A Comparison of Female Characters and the Importance of Feminism within Jack Davis’ No Sugar

 

Women. We all know and love them. We wouldn’t be here without ‘em. You know what’s even cooler than women? Celebrating them. Intersectional feminism (which is when you support all women, of any race, religion, etc. Basically not being an asshole). You know what’s cooler than appreciating women and analysing gender roles? Applying that to literature!

 

What does intersectional feminism have to do with Jack Davis’ 1985 play No Sugar?” I hear you ask. Well, kids, everything! Read on to find out…

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Jack Davis’ 1985 play No Sugar was a widely acclaimed success for its portrayal of the struggle of indigenous Australians under an oppressive white government. It is a cornerstone of Australian postcolonial literature but, I feel, is often overlooked in regards to its feminist content. As a white person myself, I sometimes struggled throughout the reading of the play to grasp the intricacies of the cultural aspects portrayed within the play.

 

However, as a woman and a feminist, I could understand very well how integral the roles of the Millimurra and Munday women were. No Sugar can be read in a postcolonial feminist manner, that is, an analysis of the impact of colonisation and oppression upon indigenous women and/or women of colour by white people, almost always the colonisers and oppressors. By examining the role, characterisation and purpose of Gran, and comparing those factors against those of Matron Neal, a deeper and more complex analysis can be made of the text regarding not only the importance of women in the text, but women of colour in a postcolonial society.

 

Gran is the matriarch of the Millimurra and Munday families. She represents a strong connection to the past, and also a staunch refusal to assimilate into the culture that so negatively affects her family. This can be shown by her prolific use of her native tongue, Noongar, as opposed to other characters, who only make use of the Noongar language in times of exasperation. Gran expresses a deep resentment towards those who run the Government Well and Moore River Native Settlements, muttering to the Sergeant after finding out that her rations no longer contain meat, “An’ you’re supposed to be native ‘tector.” (Act 1, Scene 7).

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Gran appears to command respect from all those around her, being referred to as either ‘Gran’ or ‘Granny’ by the Sergeant and Constable, as if it were a title. This could be read as being condescending in some form, but I believe that it is some mark of respect towards her, however out of place it may seem given how she and her family are treated. The character of Gran could be seen as a personification of the traditional ways of the Aboriginal Australians, living off the land and relying upon it for survival when the white government cannot provide for them. An example of this can be seen in Act 1, Scene 3 where Milly tells Cissie of soap being left out of the rations.  “Don’t worry, we can use tjeerung bush.”

 

Matron Neal can be compared with Gran quite easily. She’s a bad bitch, bucks the trend of being a completely subservient wife.

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Matron Neal is especially interesting in this regard, as her husband, Mr Neal, is the cruel Superintendent of the Moore River Native Settlement. Matron Neal appears to be aware of Neal’s actions towards indigenous girls working in the hospital, as seen in Act 2, Scene 9, but doesn’t appear to do anything about it: “It seems [Mary] was terrified at the prospect of working at the hospital.” to which Neal replies, “They’re all scared of the dead.” Matron answers with “I think she was scared of the living.” This implies that she is aware of Neal having raped many young indigenous girls, but either feels she is powerless to do anything or that there is no point, as he would simply continue. This upsets me as a woman in the modern day, but Neal doesn’t exactly seem like the type of man to listen to and respect the opinions of even his wife, let alone any woman at all. Grade A misogynistic asshole right here, folks.

 

Gran and Matron are both tough broads, standing up for what they believe in. “Yeah, sure, alright, but why is this important?” You ask again. It’s important because not only is No Sugar a proponent of the terrible, God-awful things white people did to Australia’s indigenous (and still do, coughInvasionDayAndTheInherentRacismAndPredjudiceOurSocietyIsBuiltOncough), it shows the importance of women in society. They keep our shit together, let’s be real. Gran especially, as the head of the family. She doesn’t take white folks’ crap, just like Matron doesn’t take her husband’s crap.

 

Just imagine your family without your mother, your wife, whatever female is in a significant position. If they just didn’t exist, would life still be the same? Would you still have someone that was nurturing and supportive, and provided you with all those creature comforts like food and a clean house? I certainly hope so, because gender roles are archaic and should be abolished, but anyway… The point is, it wouldn’t be the same. So love the women in your life. Don’t be like Neal. He’s an asshole. Be like Gran and Matron.

 

By R.M.

The important message that everyone needs to acknowledge after reading Jack Davis’ No Sugar

As a singular individual within a world of an excess of 7 billion people, it can be difficult to pinpoint all of the happy occurrences and unfortunate realities that may take place in one of the billions of walks of life that don’t include your own. However, upon the occasion of an encounter with a specific song, artwork, novel, person, place or performance, the sudden attraction towards a certain issue or cause that has been made apparent through the text can be revolutionary towards ones’ view of the world and ultimately conveys a message that can be universally applied to various situations. For myself, this ‘revolutionary’ enlightening text was a play- No Sugar by Australian playwright Jack Davis- which abruptly informed me of the harsh realities that plagued an entire racial group approximately 90 years ago. The alarming reality of this text, however, was that it is set in the 1930s yet it simultaneously represents a universal message of human misconduct, which startlingly still burdens humanity within the modern age.

 

Jack Davis’ exploration of the social injustices inflicted upon Aboriginal Australians throughout the nation’s history in his play ‘No Sugar’ reflects events and attitudes that are seemingly plucked from an unimaginably evil fictional story. Appallingly, however, the atrocities that decorate No Sugars’ plot is not a fictional ‘story’ and is alternately a realistic interpretation of true events. No Sugar is a confronting exposé on the institutionalised breeches of fundamental human rights that occurred within Australia’s history regarding the social injustices towards indigenous Australians by white colonial authorities. Not only does No Sugar draw attention towards the subjugation and mistreatment of indigenous Australians, but also to the appalling mistreatment and exploited rights of indigenous cultures from all over the world. The underlying message of this theme is one of a universal magnitude and is something that every single human being should acknowledge. What is the message? An overview of No Sugar reveals all…

 

 

Colonisation and assimilation

Aboriginal Australians have been accredited to inhibiting this land for the considerable duration of forty five thousand years and are appropriately referred to in certain contexts as the ‘first peoples of Australia’. Indigenous Australians lead a nomadic lifestyle, sustaining themselves through food and resources acquired from their surrounding natural environment. Across the span of 45,000 years, the richly diverse Aboriginal culture presented 500 separate clans or tribes across the entirety of the nation and established the formative basis of human life in Australia. However, between 1790 and 1810, relations between Indigenous Australians and the new onslaught of European explorative fleets became hostile as Aborigines realised that the land and resources upon which they depended were severely disrupted by the on-going presence of these colonisers. Ever since the encroaching period of colonisation that plagued the lives and cultures of Aboriginals in the late 18th- early 19th centuries, hostility and opposition concurred between the indigenous and European groups, unfortunately curating deficits of civil breeches and formidable misconducts of deplorable interactions. By the early 1900’s, European settlers were comfortably established on Australian lands and had successfully inhabited far-reaching breadths of the nation, converting the country from the east coast to the west with the infiltration of British and European standards through infrastructural and social means. In the midst of these evolutionary developments of the nation, English settlers seemingly adopted a hierarchal perspective of their own importance and depicted themselves as the superior race over that of the indigenous Australians, thus deeming Aborigines as upholding a ‘lower’ social ranking. Alongside this righteous claim to superiority, the belief developed that aboriginals required ‘help’ to be integrated into white, colonial society. Drastic measures were implemented to ascertain the depletion of Aboriginal culture in order to unify the nation in accordance to European and British societal norms; the measures of which included the appointment of an administrative government department dedicated to aboriginal assimilation, the removal of Aboriginal children from their families between 1890 and 1970, the enforcement of ‘white culture’ through Anglo-Saxon derived religious practices, standardised English education, audited residential settlements and genocide. Some of these acts of assimilation are exemplified within Jack Davis’ No Sugar, and are included as introspective currencies that outline the plays plot and suffice as the fundamental basis of oppression and racism that Davis explores within his work.

