and Country confer identity, culture and tradition, even where the violence g and trauma of colonialism have disrupted continuous possession. The mid- T dle term, 'the bush', has been invented and reinvented by settler Australians ® at moments of crisis in national identity, the first being the 1890s and its g cruel economic recession coinciding with cultural nationalism, the bush leg- % end and the move towards Federation.5 The second is the neo-conservative r revival of the figure of the bush battler by One Nation and then by the Howard government in the 1990s as part of a populist backlash against native title, asylum-seekers and 'handouts' to minorities. The battler is a key figure in what Mick Dodson calls Howard's 'triumphalist view of Australian history' based on 'brave settlers conquering a people and a landmass: the victory of a superior way of life'.6 A fourth term, 'the environment', has also entered the debate, tying environmental catastrophe to issues of national history through the work of Tim Flannery on the way that environmental disasters caused by the myth of terra nullius, colonial patterns of settlement and postwar nation-building schemes have created a crisis about the sus-tainability of current living standards in Australia.7 An Indigenous critique of the environmentalist idea of 'wilderness' as uninhabited land has also been developed by Fabienne Bayet-Charlton, who has challenged the green movement to deal with the impact of the Mabo decision on green ideology and on notions of ecotourism as the future for non-urban Aboriginal people.8 At stake in these different versions of land and landscape is the national shift (whether gradual or sudden, embraced or denied, whimsical or profound) entailed in the thought, recommended as a morning mantra for every Australian by Germaine Greer, that we are living in an Aboriginal country.9 This is a shift in the social imaginary legally enshrined in the Mabo decision, ending the myth of terra nullius.
The focus of this chapter is on the ways that the ABC-TV mini-series Heartland (1994), Dennis O'Rourke's auteurist documentary Cunnamulla (2001) and Film Australia's documentary Message from Moree (Judy Rymer, 2003) send a message to the viewer about what's going on in the country. The assumption that life in the country (as opposed to the city) is shaped by what happened after the frontier wars is axiomatic for these programs. In the 1990s, reconciliation policies at the national level have influenced film narratives about the survival of Aboriginal communities and the various ways that settler and Indigenous Australians have intermingled in the country. However, these narratives have found their way through the public film-funding bodies (Film Finance Corporation, Australian Film Commission and Film g Australia) to ABC Television, and can thus be construed as contributing in js some way to the national interest rather than to the commercial-industrial " sphere of entertainment. In the commercial sphere, feature films like No Worries (David Elfick, 1992) and The Bank (Robert Connolly, 2001) revise
< and update the familiartrope ofthe innocent goodness ofthe country versus 2 the sly corruption of the city, long established in the Dad and Dave comedies u of the 1930s, as well as in pastoral family melodramas tied to a celebration « of the nation's primary industries, such as the classic Cinesound film The
£ However, although it has a bush tradition,10 Australian cinema has no
< genre to compare with the Hollywood Western, through which American cinema has explored its founding mythology of wagon-train pioneers violently engaged in the Manifest Destiny of Westward expansion through Indian territories. As Mark McKenna has shown in his history of encounters between Aboriginal and settler communities in the Eden-Monaro region, pioneer histories have had a vested interest in projecting frontier violence onto others (other pioneers or warrior tribesmen) in order to preserve a benign family vignette of pipe-smoking forefathers reminiscing, from the comfort of their vine-clad verandahs, about the hard slog of settling the land.11 This vision has been maintained in films exemplified by the ABC-TV mini-series The Farm (Kate Woods, 2001) about cockies doing it hard on the land inherited from their pioneering forebears. These narratives attack new policies of deregulating the banks and dropping tariffs and trade barriers which protected primary producers and small business from the vagaries of the international market. In this kind of film, the history of taking the land from its original inhabitants has been erased from the family album and national archive alike. Alternative, politicised images which endeavour to overcome historical amnesia and remember the origins of the 'the bush' in Aboriginal dispossession have come from the public sector with the input, again, of the Film Finance Corporation, Film Australia and ABC Television.
Although the desert as a vast inland tract has served as a template for national identity in Australian landscape cinema, it is usually represented as a liminal space, a threshold of experience for characters on a journey from the city to someplace else. The 'country' or the 'bush', by contrast, is inhabited by stock characters such as shearers, jackaroos, pastoralists, farmers, publicans, soldiers, squatters, footballers, miners, wives, girlfriends and barmaids. 'Coming from the country' can mean several things in Australia: it can mean coming from the land (usually a large, remote pastoral lease in the outback), coming from a farm (wheat, dairy, sugar, cotton) likely to be located on the fertile coastal fringe or a little further inland), coming from a rural industrial area like Wollongong or Whyalla, or coming from one of the g many small towns on the fringe of the continent which service the surround- 1 ing farming district. It means not coming from the city or from the suburbs. g
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