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In this issue of Medical Humanities, Matharu discusses four plays about Aboriginal Australians from the 1980s that provide an indigenous perspective on the protracted process of official neglect that has had a disastrous impact on the health of their race.1 Matharu points out, “Within an Aboriginal context, acting represents an integral part of educating others on important cultural traditions and rituals.” He cites as an example those song and dance performances under then recently enacted land claim legislation that were critical to eventually establishing indigenous legal ownership over large sections of northern Australia. Matharu notes that the dramatic works chosen for analysis are the products of this watershed moment in indigenous Australian history. “During this period”, he notes, “issues of identity and sovereignty became more prominent with the right to vote and participate in government affairs after a long period of suppression.”
Matharu highlights how in Jack Davis’s The Dreamers (1980), the death of the Aboriginal elder Worru becomes symbolic of the perilous survival of Aboriginal culture. This resembles (as Bill Reed’s plays depicted) how many once saw the death in the 19th century of the Tasmanian Aborigine Trucaninni (whose cultural group now has a thriving identity …
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