In No Sugar, one of the characters, Mr. A.O. Neville, is accurately based off of the real-life administrative Chief Protector of Aborigines A.O. Neville who was a government official that micromanaged the lives of many Indigenous Australians throughout the span of his career in Western Australia during the early-mid 1900s. Neville upheld foolish policies and intentions orientated towards  ‘breeding out the colour’ of Aboriginals by integrating half-castes into white society. Essentially, Neville was a denominating facet of the perpetuation of oppression, segregation and suffering endured by the Indigenous Australian population during the twentieth century. The infamous Moore River Native Settlement is also mentioned in the play and is accurately based around its real-life counterpart, a historically remarked but now defunct Aboriginal settlement and internment camp located 135 kilometres north of Perth and near the headwaters of the Moore River. It was established by the Western Australian government in 1918 and used to occupy Aboriginal children and inflict the teachings of European culture upon them in order to assimilate the Indigenous into colonialist culture. Christianity, and more specifically Anglicanism, was enforced upon inhabitants of such settlements camps as a way of further perpetuating the infiltration of Anglo-Saxon culture into the Indigenous community. Jack Davis addresses this fact within the play through the character Sister Eileen, a figure of religious education enforcement, and through the mentioning of ‘Sunday School’ which was a term used to refer to weekly classes used to teach children about Christianity, which was a heavily regimented system within Aboriginal settlement camps as it was the foundation of religious education within such circumstances. As the play is set during the Great Depression, government-distributed rations of basic products were a relevant facet of 1930s society in Western Australia, and as was conveyed within the play through the frugal distribution of certain products, such as meat and soap, which were only given conservatively or not at all to Aboriginal patrons. This was essentially the means of the government extenuating control over Indigenous Australians and became an unfortunately concurrent issue for Aborigines within this time period, thus executed in confrontingly realistic detail in No Sugar. Alongside the suffering of indigenous Aboriginal culture due to colonisation and assimilation are dozens of other indigenous peoples that have suffered on a personal and cultural level as across the world as a result of similarly appalling reasons. For example, the fate of the Native American people at the merciless hands of Christopher Columbus’ European fleet in 1492, which saw the white settlement of America and thus the detriment of the lands indigenous culture. Similar examples of colonisation are seen in multitudinous cases from around the world, such as European settlement of South Africa, New Zealand, the Amazon, Tibet, the Mayans and many others, which were all consumed by the principles of Western Civilisation. Indigenous cultures are an integral facet of the world’s diversity, and such richly developed civilisations are deserving of preservation and respect. Human beings are the only entity responsible for the maintenance of other cultures, and so it should be a fundamental priority to cooperatively do so. As history shows, crimes against humanity and its many forms are irreversible, so it’s about prevention and not a cure.

 

Segregation and Oppression

Segregation: To separate or isolate from others or from a main body or group.

The act of segregation was precisely what white authorities and the government of Western Australia attempted to do to Aboriginal Australians during the early twentieth century in order to isolate and ultimately diminish Indigenous culture and alternately impose the assimilation of such into Western society. Aboriginal civilians were segregated by the government in various ways, such as through the enforcement of patrons to inhabit Native Settlement placements and through racial profiling by authorities such as law enforcement officers. Racially motivated segregation is of incredibly low morale and is essentially a recipe for oppression. Oppression is defined as the prolonged cruel or unjust treatment of a person or group and is an unfortunate feature of the history regarding Indigenous peoples of the world and their relations with westernised colonisers. The segregation and oppression of Aboriginal Australians that took place during the early 1930s is showcased in No Sugar from the perspective of the Millimura/Munday family of Northam, Western Australia. For example, the conservation of rationed items like meat and soap that were considered to be more ‘luxurious’ were not handed out to the Millimura’s due to their ethnic lineage. The Moore River Native Settlement is also another prime example of segregation and oppression within the text as it shows how Aboriginals were literally isolated from outer society. The racist slurs and comments of authority figures like Sergeant Carrol and Constable Kerr, who said lines that referred to terms such as “nigger twist” and “Niggers’ Department”, thus representing racism and oppression from authority faculties.

Racism is also represented as a facet of the wider community when young Cissie states that “Old Tony the ding always sells us little shrivelled ones and them Wetjala kids big fat ones”, therefore referring to the everyday occurrences of normalised racism that appeared in society. These instances of racism, segregation and oppression among ethnic cultures is also seen in global circumstances, such as the civil rights movement in the United States as well as a multitude of examples spanning across all nations. When reviewing the means and motivations behind segregation, fundamental human rights come into question. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights and outlines the very basis of what quantifies the rights of an individual, whilst also being tailored to apply to people of all different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and social standing. Some examples of basic human rights that are breeched through racism and segregation, namingly that of which is conveyed within Jack Davis’ No Sugar, are listed below:

 

  • Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
  • Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Article 17. (Subsection 2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property

 

Essentially, the segregation and oppression of humankind is a deplorable act of which only humanity can incur and therefore prevent.

 

Massacre and Genocide 

Whilst the fundamental importance of a persons right is not particularly easy to rank, arguably the penultimate breech of a human beings rights is the deduction of ones life, typically phrased as murder. ‘Genocide’ is technically, therefore, the ultimate action against humanity. The scary fact is that within Australian history, genocide of Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was endowed by government-endorsed departments and sanctioned in accordance to the nations system of judicial and law enforcement. The motivation behind such unimaginably offensive actions was the colonial government ta intention to eliminate their governments major ethnic opposition from within society, and also to ‘cleanse’ society of what they felt was a blemish within their relatively recently westernised country. Jack Davis actually references an infamous example of government-endowed genocide of Indigenous peoples in Australia through Mr. Neville’s reference to the ‘Tasmanian Solution’ in No Sugar. Prior to my acquisition of No Sugar, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Genocide was a historical event obsolete from my knowledge, which is reflective of a frighteningly thin veneer of modern coverage regarding the racially motivated massacre that actually saw the “full-blood” Indigenous population of Tasmania drop from 6,000 to zero from 1776 to 1803. Jack Davis’ referral to governmentally supported genocide is also representative of the millions of people whose lives have been sacrificed due to their ethnic lineage or cultural circumstances; such as the prolific genocide of Native Americans in North America and Canada, the savagely widespread killings of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, the death cast upon Indigenous Māori upon the European settlement of New Zealand, the Holocaust, as well as western interference with indigenous cultures of the Amazon, Venezuela, Bolivia and many more. Whilst genocide is a purely devastating affixation of not only Australia but also the world’s history, other measures to ensure the ‘removal’ of certain social groups or cultures have also been implemented, such as assimilation and sterilisation. Collective depletion of entire cultures- whether through assimilation, sterilisation or blatantly evil genocide- serves as the ultimate crime against humanity itself. With texts like No Sugar, such issues are brought to light and stand to attention through their unapologetic conveyance of what was once a reality, a may still be a reality, but with enough attention, condemnation and action to rebel and prevent- will it ever end?

Long-term impacts

Amidst these unsettling issues, confronting realities and devastating examples of segregation, oppression and racism throughout history, long-term impacts of such atrocities committed between one human group to another are what truly serve as a representation of the potential detriment that can occur as a result of one’s actions. The diminishing currency of art, music, folklore, dance, rituals, foods and traditions of an entire culture is the realistic potential outcome of assimilation and genocide. Segregation and oppression of a social group due to their ethnic background or lineage only breeds a vicious cycle of racially-fuelled hate and hatefully fuelled racism within society, as was conveyed through Jack Davis’ portrayal of such within Australian society in No Sugar. Why allow for humanity to become a swirling conjunction of dismay and disrespect? Cultural differences should be celebrated and enshrined with glory due to the sheer wonder that is diversity within a species quantified of the same fundamental qualities. Culture is what sets us apart from fellow human beings and should not be utilised as a device to generate segregation or as an instrument of hate. Whilst upon this train of thought, I suppose it’s time to refer back to the important message that was mentioned earlier…

 

The message

Jack Davis’ shockingly realistic portrayal of the deplorable examples of assimilation, subjugation and genocide of Australia’s Indigenous culture through the actions of European settlers imposing colonial westernisation in his 1984 play No Sugar is evocative as it draws attention not only to the cases of human rights breeches within an Australian context, but also to that of contexts that span across all geographical and historical locales of humanity. The long-term impacts of such actions are fundamentally and undeniably irreversible. The best and only ‘solution’ to ensure the end of this hateful destruction of humankind’s own rich diversity is about recognising the things that were done wrong and actively ensuring that such mistakes are not multiplied or repeated. When it comes down to the wellbeing of humanity, it is about prevention as there is essentially no cure. Social injustices are preventable, however, they are not reversible.

 

By R.H-J.

Author of WordsOfTheWise.blogpost.org

 

7 REASONS WHY WE’RE APPLAUDING JACK DAVIS’ NO SUGAR

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Jack Davis’ play reveals the controversial truth about Australia’s past! E2

“There is a happy land Far, far away, No sugar in our tea, Bread and butter we never see That’s why we’re gradually Fading away.”

Last year, Google was congratulated for its ‘google doodle’ published to mark Australia day. The day, January 26th, is often criticised as a celebration of ‘Invasion Day’ and many view it as offensive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

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The art in this image was drawn by a Year Ten student in Canberra and shows an Aboriginal woman mourning her stolen children.

In fact, this year, the boycott of Australia Day was a recurrent theme in the media, with even the city of Fremantle canning its firework display in favour of a ‘culturally inclusive alternative’ two days later. And rightly so – the 26th of January 1788 marks the day that First Fleet of British Ships arrived on Australian shores. Many Aboriginal Australians consider the date a commemoration of their loss- of family, land, and the right to practice their culture; many call it ‘Invasion Day’ ‘Survival Day’ or ‘Day of Mourning’. From the day that Europeans arrived in Australia, the Indigenous people who lived there have been heartlessly slaughtered, oppressed, and forced to assimilate into European culture.

