A review of 88

Reviewed by Carolyn Martinez

Produced and co-written by Michaela Perske
directed/co-written by Adrian Russell Wills

200 years since the first fleet landed – 1988 – and tall ship celebrations were organised around Australia to honour the bicentennial.

Whilst white Australia celebrated colonisation, the Aboriginal community wanted to hold a year of national mourning. How could they celebrate, in all good conscience, the beginnings of massacres, enslavement and oppression of their people?

In 1988 our Aboriginal community bespoke, “today I weep for my homeland,” and asked the important question – what is traditional Australia?

The Aboriginal community organised a March for Freedom, Justice and Hope to let the world know that while the Australian government was prepared to spend billions on a birthday party, Aborigines were still in dire straights in this great country called Australia.

Invasion Day – that’s how they saw it. Not a day to party and celebrate the arrival of the tall ships.

I was reminded while watching this excellent documentary of my favourite mass email I’ve seen. It’s a cartoon in reaction to modern white Australia’s complaints about the number of migrant boats arriving in Australia. It depicts an old Aboriginal face and in the background is a ship. The caption says, “What? More boats arriving? Not so fucking funny now is it.”

88 is a documentary that eloquently conveys that white Australia in 1988 largely did not have the sensitivity to understand the provocative nature of what they were doing by spending millions to celebrate the beginnings of colonisation.

1988 and the March for Freedom, Justice and Hope became the beginning of enlightment for white Australia. The beginnings of a recognition that asking Aboriginals to celebrate the arrival of the tall ships was as ignorant as asking Jewish people to celebrate the holocaust.

1988 turned out to be the year that Aboriginals took the opportunity to stand up and be counted. As one gentleman on the DVD says, “that day was the true beginning of reconciliation. White Australia did acknowledge Australia’s dark past by their participation in our march.”

Congratulations to the ABC for showing this sensitive, informative documentary capturing an important part of Australia’s history.

For those who missed it, it’s available here: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/80960018

I highly recommend watching it. This writer believes that this excellent documentary should be available in schools and universities, and for community groups to generate still needed discussions in our community. I was captivated for the entire documentary and thoroughly enjoyed the interviews and historical footage.

About the reviewer: Carolyn Martinez is the author of Inspiring IVF Stories and the President of the Hunter Writers Centre, New South Wales. She is the former owner/editor of The Westerner newspaper, and has a Master of Arts (Writing) through Swinburne University. She consults in corporate communications, and is currently writing her second book, Finding Love Again.

Congratulations to Producer & Co-Writer, Michaela Perske, and Director & Co-Writer, Adrian Russell Wills, for what is quite simply, important and compelling viewing.


I, for one, believe the question is still outstanding – ‘what is traditional Australia?’