Back in August of 2019, Pauline Hanson decided she’d travel to the NT to climb Uluru, regardless of what Anangu people wanted. In a great form of irony, Hanson got stuck and had to be rescued, swiftly changing her mind and agreeing with the Uluru climb closure, albeit for ‘safety reasons’. She still couldn’t care less about Anangu, or any Indigenous mobs’ culture. Throughout the week that followed she was the recipient of a bit of backlash in media and on social media. One of her responses during one of her interviews following the controversy was “I don’t see the cultural sensitivity; I just don’t get it”. But the fact is, she doesn’t need to get it. She doesn’t need to ‘see’ the cultural sensitivity, like a Christian doesn’t need to see ‘God’ to believe in him.
She just needs to accept that it exists.
In My Blood It Runs is a documentary about Dujuan, a young Aboriginal boy from the Arrernte/Garrwa mobs, living in Alice Springs. Dujuan is struggling to learn western culture. English isn’t his first language, he doesn’t feel comfortable at school, he stares from a distance and wonders why he can’t live on ‘the good side of town’.
While from a western perspective, Dujuan probably seems illiterate, unruly and even rude. From an Indigenous perspective, he’s actually quite knowledgeable. For one, Dujuan is a healer, taking pain away from his Elders and feeling it in himself and making natural bush medicines. He’s learning his language, which was almost lost, learning more words than even his father and uncles know.
In My Blood It Runs delves into the differences between Indigenous culture and western society, especially for youths, laying it all out on the table in black and white for everyone to see. School, for example, teaches Dujuan about western society, but very little about his own, and what he’s taught is often whitewashed, learning his Indigenous culture at home. It must be confusing and surely mentally exhausting. According to an Educational Psychologist from Sydney University, data shows that ‘in countries where more time is spent on homework, students score lower on standardised tests’ and that ‘inundating children with hours of homework each night is detrimental, there is little benefit for most students until high school’.
Dujuan is learning western society at school, and his ‘homework’ so to speak, after school, is learning Arrernte culture. It’s no wonder he’s struggling. Western society needs to combine a western Education intimately with Indigenous culture, if it is to be a widescale success for Indigenous kids.
In My Blood It runs also explores the relationships that Dujuan has with his family. His mother and grandmother want him down in Alice Springs for better access to services, but his father lives up North on his own country. Dujuan is a good kid, getting up to the same things non-Indigenous kids get up to, getting around town with his mates, not doing what he’s told. Realistically, it’s very adolescent behaviour, no matter the colour or the child’s skin, but with 100% of incarcerated kids in the Northern Territory being Indigenous (at the time of filming), any of that behaviour would be very concerning to Dujuans mother, who just wants the best for her son. Even if it means going to live up North with his father, to learn his father’s culture.
Dujuan is a joy to see on screen, his wide and innocent grin and absolute treasure. But the weight of the Arrernte culture, Garrwa culture and western society are all on this 10-year old boys shoulders, and it could prove too much to bear.
Maya Newell, who directed Gayby Baby in 2015, has crafted, in collaboration with Carol, Megan, James and Dujuan, a beautifully shot, important and educational documentary. It’s as intimate as it is instrumental to giving people a snippet of understanding into how important Indigenous culture still is to Indigenous kids. Regardless of whether people like Pauline Hanson can see it or not.
Director: Maya Newell