This is the concept that Davis explores and criticises in his play, No Sugar. He follows the Millimura/Munday family, an Aboriginal family living in Australia during the Great Depression. Using their story, he criticises the racism and bigotry of the whites.

Here are seven reasons we’re all applauding Jack Davis’ as he highlights the oppression of Aborigines:

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  1. He challenges the stereotypical perception of the indigenous ‘savage’ held by the white community

 

“if you can successfully inculcate such basic but essential details of civilised living you will have helped them along the road to taking their place in Australian society.”

In No Sugar, Davis focuses on the perception of the Indigenous ‘savage’ that is held by members of the white community, particularly those in positions of power. He reflects misguided stereotypical notions of Indigenous people through characters that are drunk, disruptive and shameless ‘troublemakers’. But, he also breaks these stereotypes! His indigenous characters are both intelligent and culturally and socially aware, speaking up against their oppressors and attempting to equalise themselves. They are kind and empathetic, and as Frank puts it: “a real mate to me. He took me to his home and gave me a meal… his family were very kind to me.”

However, despite Davis challenging such prejudice, the mindset of the white community remains: Aborigines are considered uncivilised, unclean ‘dirty’ savages. No Sugar continually highlights this discrimination, with Davis exposing the bigotry of white people: a proposed reserve for Aborigines is opposed by a white citizen because he “wouldn’t be able to go out and leave his wife home alone at night”. Indigenous characters are referred to as “bloody incompetent savages” and “blithering stone age idiots” by whites, and are blatantly discriminated against: “the ding always sells us little shrivelled ones (pies) and them wetjala kids big fat ones.”

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Hygiene is a theme that Davis returns to throughout the play. Whites see Aborigines as dirty and unclean, so obviously, they would want to provide them with soap and everything that they need to become hygienic, to facilitate sanitation, right?

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“I’m afraid that soap is no longer included as a ration item” says Mr Neville. WTF?!? Aborigines are criticised due to their struggle with hygiene, yet they aren’t given the things they require in order to remain clean. In Davis portrays the characters as concerned with cleanliness in order to break the stereotype: “But why? What am I gonna wash with? How can I keep my kids clean and send them to school?” In fact, even the children of the Millimura family want to keep clean: “Ay Mum? Why isn’t there any soap? I wanna wash my hair tomorrow.”

  1. He demonstrates and criticises the forced assimilation of Aborigines into white culture

 

“You can still collect ‘em, nothing stopping you.” “Where? Wetjala cut all the trees down.”

Even from the very beginning of the play, Davis reflects European influences and forced assimilation of Aborigines into Western culture: the first few lines depict Aboriginal children Cissie and David playing cricket with a ‘home made bat and ball’, and later in the play, the children are forced to take religious classes. Such treatment of Aborigines is based upon the idea that in order to become worthy Australians, they need to become ‘civilised’. Neville tells them that they should be “preparing yourself here to take your place in Australian society, to live as other Australians live, to livealongside other Australians.”

Davis shows the difficulty that many Aborigines have in assimilating into European culture. At the beginning of the play, Joe reads the newspaper “falteringly”. However, authorities refuse to provide Aborigines with the supplies they need to properly assimilate: when Sister Eileen talks about providing books to the aborigines and starting a library, Neal Shuts. Her. Down. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, he points out, a lame excuse for his bigoted behaviour.

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And this baby has it right!

The harsh discriminatory policies placed upon Aborigines by the government reduce them to criminal activities. How are they supposed to assimilate when they don’t have basic needs met? Bicarb soda is taken out of rations, and while they would usually grind up jam and wattle seeds, this is now unnecessarily difficult: “Where? The wetjala cut all the trees down.” The ration system as a whole is insufficient, in fact. They are not given soap or meat: “there’s a bloody depression on”.

Despite being deprived of fundamental needs, the treatment of Indigenous Australians is still based on the premise that they need to become ‘civilised’ in order to become worthy Australians. How does this work? We don’t know either, but Neville, always the one to decide what they should or shouldn’t be doing, tells them that they should be “preparing yourselves here to take your place in Australian society, to live as other Australian’s live, to live alongside other Australians”.

  1. He portrays institutionalised racism against Indigenous people

 

As we’ve already mentioned, Aborigines are treated as second-class citizens and are victims of institutionalised racism. Davis portrays the behaviour of whites as horrific. As a case in point, Constable and Sergeant make disgusting and insensitive jokes about mass genocide and poisoning the natives: “too late to adopt the Tasmanian solution” they laugh. I mean, what the hell?!

Then there’s the sign in the office that says, “Government of Western Australia, Fisheries, Forestry, Wildlife and Aborigines”, basically implying that Aborigines fall into the same category as animals and fish- and if that’s not enough, to top it all off, Constable hands over the phone declaring that it is the “niggers’ department” calling. Pejorative (see: derogatory, racist) language such as this is used by Davis to shock the audience and negatively portray white characters as bigoted racists.

Em6And neither can the audience!

Davis also reflects how Aborigines are exploited for labour: Milly tells the Sergeant that her son Joe cut hundreds of posts for ‘old Skinny Martin’ and received in return only “a pair of second-hand boots and a piece of stag ram so tough even the dawgs couldn’t eat it”.

  1. He uses Noongar and English language to create meaning

 

Aboriginal characters in the play speak Noongar, and this use of language is adopted by Davis to demonstrate the diversity of Aboriginal culture and the harsh contrast between European and Western culture. Indigenous people are alienated from the whites and forced to speak an unfamiliar language. However, they still use a variety of indigenous terms, for example “jeering meear”, “mummari” and “gugha”.

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Use of these terms successfully alienates a white audience: we don’t understand what on earth Aborigines are saying! Davis does this in an attempt to mirror the alienation felt by Indigenous people and encourage the white audience to understand the difficulty in understanding another language and It also enforces the idea of significant cultural and lifestyle differences, as Aborigines often speak in their language when words are ‘untranslatable’. The divide between the privileged and underprivileged is a theme that Davis replicates throughout the text.

Like the others, the character of Gran also uses indigenous words, however, she represents her ancestry and culture far more proudly than the other Indigenous characters and shows no desire to Assimilate. She blends the two languages, as she feels the need to hold on to her own language as much as possible: “chergeant!” and “he give you six months.”

The song she sings at the end of the play is in her own South West language: this shows her pride in her own culture and desire to remember it. However, this is still a song of woe and pity (“weert miny, jinna koorling, weert miny” which roughly translates to “woe woe woe”) and highlights just how much life sucks for Aboriginal Australians living in the time period.

Like Gran, Billy speaks truncated (broken) English: “I’m a politjman”, “she comin’ you fella all wait this place now”. This broken English is a reflection of his struggle and the difficulty of assimilating to European culture. He compensates for his inability to fluently speak English by serving the white authority. He carries around a whip (which is significantly ‘less’ than Neal’s cat of nine tails) that he uses in order to control. Despite Billy serving them, those in places of authority insult him (and other Aboriginal characters) by inferring that he is stupid due to not being able to speak English: “bloody incompetent savage.”

Characters such as the Sergeant and the Constable speak colloquial and informal English. (Interestingly, this is also spoken by Indigenous characters in a bid to fit in). The language spoken by such characters reflects their lack of education and makes them easy to understand. This encourages the audience to relate to the characters, whom are also blatantly racist, which allows them to realise how easy it is to be racist.

Davis also uses language to portray white characters in positions of authority. Mr Neville speaks with an air of arrogance and self-importance, using big words that the audience might not always understand. Through this, the audience feel as alienated from Mr Neville as they do from the aboriginal characters.

  1. Comparison of characters to emphasise oppression of Indigenous people

 

This is specifically done through comparison of Aboriginal characters with Frank. Strategically, juxtaposing Frank’s struggles with those of Indigenous characters, Davis shows how Indigenous Australians suffer more.

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Indigenous Australians are easily exploited: they receive just over two shillings each week whilst white people receive seven. The Sergeant believes that ‘natives’ are simply lazy and do not try to

find work. The character of Frank refutes this attitude, as Frank discusses his failure to find work; he has left his wife and children behind whilst he looks for it. He complains about the government because he lost his farm and is now unemployed. But Jimmy rightfully points out the privileges that Frank still experiences due to his being white: “at least you can walk down the street after sundown”. Jimmy then lists all the restrictions that he has to abide by as an Aborigine: “they aren’t allowed to go down the soak, not allowed to march.”

  1. He cleverly uses the character of Jimmy as a symbol of Aboriginal voice

 

“Munday, isn’t it? Northam. I’ve got police reports on you. You’re a trouble maker, and a ringleader. You must listen to me.”

Now our favourite character in this play is Jimmy. And that’s because, as a character, he serves as a voice of protest, drawing attention to the social injustice and discrimination that Aborigines face on a daily basis: the wetjalas “took our country”. He symbolises the angry voice of the dispossessed, the First Australians who were stripped of their rights, land, resources, and culture. At the very beginning of the play, he nicks his finger whilst he angrily drives his axe into a log, whilst protesting against the whites “cause them bastards took our country”. He “watches the blood on the ground” which symbolises the blood that was spent by his ancestors.

