If you are convinced you have heard all of Australia’s great stories, think again. If you consider you know something about Indigenous Australia you probably need to start from scratch. Last night I went out through a cool Canberra night to see ‘Black Diggers’, described as ‘the untold story of WW1’s black diggers remembered’. It was such a story that I got up before dawn to write about it.
It’s a great Australian story. Why at least 800, and possibly over 1,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians left their communities in remote Australia or our regional cities or the big state capitals to travel overseas to fight and die in the European trenches far from home is part of a larger Australian story. Why they would bother when they were not even recognised as Australian citizens in their own land is a story all their own – but a story relevant to every Australian.
The play is sparsely presented and sparsely written, as a series of extended vignettes. You barely have time to take it in before another story is unfolding. You would think the subject is grim in so many ways but there is an undercurrent of humour throughout – goes with the culture, I guess. It’s a tough tale but oh so fascinating - and the detailed research that underpins it is excellent.