This is #1 of a series of school Record of Progress assessment tasks. My blog is not being assessed – i just decided to upload each one as i do them because i never write on here and i’d like to voice (many) of my religious and political perspectives that i write within the classroom…..enjoy.
The Sapphires is a film made in 2012, based on true events about an all Australian Aboriginal girl-group. Set in 1968, within the Vietnam War, the four girls – along with their Irish ‘music promoter’, Dave – get the chance to perform for the troops fighting in the war.
Gail, Cynthia and Julie are sisters from the Cummeragunja Mission Reserve in outback Australia. Scenes early on in the film show Aboriginal children running and hiding from the authorities who arrive in government cars. This scene represents and reminds us of the tragic events of forced removal of children, known as the Stolen Generation.
Kay, the girls’ cousin, became very sick in the protection of Gail while hiding. This meant that Kay had to be put in the town hospital. When Kay’s mum came to collect her, she learned that the authorities had taken Kay from her hospital bed. The change within Kay was evident when she attended her mother’s funeral a few years later; she showed up wearing a sophisticated uniform – compared to the casual clothes she would normally wear. Kay made the snarky comment “If you people worked as much as you fished, you’d be rich” towards the girls which Gail has never really forgiven her for.
The powerful message of continued existence of the Stolen Generation is reiterated through the Kay. As a child, Kay’s light colour skin made her an easy target for authorities to remove her and place her into a white culture. Not only did she lose her traditional morals, but her identity was skewed.
Gail, Cynthia and Julie go into town and participate in the pub talent contest. Three of the other contestants are white. After the girls perform there is no acknowledgement or applause. After being kicked out of the pub, they meet Dave: a local man who plays at the pub. Julie asks him of his assistance to help them get an audition to perform for troops fighting in Vietnam. The girls return home to ask their mothers permission and their dad tells them that Kay should be singing with them – just like they did when they were kids. Their grandmother notifies Gail that Kay is living in Melbourne. Gail, Cynthia and Julie find Kay and convince her to sing with them. Once at the audition, the name ‘The Sapphires’ is created and the girls get the job.
Dave travels with the girls and introduces a new style of music for them to sing: ‘soul’. Compared to their ‘country and western’ as he likes to call it, Dave teaches the girls that soul music will be more entertaining and enjoyable.
The film emphasises the suppression of Indigenous people of the 1960s, as it follows an in-depth journey of the four girls, despite the unavoidable barriers such as dispossession. The Sapphires also acknowledges the strong relationship between the land and importance of family kinship within the Indigenous culture which is represented in the scenes such as the one with Gail, Cynthia and Julie’s dad fishing, and the girls’ community performance at the very end of the movie.
The issue of the difficulty to reconcile with Indigenous family members post-removal and cultural assimilation is an empathetic task audiences are asked to consider and be mindful of.
The historical context of The Sapphires houses the progression of racial relations in Australia; this film is helpful to understand the context of Aboriginal rights as the 1967 Referendum ordered for amendments to be made to the constitution. Prior these changes, Indigenous people could not obtain Australian citizenship, although being here for thousands of years previous to colonisation.
All in all, The Sapphires allows us to explore Australian (particularly Indigenous) history in the viewpoint of four women in the 1960’s. The film gives us an idea of the horrible discrimination and destruction of Indigenous culture. Gail, Cynthia, Julie, Kay and Dave each entertain, humour and captivate audiences through their performances.
As this is based on a true story, this movie provides a meaningful experience for audiences Indigenous or not.