Like a boss, he brings up the inequalities that nobody wants to talk about: he announces to the entire Australia day assembly that the transfer of his family to the Moore River Settlement was “nothing to do with bloody scabies” but so “them wetjalas vote for [Jimmy Mitchell]”.

Just as he represents a voice of protest, his death symbolises the difficulties faced by the First Australians and a sense of hopelessness. He dies a dehumanising death. He doesn’t gain the justice he desires, and is also isolated, marginalised, and treated like a “trouble maker” or an “unruly nigger”.

  1. He still presents the idea of hope

 

No one wants to read something completely depressing and disheartening, right? Right. And Jack Davis knows this! That’s why the main reason we’re applauding his play is because instils a sense of hope into our dark and desperate souls! Hope that the world isn’t such a terrible place, after all!

One such symbol of hope is Joe and Mary’s baby. His Noongar name is ‘Magpie’. Magpies are typically feisty ‘fighters’, swooping those who get too close to their nest. It is also associated with love in some communities. The baby’s ‘wetjala’ name is Jimmy! This softens the blow of Jimmy’s death, which was seen as a representation of hopelessness, and creates a sense of hopefulness, suggesting the child will be future fighter and will speak up against inequality. Joe (Joseph) and Mary’s names also allude to religion, with Jimmy Jr. being the ‘Jesus’, which has connotations of hope, rebirth, and new beginnings, as well as linking to the dreamtime creation myth.

Admittedly, this might seem like the kind of stupid, farfetched thing your high school English teacher would say, yet, we still think that this is an extremely clever use of symbolism and cannot be coincidental (Seriously, Joseph and Mary?! For realz?!?)

And that’s not all! Davis presents hope in many other, albeit small, ways throughout the play:

 

  • Cissie and David protect their indigenous heritage although they have ‘joined’ white society, which shows how the younger generation will continue to respect and remember their ancestors.
  • Billy “hands [Joe] his whip”. He is rejecting the white culture that has oppressed and controlled him, and redeeming himself.
  • Gran tells Mary she is a “good milker” which symbolises survival
  • Neal, scared of Matron, allow Joe and Mary to leave the Moore River Settlement

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So there you go!

What do YOU think? Comment your opinion on No Sugar below!

Still interested? Take our quiz to find out what No Sugar character YOU would be!

 

by E.B. 

The Great Debate: Aboriginals VS Colonised in Relation to “No Sugar” by Jack Davis; Who’s To Blame?

 

 

Why are there so many Aboriginal Australians in prison? Why are so many Aboriginal Australians living in poverty? Why is rape, child abuse, murder, drugs and alcohol addiction so prevalent in current Aboriginal culture? Are Aboriginal Australians receiving equity or unnecessary special treatment from Centerlink, Aboriginal Youth Payments and Ration Cards? Are the colonisers to blame? Are modern Australians, both society and politicians, to blame? Are Aboriginals just playing victim? These types of questions divide the modern Australian multi-cultural society due to their controversy, political incorrectness, and some may call, insensitivity. But are these labels to the questions listed the reason these issues are not being solved, attended to or acknowledged at all? What is the Australian government actually doing behind the scenes for the Aboriginal society? And does Jack Davis’s “No Sugar” help or harm the case of the Aboriginal society and their claims of racial prejudice, resentment and entitlement? How does the text represent these social issues of crime, unemployment and poverty? And is there a solution to it all?  I will be entering the big debate free from the fear of insensitivity for the good intention of solving this gap of resentment between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.

 

 

Aboriginal people are massively overrepresented in the criminal justice system of Australia. They represent only 3% of the total population, yet more than 28% of Australia’s prison population are Aboriginal. 86% of inmates in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal. It is a 15 times higher chance for an Aboriginal person to be locked up compared to a non-Aboriginal. These figures can be understood greater when one grasps the differences between Commonwealth and Aboriginal laws, customs and values, and also our infliction and involvement in the troubling issue of Aboriginal crime. Crimes such as rape are accepted in Aboriginal culture as an Aboriginal woman alleging rape in her community will either be scorned or “punished with a customary beating because her female relatives would not accept the allegation of rape”[1]. Pedophilia is encouraged in Aboriginal culture as it often means girls are leaving homes and marrying their abusers, broadening the group/tribe. The Aboriginal law is intricate and well-crafted, but contrasts Western law, even where murder is solved by the victim’s family member getting the ability to kill the murderer or their family member as punishment and “justice” [3]. These laws and customs are drudged into modern day by the Aboriginal society which, for western law enforcement, ignites issues, both in the justice system, western society and on the modern Aboriginal reserves. Under the law of the Commonwealth, these crimes committed by an Aboriginal are illegal and are punishable within our prisons, which creates this over proportion of Aboriginal Australians in our prisons. Although, what is causing this staggering level of rape and child abuse within Aboriginal communities, even reserves? In 2011-2012, Indigenous children aged 0-17 were nearly 8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be subject of substantiated child abuse or neglect [2]. The Aboriginal men on several reserves across Australia are mercilessly raping and abusing the wives and children of the communities when they routinely get drunk each evening, unfortunately a result of colonisation and the western introduction of alcohol which is not biologically tolerated within bodies of Aboriginals, causing the abuse of the substance. The issue has gotten so astoundingly bad that the Federal Government has erected shelters near Indigenous reserves where the women and children can seek protection in the evenings. Why is Aboriginal crime in youth so prevalent also? It seems gangs of Indigenous youth getting up to no good and disrupting communities is so common it is becoming the depiction western people envision when conjuring Aboriginals as a whole. In 2012-2013, Indigenous juvenile detention rates were 24 times higher than the rate of non-Indigenous youth [2]. Obviously, this drinking, violence and crime is rubbing off on the youth and this behaviour is, unfortunately, being continued down every generation, becoming close to impossible to break the chain reaction.

 

 

The saddest concept of this cycle is the destruction of Aboriginal culture, customs and lifestyle in the process, with the majority of today’s Aboriginal population holding no correlation to their ancestors’ way of life, values or behaviour, shown through the fact that only 12% of Indigenous Australians claim to speak an Indigenous language in their home [4], igniting the question that maybe this devastating cycle of crime is entirely as a result of colonisation and has in turn permanently damaged Aboriginal culture. The behaviour of the children is not only a reflection of the unvarying crime in their community, but also as a result of what is now being known as the second stolen generation. It is beginning to be claimed that, due to the institutionalisation of Aboriginal children in assimilation programs such as foster homing and reserves during the first stolen generation, a whole generation of children have been raised by parents lacking even the most basic knowledge of parenting, even Aboriginal customs of raising children never being instilled or demonstrated. This lack of parenting and encouragement of pride in their culture has not only resulted in the destruction of Aboriginal Australian culture, but this consequentially caused Aboriginal Australians as a whole to resent western society for the destruction, turning to crime due to ignorance and a form of vengeance and retaliation. This delinquency and resentment is displayed in Jack Davis’ renowned play ‘No Sugar’ which explores the effects of colonisation on an Indigenous family during the 1930’s in Perth. The characters Joe Millimurra and James Munday are often found drunk in the town courtyard and Joe is even jailed for breaking the law and running away from the reserve. Their resentment is also seen within Chapter 1 of Act 1 where the character Jimmy describes the colonisers as bastards, exclaiming, “‘Cause them bastards took our country”. The results of these values and mindsets explicitly shown within “No Sugar” are evident in today’s society through the malice non-Indigenous Australians receive from Indigenous Australians, showing how some Aboriginals have not been able to separate Australians from the colonisers that interfered with their ancestors decades previously. A prime example of this actually comes from my own terrifying memory of being on a bus in Fremantle with a friend at the age of 15, sitting quietly next to each other when we were verbally and racially abused by an Indigenous mother and her daughter whom sat 2 rows in front. They accused myself and my friend, both non-Indigenous, of “slaughtering my sisters and brothers like lambs” and called us “dirty sluts”, “cunts”, “skanks”, “whores,” and “white trash”, as we sat shaking, keeping our eyes down, praying they don’t follow us off the bus, and horrified that no one on the bus defended us, not even the bus driver, as they were all in fear of being attacked themselves. Unfortunately, this mindset is being fuelled within “No Sugar” as the characters refuse to acknowledge most of  the white Australians had no involvement in the colonisation, and many didn’t even have a choice of going to Australia, yet they blamed them for the bloodshed. This irrational, generalised hatred is poisonous in the positive progression of Indigenous Australians, and also prevents many non-Indigenous Australians from moving on from the violent, spiteful, resenting stereotype we depict when referring to Aboriginals.

