians have the luxury to dream. I realised one day (as every Indigenous child does), that the white world that I knew had stuck a target on my back. That it was only a matter of time before I succumb to that which this country had prepared for me—the destruction of my mind and my body. The destruction of my culture.
Every day since that moment I have tried to rally against that doom. To learn how not to live in fear.
Indigenous Australians live daily with the sickly effects of that devastating force, most commonly known as colonisation. Its effects are ever-present and all around us. You may have the luxury of not seeing it all the time. We do not. Let me make no mistake. The effects are absolutely evident in the rate in which Indigenous Australians take their own lives. In some parts of Australia, those rates are the highest in the world, up to twenty times the national average.
I couldn’t watch people I love become statistics. When devastation was at our door again, I had to do something. I was in fear again. This time, I feared that the depression would spread.
When the moment came, I sat across from my cousin and I could say nothing. I mumbled and stared at the floor. I found it impossible to say anything. I remembered the echo of institutions I’d found myself in as a young, impressionable teenager—somewhat alone—well… they taught me to say nothing. They encouraged me to say nothing. I watched as the trauma of suicide and grief threatened to pull at the threads of my tightknit family, and truthfully, I was terrified.
So I began to write what would later become this play. I wrote because I thought my family needed me. The deeper the play took me, the more I realised that it was I, in fact, that needed them.
Part way through, I realised that I’d forgotten something. My mothers, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers had taught it to me, but somehow I’d forgotten: all we have is each other. Our integrity, our legacy, and our very survival depend on one another.
This has to be true of our two cultures. Black Australia has lived with intergenerational trauma and inequality for so long. We have talked about it, pleaded so often our voices are hoarse. What will it take for Australia to rally around us? What will it take for Indigenous Australians to be heard?
I’d like to thank the extraordinary team of individuals that helped put this work together. I feel very lucky to get to work with, and to learn from, such incredibly talented humans. In particular, to the cast—Lisa, Trevor, Dion, Leonie and Nelson—watching you work and helping you find these characters over the last few weeks has been a great, great pleasure. Thank you for your patience, your courage and your dedication. I’m very, very proud of what we’ve made together.
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY / Jada Alberts
Image: Tim Grey