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UNDERMINED: TALES FROM THE KIMBERLEY gets 7/10 Bush tales


Directed by Nicholas D. Wrathall

Starring Albert Wiggan, Kevin Oscar, June Davis

7/10

A look at the vast and unspoiled Kimberley, this documentary examines the rapid expansion of mining and agriculture in the region, and the effects it is having on the over 200 Aboriginal communities that have traditionally called it home.

Both literally (420,000 square kilometers) and figuratively Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley has a lot of ground to cover. Native title, colonialism, pastoral leases, mining companies, government policy, high suicide rates, the closing of remote communities, cultural identity, issues with drugs and alcohol, employment opportunities, and a large swathe of history showing Australia’s relationship with it indigenous population that is often not too many steps away from slavery (if any). It’s a large grab bag of issues demonstrative of unsettled relations with First Australians, and one that is playing out in the Kimberley.

As such it is almost too large to get a grasp of, despite Undermined: Tales From the Kimberley walking you gently and concisely through it. Hence Undermined feels a little unfocused. Yes the issues are related, often impacting and amplifying the other, but an hour and a half documentary is too short a format to even attempt to untie such a Gordian Knot. The documentary instead works better as an introduction, giving you a sense of the issues involved, and showing how those issues have morphed into a rather ruthless form of economic rationalism driven by the mantra of “jobs and growth”.

Creating a sense of place and people is where Undermined does shine. From the stunning aerial drone shots of the unique pristine landscapes, to the forthright interviews with a host of characters, viewers are given an honest insight into the area. Through accounts such as young community leader Albert Wiggan, cattleman Kevin Oscar, and Elder June Davis, we get an overwhelming sense of the impact, of the disruption to thousands of years of culture, and the environmental, social, and economic ramifications of mining and agriculture.

At times confronting, but often hopeful and optimistic Undermined: Tales from the Kimberley is an eye opening documentary into what is happening in our own state.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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