 

 

What is also evident in “No Sugar” is the destruction of culture as a result of colonisation. Their choice of speech in the English language instead of their Indigenous language of Nyoongar as well as their food choices and forced Christian religion instead of the traditional Indigenous spirituality of Dreamtime which is linked to the land all exhibit the deterioration of Indigenous culture. This is also seen when Gran Millimurra is debating with Sergeant Carroll over resources being excluded from rations, and when she finds out bicarbonate is no longer in her rations, Sergeant Carroll rebuts with “That shouldn’t worry you Granny, you should remember when you used to grind up jam and wattle seeds [sic], You can still collect ‘em, there’s nothin’ stoppin’ you”, to which Gran replies with “Where? Wetjala (white folk) cut all the trees down”. This exhibits how, through the destruction of land, we have deteriorated Aboriginal culture and lifestyle, and have not focussed on how this meant this culture had to start again, as their previous way of life has now been destroyed. They were left to either adopt the coloniser’s way of life or let their family starve. Although, do they face these same challenges in today’s society? Hasn’t it become easier for Indigenous Australians to support themselves? Or does feeding your family mean assimilating into white culture and leaving your heritage and identity behind?

 

 

This cycle of crime due to loss of culture, lack of parenting skills and perpetual delinquency within Aboriginal Australian communities resembles and coincides with the cycle of poverty trapping a large portion of Australian Aboriginals in low socio-economic areas, opportunities and impoverishment. But is this an unbreakable cycle? What are the real detriments Aboriginals face when attempting to achieve greater than what is placed in front of them, and is it really the government’s responsibility to continue to provide equity, or are we overcompensating? To be clear, what the colonisers did to the Native Australians will never be okay or underestimated, but are Aboriginal Australians in today’s society doing anything to help themselves, or are they simply riding the wave of entitlement and cultural guilt upon generations whom have no affiliation with what occurred to their ancestors? Obviously this sense of laziness and entitlement is subjective, and not the entire Aboriginal population’s morale, but it is an unmistakable substantial portion’s choice of lifestyle to choose Centerlink, Ration Cards and Aboriginal Youth Allowances over personal reliance and ethical hard work, which sculpts the negative depiction of a modern Aboriginal Australian within society.  Although, some financial systems set up to achieve this allusive ‘equity’ are highly credible and exhibit strong positive outcomes such as ABSTUDY, which is a program that helps Aboriginals seeking higher education, such as Tafe, to receive financial assistance, often partial or full scholarships. Not only does this encourage ambition and intuition in Aboriginal Australians to break from their community behaviour and seek to achieve more, but it also supports these people in the process, disputing the regard that Aboriginal Australians are hard done by in their ability to seek education. Governments also set quotas with corporations and businesses of Indigenous Australians that are to set aside jobs specifically for Indigenous Australians to encourage them to seek work and to enable them less racial prejudice in employment, disputing the regard that Aboriginal Australians are hard done by in their ability to seek jobs. Although, whether or not these companies actually follow through on quotas is questionable, and there is still undoubtably racial prejudice when it comes to hiring an Indigenous employee.

 

 

To be less generalising, I have 2 different examples of how Indigenous Australians almost get special treatment through government benefits. My father, whom works in a low-socioeconomic school containing a substantial portion of Indigenous students and families, has been personally affiliated with an Indigenous mother whom, due to the financial support, free dental, free health care (no waiting list), ABSTUDY, and child bonuses per year for each Indigenous child, lives comfortably without working by having a child every 15 years of her life, and basically living off the monetary payments that come with it. Another example is a friend of a friend, although this is a highly common scenario, where her great great grandfather was Aboriginal, making her 1/16th Aboriginal, although she is blond-haired, blue-eyed, living comfortably in suburbia, and due to this very weak link to an Aboriginal heritage, she receives yearly Aboriginal Youth Allowances and was granted a high-paying job in a Dentist clinic with no experience whatsoever in order for the Dentist to fulfil their Indigenous employee quota. Are these benefits ethical? Should these lazy members of society be able to comfortably live of tax-payer’s money due to their heritage, and should members of society be able to be favoured for jobs due to their heritage and not their qualifications?

 

 

Ration Cards or ‘Cashless Welfare Cards’ are causing an out roar in the Northern Territory and South Australia as Indigenous folk claim to feel like dogs on leashes for having restrictions on their weekly allowances that exclude 80% of it being used on cigarettes, alcohol and gambling in an attempt to reduce alcohol abuse and crime as well as the wasting of money within these areas [5]. But how else are you meant to solve the insane levels of monetary irresponsibility that occurs? This question of equity arrises again, because poverty is a cycle, a cycle very hard to break out of, and an Indigenous teenage boy wanting to get through high school and into Tafe or University living in a low-socioeconomic area and home with family members exuding an indolent lifestyle and morale deserves these benefits to encourage him and support him, like giving a child a stool to reach the sink with the taller kids because he still deserves to reach the sink, no matter his height. Although, many Australians are living under the poverty line and are not receiving even close to the amount of benefits provided for Indigenous Australians, simply based on their lack of Indigenous  heritage. Is this not a form of institutionalised reverse racism? Or am I not allowed to say that? Also, when do we draw the line? For example, at what point do we say you are no longer “Aboriginal”? I think even 1/16th is too far, but how do you call someone out for identifying with a culture to indulge in monetary benefits? It’s a very touchy subject, which is costing the government billions.

 

 

Indigenous people are disadvantaged due to their starting point in society, yes I agree, but should they receive this much support, especially when so much of it is abused? I can’t help but compare their situation with my Grandfather’s when he arrived in Perth from Italy during the 1950’s and the hardship, societal alienation, racism and financial disadvantage he endured was immense. Although, there was something different about him, and most other immigrants that chose to come and live in Australia, he worked hard to improve his situation. He did this all on his own, with not a single government payout and despite substantial racial prejudice, working 15-18 hour work days on the train tracks across Australia, often being violently assaulted and deprived of food and drink by his colleagues. From this, he saved enough to buy himself and his wife a small house, and eventually opened his own continental deli which was a community success and lead to a family-run Italian restaurant. He essentially created a hub of Italian culture within the suburb of Swan View which has now increased even more, not allowing his culture to be lost in the process of building a better life, but instead working hard to achieve personal success. This drive to improve one’s state of living is essentially lacking within Davis’ “No Sugar”. The Millimurra family continues to live in poverty on the reserve, and when faced with racial barriers preventing their instant access to jobs, they have an “I give up” mentality, choosing to complain about racial prejudice preventing them from making a better life for themselves instead of proving themselves valuable employees and persevering. It was a Great Depression yet these strong, capable Indigenous characters were expecting jobs to be handed to them? I don’t appreciate this mindset, because no one deserves anything, no matter their heritage or lineage, you get what you earn and entitlement and laziness are not qualities that deserve to be rewarded with government funds.

 

 

This opinion of believing Indigenous Australians have it in their own responsibility to “make something of themselves” can be interpreted as small-minded, especially when, to make something of yourself in western society, you must, obviously, immerse yourself in western society. This leaves many Aboriginals with the choice of either living on Aboriginal reserves that have been essentially stripped bare from any natural resources Indigenous Australians natively live off making mortality rates and disease extremely high, or “assimilating” into western or colonised society by getting a house, getting a job, and buying groceries. Although, due to the destruction of native land and the cycles of poverty and crime previously discussed, Indigenous Australians are in fact left in limbo, of either living on reserves but still relying on government rations for basic survival like the characters in “No Sugar”, or living in western society, but often in low socioeconomic circumstances and, often, relying on government funding to feed themselves also. Unfortunately, this has created a reliance of Aboriginals on the government for basic level survival which, is essentially entirely our fault as colonisers of their natural home which they culturally became accustomed to living off and with. But isn’t colonisation inevitable? How long should we compensate for the violent, high and mighty mindsets of our ancestors?

 

 

Research and records indicate that the treatment of indigenous people was cultivated in a divine belief in a God-given right to civilise “savages.” This belief gave the conquering colonists the right to do what they needed to further the nation’s promise. Although some may have acted with pure intentions, for others this belief gave them license to act unfairly and with malice.[6] The definition of “civilise” is to bring a place or people to a stage of social development considered to be more advanced, but how does one determine they are more ‘advanced’ than another? On what scale is advancement measured on? Technology? Architecture? Intellect? Its both interesting and rattling to comprehend this notion of “civilisation” and how we are all just humans, who has the authority to dictate whom they dominate and therefore know what the best is for another? The presumption of superior living strategies from the colonisers over the Indigenous Australians is exhibited in “No Sugar” after Mary gives birth. Matron offers western baby products for her baby saying “Here’s plenty of clean cotton wool and baby powder and Lysol soap”, to which Gran snaps back “Don’t need powder, use me own”. This is just one example the text provides to convey the “civilisation” condescension that occurred and still occurs in modern day to a small extent. Overall, society has improved drastically since the early decades of colonised Australia where Aboriginals were classified under Flora and Fauna, and weren’t allowed to vote, go into the cities or have an interracial marriage to name a few demeaning, racist laws. Today, Australia exudes acceptance and multiculturalism, and Aboriginal Australians can vote, marry whoever they want, and go wherever they want, like they and any other human being deserve. Hopefully, this respect and racial equality perseveres and Australia can be the home to every Australian equally, but equality requires no special treatment or overcompensation, and requires all Australians to cooperate also.

 

 

So, we have come to the conclusion of this debate. But what resolution have we reached? Is there a solution to the poverty and crime cycles Aboriginals experience? Will less government interference cause a crash of Indigenous Australians, or coerce them to rely less on government funding and support? The only solution I can reach is that the hatred and bitterness they hold towards non-Indigenous Australians is poisonous, preventing many from moving forward, and preventing their following generations from doing so also, keeping them trapped in self-deprecating cycles of poverty and crime. I can also conclude that excessive government support must stop, it is benefitting nobody to have a social group so reliant on government funds for their livelihoods, especially such a strong, independent, culturally rich group like Aboriginals whom have supported themselves for centuries before we even set foot on their land. The third conclusion I can draw, is a sense of pride and encouragement towards Aboriginal culture must return, and I believe it is, to allow wounds to heal and restore pride, peace and strength within the Indigenous Australians whom have had their identity and sense of belonging and honour drained from them by colonisers. They must know they can move forward in life but it doesn’t mean they must separate from their culture, they can rejoice in both, and nothing and no one should prevent them from this. Jack Davis’ “No Sugar” is a prime exhibition of Aboriginal culture being stripped by colonisers, and the struggle they faced in hanging in limbo between assimilation and staying true to their culture. The text is one of many that expose the true racism and hardship forced upon Indigenous Australians during the first decades of colonised Australia, and is a key reminder of how far we have come as a nation in our treatment of diverse cultures. So, who is to blame? The colonisers caused the issues Aboriginals face, but we can work together as a nation to reverse the detriments and heal the wounds, but it requires the Indigenous Australian’s ability to forgive us and help themselves as well. After all, we are all Australians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

references

  1. https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/black-people-white-law#axzz4h3gK7Rwy
  2. http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-gap-indigenous-disadvantage-in-australia
  3. Civics and Citizenship by John Willmott
  4. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/statistical-overview-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples-australia-social
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/09/ration-days-again-cashless-welfare-card-ignites-shame
  6. https://pastparallelpaths.com/2013/01/19/the-australian-aborigines-and-north-american-native-americans/

 

by T.E.

Why No Sugar Owes Its Literary Successes To Women: How The Badass Female Characters Make The Play Inspiring

 

Women are freakin’ awesome. I mean, they’re freakin’ great. Men, eh, they’re alright, but Women: freakin’ awesome. Especially the Women in Jack Davis’ No Sugar (see what I did there). If you’re reading this, you’re probably a female (or Mr Barton, but the category fits (jk please give me an A)) and you’re probably expecting a feminist interpretation of the play talking shiz about repression and lack of rights etc. Well that’s sort of it. I want to talk about how the Women in No Sugar are hands down some of the most inspiring, badass, batshit crazy female characters in a play that I have ever read.

Ok people, let’s didgeridoo this:

 

No Sugar was written in 1985 by a man (gross af), called Jack Davis, who was a Nyoongarah Perth-born author who experienced much of the hardships and discrimination which he represents in his play. It follows the Millimurra-Munday family who are forced to leave their makeshift homes by the government, settling in an overcrowded Native Settlement on the Moore River. The family, comprised of Gran (the grandmother), Milly and Jimmy (her children), Sam (Milly’s husband) and their three children (Joe, David and Cissie) is a synecdochal representation of a Nyoongarah family and the hardships endured by a vast majority of indigenous individuals under European colonisation. Whoa! Serious much! But now we can get into the good stuff.

No Sugar has some radical female characters who are utter symbols of resistance, compassion and strength and give the dirty patriarchal society a run for its money. Regardless of their race, age or socioeconomic status, these women are responsible for many of the plays important themes and god damn they demonstrate just how freakin’ cool it is to be a female. So let’s get into this shiz.

 

In the white corner we have (drum rollllllllllllll……….)

 

Sister Eileen and Matron Neal

 

I know, I know, the play is about the plights of black characters, but I want to start with the white female characters for a reason. Matron Neal and Sister Eileen are, in their own respect, just as important as Milly, Mary and Gran (and I’m not saying that just because I’m white af). They represent compassion and sympathy and fight for the aboriginal people’s welfares against a system which attempts to silence and marginalise them.

 

Take Matron Neal for instance; wife of the abusive, unfaithful N.S Neal. As a nurse on the settlement, she suffers verbal abuse from the indigenous peoples, low pay, and her asshole boss is also her asshole husband who, btdubs, is a total asshole. Yet, she never does any less than her best to love and care for the indigenous peoples. She’s the only white character who actually respects and values their cultural traditions and treats the indigenous as equal in the way she addresses them; especially where the white male characters talk badly about them (because white males are pretty crap). Want some examples? Well better believe you’re gonna get ‘em.

 

  • Jimmy dies in Act Four and his family is devastated. It’s Matron that assures them; “he’ll receive a good burial”, despite Neal’s assholery (real word).
  • When Billy comes back after being beaten by Joe, Matron wants to help him; “Goodness me, what happened…Oh, you poor man” and speaks to him with respect; “Billy, was the train going that way or that way?”, whereas ‘I’m-a-knob-Neal’ only screams at him; “You bloody fool of a man”.
  • Matron regulates her language to communicate, decreasing the language barrier.
  • When Mary runs away because she’s scared she’ll get raped by Mr Neal, Matron holds him accountable instead and tells the bastard straight; “Apparently you told her she was going to work at the hospital and stay in the nurses’ quarters… I think she was scared of the living”.
  • When Mary gives birth, Matron comes to ensure that the baby is healthy, but sees Gran has it under control and instead of stepping in and taking over, she respects Gran’s Nyoongarah beliefs and lets her do her thing; “Gran evidently seems to be doing a good job”.

 

Hell yeah Matron.

 

Sister Eileen is also pretty awesome when you think about it. She tries to  ease the Nyoongah children through their difficult assimilation (made so by men in govt, wtf), by teaching them European cultural behaviours/cultures so that they can fit better in the society. Where ‘Knob-Head-Neal’ tries to force her to push religion onto the kids and force European culture onto them, she resists and I think that takes some guts.

Let’s be real though, I don’t like her character as much because she represents Christianity and European customs which are highly patriarchal and I hate men, but whatevs, she’s a nice lady.

 

Regardless, she demonstrates sympathy for the children and, in my [expert] opinion, is the only character who demonstrates loyalty and respect to both European and Nyoongah cultures. Not following? (It might be because you’re a man, you should get that checked).

  • She has religious ties to Christianity, a significant factor of Anglo-European values and traditions which pretty much make up the whole society, yet she shows that she respects the children’s culture by not forcing her religion onto them. She encourages the children to learn of “their own free will”.
  • She is also represented as their protector of sorts.
    • Christianity carries connotations of gentleness and protection just like how good ol’ JC came down to save y’all for your sins (not mine because I’m perfect). Sister Eileen does the same; when Billy’s whipping the holy heck out of David, she comes and stops it, making sure that he’s alright. “What are you hitting that boy for?”
  • She confronts N.S Neal about forcing the children to go to school and tries to open a library for the people to encourage them to read more; “You don’t encourage the natives to read?”. When Neal shuts her down (might have something to do with him being a man idk), she comes back with a killer comment; “Getting back to the books, what do you class the bible as?”, even though Neal could’ve physically retaliated with his nine tails.

 

Good on ya Sister, great job.

rw

(Get it? My audience would, because I’m appealing to them)

 

Now, in the black corner we have (even louder drum rolllllllllll….because the entire play is about Aboriginalssssssssss…………)

 

Mary Dargurru, Milly Millimurra and Gran Munday

 

What absolute legends! 3 generations of homegrown badassery, they take the filthy figures of the patriarchy and give ‘em what for. Communicating themes of resilience, family and love through the depiction of strength in their language and responses to situations, they are the gleesome threesome of Nyoongarah toughness.

 

Gran  is a radical depiction of resistance to the pressures of forced European cultural assimilation. She continues her own cultural activities and ignores European customs such as cricket and reading the newspaper, unlike other characters. She also uses more words that are traditional to the Nyoongah language rather than English which demonstrates her lack of interest in European culture. The word Nyoongah literally means ‘man’, which depicts how strong male influences are in the Nyoongah culture, however Gran maintains power over the males consistently. As the eldest, she’s basically the Matriarch, and tells everyone else what to do. She’s a constant figure of support and guidance, acting as a consistent presence of protection for her family.. Here’s why she puts the ‘cool’ in ‘radical’:

 

  • Gran gave birth to all her children without western medicine. She has assisted in the births of her grandchildren and her great grandchild. “I brought plenty of babies into this world, Matron”. She doesn’t compromise her native heritage and values to adhere to western ones.
  • When the rations are cut, putting her family under more pressure, Gran isn’t shy in holding the [male] Sergeant accountable; “An’ you’re supposed to be native ‘tector” and demanding respect for her family from him, instead of being treated without respect; “Her name is Mrs Millimurra. Proper church married”. Gran isn’t afraid to speak her mind and give the men a piece of her mind.
  • When her son, Jimmy and son-in-law, Sam begin fighting, Gran isn’t afraid to intervene, she “[charges at them, grabbing both by the hair and pulling viciously]”. Despite the fact that she is slighter and physically weaker than both of them, Gran still assumes the authority and acts as the leader; “I’ll stop you two fellas.. I’ll stop youse”.

 

Strewth! What a legend! Good on ya Gran.

 

Milly Millimurra is an inspiration! A strong, resilient Woman! She faces racial oppression and sexism in and out of her culture, lack of food, hygiene and awful living conditions, yet she manages to care for her children better than half the white women in today’s society (Zinnia Wormwood, eat your heart out). Milly represents just how important family is in Nyoongah culture, and she protects them from European hostility. How you ask? Here, have some sick examples;

 

  • When Cissie is sick, Milly makes her welfare the focus of the whole family; her kids comes first, “you ain’t goin’ post cuttin’ today, and David, you walk to school…Joe, you git on that bike.” \
  • She accepts the costs of taking her to a hospital, and bringing her back again, because cares more for her child than money and education. “Ne’mine the posts [cost], long as we git her home”.
  • When Mary and Joe leave the Settlement to start a better life together, Milly encourages them to leave, providing them with the majority of the food that he family has, to help them. She gives up what she has to help her children and grandchild to start a better life.

 

You’re a legend Milly, you bloody beauty!

 

Finally Mary, the Nyoongah Rockstar of the play. This legend communicates themes of resilience, compassion and resistance in the play as well as her being representative of a similarly important female in Christian biblical studies. God damn she makes me proud to be a Woman.

 

Mary carries religious connotations in her name, referencing the Virgin Mary, (OMG I know! I actually screamed when I realised! MIND BLOWN!) She demonstrates similar resolve and completes a similar journey to protect her unborn child from the King Herod of No Sugar (Can you guess who? Hint: he’s a male), N.S [Not-Swanky] Neal. She flees the Native Settlement with Joe (Holy Shit, like Joseph?! The husband of Virgin Mary???), to protect her child after she fears that it will be murdered and disposed of due to the extreme racism of the Settlement’s authorities. She literally breaks the law by fleeing the camp to ensure a better life for her child and while she’s under the age of 18. She is a true representation of strength, fighting for the rights of herself and her child. I think that’s AMAZEBALLS!

 

Wanna know why else she is literally the crowing glory, saviour-with-a-labia, badass of the play? Better believe I’m gonna tell you. SHE PUTS HER HEALTH AND WELLBEING ON THE LINE TO STICK IT TO KNOB-FACE NEAL. That’s right.

 

Scared out of her mind and facing the wrath of a known sexual predator who preys on young women, orders the murder of children and beats those who refuse to obey his demands, she stands up and tells him to “Go to hell”. Then she repeats herself just to make sure the bastard heard and takes his punishment. Yet, when her family wants to “kill him”, she persuades them not to because she cares more for the wellbeing of those she loves then for her well-deserved revenge, which is hands down the best example of how Mary represents compassion and strength.

 

What a trooper, you absolute treasure Mary.

 

In conclusion, I guess men are ok… at being a huge pain wtf male scum?? Actually though, No Sugar wouldn’t be half the play it is without any of its amazing female characters. Good on ya’ girlies, rock on.

 

 

by R.W.

 

5 facts within Jack Davis’ “No Sugar” that’ll keep you up at night

And by ‘keep you up at night’ I mean me. I will be up at night. Finishing this task.

Alright now that the disclaimer is out way let’s get started, shall we? Jack Davis was an Aboriginal activist and playwright. In his play ‘No Sugar’ he includes many important ideas most of which go hand in hand with the unjust treatment of aboriginal Australians. Then intent of the play was to expose Australia’s racism and, well, it worked.

 

So without further ado, here’s 5 facts about ‘No Sugar’

1. A large theme within the text is corrupt authority

Corrupt authority is a reoccurring theme within the text shown through the use of characters like Mr Neal. Mr Neal is in fact the advocate for corrupt authority figures. The characterisation of Mr Neal results in the audience being rather repulsed by, and in turn distrust, the authority. In act two scene five, the stage directions mentions Mr Neal “has a hangover” allowing the audience to interpret that he takes no pride in his job as a superintendent. I mean sometimes a job isn’t something you take pride in, but I feel it’s like a general no no to be completely hungover when you’re in charge of a group of people. Maybe that’s just me.

 

Diction is used within the text to convey the type of character Mr Neal is. On page 58 he ignores and hides away from Jimmy claiming to “attend” to him later. The use of the word ‘attend’ is significant, it implies that talking to Jimmy is something unpleasant, something that he is made to deal with. He acts as though talking to Jimmy is a horrendous task that he is forced to do, and yet as superintendent it’s his job.

 

The idea of corrupt authority is further enforced on page 58, when Mary brings him tea and he “leers at her body”. For starters this act is never favourable (especially when it’s a younger girl and an older man).The use of the word ‘leer’ generally has negative connotations it’s usually applied to an unpleasant and unwanted gaze.

 

The symbolism of the props that Mr Neal has is also significant. A whip symbolises authority but a cat-o-nine-tails represents higher authority and more brutality, as this type of whip generally causes a lot more damage. On page 87 Mr Neal whips Mary over a bag of flour, this punishment was a real event. The origin of this punishment resulted in the girl peeing on the flour before being forced to eat it. This act is a not only brutal but humiliating and degrading, this scene aptly represents the characterisation of Mr Neal and the theme of corrupt authority. This act has the audience feeling disturbed and in turn more sympathetic for the aboriginal plight.

 

Also when Mary was whipped she was “very pregnant”, and call me old fashioned but I feel whipping pregnant ladies is a tad rude.

 

2. There’s double standards

In act 1 scene 5 Jimmy and Sam are in court and sentenced for drinking alcohol, that Frank supplied them with. Frank in doing so was “breaking the law”. The court case ended in all 3 men being sentenced to prison with hard labour as punishment. This punishment is excessive and allows the audience to question the (stupidity of the) law. JP mentions “…it’s my duty to protect natives and half-castes from alcohol.” This sentence seems like something that would be said about a child, but no it’s white adults thinking they have a right to control aboriginals.

 

This can then be juxtaposed against act 2 scene 5 when the Matron says that Mr Neal spent “the day in the hotel drinking”, and then it’s mentioned in the stage directions that he shows up hungover for work. But that’s all right because he’s white! The use of these two scenes allows the audience to view and create a clear understanding of the double standards present.

 

Especially since Mr Neal was meant to be working, claiming he “…had to go to Moora…”, and work the next day, but could still get away with it, whilst Jimmy and Sam were drinking at home and as a result were punished.

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3. There’s the idea that authority is untrustworthy

In act 3 scene 1 the family returns back to Government Well to find the camp burned with few relics remaining. The most important prop in this scene is “…the burnt remains of DAVID’s bike.” Joe mentions that “… they was gunna look after everything we left behind.” And then in an act of betrayal they burnt everything. This scene is especially important given how passionate the children were about this bike. The children’s love for the bike allows the audience to have an emotional connection with the characters, that results in them feeling sympathy for the children but to also feeling the same rage as them. The children were assured that no damage would occur and yet look at what happened, this allows the audience to make their own interpretations resulting in a distrust in authority.

 

And I mean, come on, they’re children how can you upset a child like that? Burning a bike is automatically 12 times worse when it belongs to a child, especially when it’s the only one they have (because you know poverty, the Great Depression and all that jazz).

 

4. The story Billy tells is a historical event

The story Billy recounts on page 62, is an actual massacre that took place. The event is known as the  Oombulgurri massacre or The Forrest River massacre. The part that Billy tells is only a small fraction of the crimes committed. A man named Fred Hay attacked an aboriginal man named Lumbia (this was not the first time Hay had attacked and killed aboriginals). Hay flogged Lumbia and afterwards, when he went to ride off, he was stabbed in the back by a spear and killed. The reason behind why Lumbia killed Fred Hay (well besides the fact that he was just flogged) was believed to be that Fred Hay raped both of Lumbia’s wives, who I might add were children. Oh and he raped one of his wives in front of Lumbia before mounting his horse, not bothering to dress, and left. Honestly what a bastard.

 

The inclusion of an event that occurred in real life really helps the audience to create an opinion on the awful treatment of aboriginal people. The fact that this massacre is not fiction adds to the shock value. Generally audience’s would react sympathetically if this where just a fictional event (unless your a stone cold bastard or a sociopath) but because it’s a real event that occurred and real people were harmed, it really hits hard. An audience will have much stronger reaction, resulting in even stronger opinions being formed.

 

5. There’s the idea that aboriginals don’t belong

In act 4 scene 5 the stage directions mention Billy and Bluey (both aboriginal trackers) are dressed in “…absurdly ill-fitting uniforms” this is representative of the aboriginal people not fitting in or belonging. The fact that this ill-fitting uniform is worn on Australia Day further symbolises this. Australia Day is known by many aboriginals as the day their country was invaded by white people. The ill-fitting uniform worn on this particular day represents that aboriginals within the newly created colony no longer belong or have a place within society.

 

This can also be further interpreted by the audience to mean that the white people didn’t actually  want the aboriginals to fit in. After all, the uniform was probably designed and created by white people (I doubt any aboriginals within this time period had such jobs). Also how hard is it to make a well fitting uniform? The uniform on Australia Day can be symbolic for white people removing and pushing out aboriginals from their new white culture.

Bonus fact: Mr Neville is a real person!

Whaaaat?! Ikr what a crazy world we live in.

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Sorry? What’s that? Oh I used a minion. Yep okay there’s the door I’ll see myself out.

 

by R.R.

Australia Day or Invasion Day? Should the date be changed?

 

NO!ML1

OF COURSE NOT!!! Says every patriotic Australian.

But how does Australia day really affect Aboriginals and how did the invasion by England affect their lives.

To understand this, we need to go back to when Australia was forming and look at how Aboriginals were treated then and how this was affecting their lives then and now.

This can be explored through Jack Davis’s No Sugar.

No Sugar is an Australian play written by Jack Davis, an Aboriginal Playwright, which was written to expose the way Aboriginals were treated during the 1930’s. It follows the story of the Millimurra family’s as they move from Northam to Moore River and fight against ‘government protection,’ more like government segregation/ control.

Jack Davis was born in 1917 and was brought up in Moor River, to many people’s surprise, moving there in 1932, which is around the same time the book is set. Funny that. No Sugar address the horrific way Aboriginals were treated and handled by the Wetjala (white person) at that time and how little care Wetjala had for Aboriginals, which Jack Davis has personal experience with.

 

 

The Effect of Colonisation

Due to the colonisation of Australia by England, England tried to civilise Aboriginals into the Australian society, more like English society. This resulted in many Western past times including reading newspapers, playing cricket and having tea becoming a part of the Aboriginals lives as well as the English language, and the change in culture, power and living conditions.

 

Western past times are presented in No Sugar through the use of stage directions and props. “Sam Millimurra prepares mugs of tea, lacing them generously with sugar” Page 9, Act One, Scene One (stage direction). Before the colonisation of Australia, Aboriginals did not have tea or sugar. Due to colonisation they have now become dependent on Tea, Sugar and other English pastimes such as these.  While these past times have been introduced to Aboriginals, their living conditions and hygiene had not improved. Many where not living in the same conditions as civilised Wetjala Australians at that time and had to work and live in horrible conditions, with low income.

 

Examples of the poor living conditions the Aboriginals had to deal with are represented in No Sugar through the use of props. The Millimurra Families where not allowed soap in their rations, “Milly: Whose idea was it to stop the soap?” Page 17, Act One, Scene two, due to budget cuts but the Wetjala wanted them to have handkerchief’s. “Neville: I’m a great believer that if you provide the native the basic accoutrements of civilisation you’re half way to civilising him. I’d like to see each child issued with a handkerchief and instructed on it’s use.” Page 18, Act One, Scene Two. Wait your giving the Aboriginals handkerchiefs but not soap!! If you gave them soap maybe they would not need handkerchiefs in the first place. CRAZY!!!! This was not helped by the fact that the Aboriginals had low income because they could only get horrible jobs and would not afford to buy there own soap, they had to get it from the ration.

 

What a sour situation.

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A symbol in No Sugar that is used to represent their sour situation is Quandong, which are, who’d guess, Very Sour. A scene where this is used is Act Two, Scene Nine where Mary and Joe are running away and Marry has very bruised and lacerated feet. To represent the sour situation they where in the symbol of the Quandong is used. “Mary: Oh, that feels good. (she bites into a quandong.) Aagh! They’re sour!” Page 69, Act Two, Scene Nine (stage direction).

 

The Attempted Destruction of Aboriginal Culture:

Before Wetjala tried to civilise Aboriginals, they tried to get rid of them completely with mass Genocide. This unfortunately for the Wetjala failed as we still have Aboriginals. A notable attempt of mass Genocide occurred in Tasmania. This is referred to in the book when one of the Wetjala’s complains about the Aboriginals. “Sergeant: Too late to adopt the Tasmanian solution.” Page 39, Act One, Scene Seven. As Wetjala failed to get rid of Aboriginals completely they tried to civilise them instead and thereby getting rid of their culture. A Symbol of this in No Sugar is when the Wetjala burn the belongs of the Aboriginals, including the Millimurra family, after they moved from Northam to Moore River. This represents the Wetjala wanting to get rid of the Aboriginals and their culture from Northam to make their perfect white Australian town.

 

While the Wetjala did teach the Aboriginals the English language and introduce them to the English Culture, they were unable to get rid of the Aboriginal Culture. This is shown in No Sugar through the language and techniques of the Aboriginals and how they mix this with the English language and culture. “Jimmy sharpens an axe, bush fashion” Page 9, Act One, Scene One (stage direction), this represents the Aboriginal Culture that they have keep. While they participate in English Culture “David and Cissie play cricket with a home-made bat and ball” Page 9, Act one, Scene One (stage direction). Their language is also mixed with English language “Gran: Ay! You…dewarra you mirri up and get them clothes down the soak, go on!” Page 10, Act one, Scene One.

 

 

The Controlling Power

The controlling power during this time was the Wetjala, and let’s just say they majorly abused their power. Mr Neal was the Superintendent at the Moore River Native Settlement and fun fact is a real person and not just a character in the play.

 

NO WAY!!

 

And guess what he is not the only one. Jack Davis knew both Mr Neal and Mr A.O Neville, the Chief Protector of the Aboriginals in Western Australia, personally. It can be assumed that how these characters act in the play would be similar/the same as how they acted in real life. That is scary that a people like Mr Neal and Mr A.O Neville were actually in charge of people. Let’s just say Mr Neal was not the nicest or well behaved person in the world. I don’t believe he actually cared about his job at all.

 

In No Sugar Mr Neal is represented as a drunk, who abuses his power for his own benefit. He abused his authority as he constantly came to work drunk, “Mr Neal approaches. He is hungover” Page 57, Act Two, Scene Five (stage direction), and prays on the women/ girls that work in the hospital, “Mary brings him a tea on a tray. He leers at her body.” Page 58, Act Two, Scene Five (stage direction). How the hell was a pedophile/drunk employed to be Superintendent of the More River Native Settlement.

Unfortunately, Mr Neal was not the only pedophile. Many Aboriginal women were sent to work in the domestic service, more like slave service, and quite a few of them would come back pregnant. I wonder what happened? It is not possible it had anything to do with the men they went to work for.

 

That is just not plausible.

 

Wait……..

 

No. Yeah it had to be the men. Who else could it be?

 

Aboriginal women were subjected to sexual abuse by the men they were meant to work for. “Miss Dunn: Of eighty who went out in the domestic service last year….. Neville: Thirty returned to the settlement in pregnant condition.” Page 16, Act One, Scene Two.

 

Say What?

 

 

Australia Day

Act Four, Scene 5 of No Sugar represents Australia Day in 1934 at the Moore River Native Settlement. Scene 5 shows the Australia Day ceremony and it does not end well. It is clear in this scene that the Aboriginals do not like Australia Day as they destroy the ceremony by making a parody of the song There is a Happy Land, Sister Eileen had taught them all.

 

“There is a happy land,

Far, far away.

No sugar in our tea,

Bread and butter we never see

That’s why we’re gradually

Fading away.” Page 93, Act Four, Scene 5 (Aboriginal Parody).

 

This resulted in a fight (verbal to be clear) between Jimmy, Neal and Neville. This shows the clear upset and unhappiness of the Aboriginals view of Australia Day, through there parody of the song. In the end of scene 5

 

“SPOILER ALERT”

 

“SPOILER ALERT”

 

Jimmy dies of a heart attack.

 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

 

This is foreshadowed at the start of the book when he cuts his finger open with an axe. “He nicks his finger with the axe and watches the blood drip to the ground.” Page 10, Act One, Scene One (stage directions). As Jack Davis lived in Moore River Native Settlement he would have had to sit through similar Australia Day ceremonies, during the time he was there.

 

 

Australia Day for Aboriginals brings up the horrors of how their ancestors suffered during the invasion of Aboriginal land and how many of their ancestors, society and culture were wiped out in an effort to produce the perfect Australian society.

 

How can we blame them?

 

How would you feel if your home was invaded?

 

Australia day celebrates the birth of Australia, but is also seen as the invasion of Aboriginal land. If England had not invaded Australia which country would have instead? Would the Aboriginals been left to their own devices or would another country have taken it over? Could England have cooperated with the Aboriginals? This is all history so we have no way of knowing. The question is what will we do now?

 

Should we try to change the day in respect of the Aboriginals to repay them for the horrors we put them through? Or should we keep the date the same to celebrate Australia and it’s diversity?

 

This Question is for you to answer.

 

What should we do?

 

Is it Australia Day or Invasion day?

 

 

by M.L.