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Spirits of the Red Sand

Home > Brisbane > Theatre Reviews | Theatre | Museums | Historic Houses | Australian Native Food
by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
Published April 24th 2019
Experience Aboriginal history as told by the Beenleigh mob
It was not until the referendum of 1967 that indigenous Australians were included in the population Census and the Federal government was prohibited from specifically making laws for the Indigenous people of any State. Indigenous entitlement to social security benefits, war pensions, child endowments and children's pensions were very real outcomes of the referendum. Most States (except Queensland and Western Australia) had given indigenous people the right to vote from the 1850s, but many were not aware of their rights. They seem such simple gestures, but were a long time coming. From the earliest times of white men coming to Australia, life for the indigenous population was not easy, and continues to be the same for many today.

There is so much debate today about the terms "invasion", "settlement" and "history wars". "Spirits of the Red Sand" puts those debates to rest with a storyline that some audience members have described as "confrontational". Perhaps this is what is required for Australians to understand their history and that of the peoples displaced with the arrival of the white man. Many eyes would have been opened by this performance.

It begins with a glimpse of the culture of Aboriginal people, with audience participation that is so natural that all audience members joined in willingly. At no time during the evening did I get the feeling that I was being force-fed history or culture or made to feel that I was in any way to blame for the actions of my forebears.

Spirits of the Red Sand,Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum,Welcome Ceremony
A Welcoming Ceremony

The story was told by the descendants of the mob that lived in the Beenleigh area, and is based on fact. How appropriate that it is performed amongst the buildings of the Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, with buildings of the nineteenth century, and a genuine Aboriginal village of gunyahs, as the sets.

Village of Yesteryear

Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum,Spirits of the Red Sand, Aboriginal Camp
Night Time in the Camp

The story is based on the lives of three brothers from the local mob and their descendants, and how each one's story is intertwined. From the start the cultural differences caused much friction. The Aboriginal custom of share and share alike did not sit well with the newcomers. The Storyteller interweaves the tales.

The Story Teller

Then there were the descendants of mixed relationships, the "half castes", who were seen as potential trouble makers and subsequently removed from their parents under the Aboriginal Protection Acts. I was appalled to learn recently that while I was enjoying the benefits of a free public high school education in the '60s, young women who had been removed from their families under the Queensland Act, had been enslaved in the kitchens of a prominent Catholic school.

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, 19th century building
Working Together

The story moves from the welcome to a very moving audio-visual presentation. From here we went to church, where the pastor makes it plain that the Aboriginal people are of a lower class than the white parishioners. Not all whites are happy to go along with this, and some speak up against it, but they are in the minority.

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, the Church
St George's Church of England

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, pastor
The Pastor

We are welcomed to the village by a traditional smoking ceremony where we become aware of the differences of opinion amongst the Aboriginal people as to their attitudes towards their white oppressors. Amongst the Aboriginal people there are warriors who wish to fight the system, but as evidenced by the massacres that have taken place all over Australia, they are no match for the might of the white population. There is reference to the poisonings that took place under the guise of food handouts.

Smoking Ceremony

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical village and Museum, Aboriginal mourning around the fire
Mourning a loved one

The story ends on a highlight of the indigenous people singing the national anthem whilst waving the Australian and Aboriginal flags. We are one, but we are many.

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, We are one but we are many
We are one, but we are many

At the meal table we were treated to some musical entertainment before enjoying some delicious native foods. There was much food for thought after such an engrossing drama, and as a volunteer in the tourism industry, and one who travels widely throughout Australia, I have no hesitation in recommending this wonderful performance to locals and visitors alike. Nowhere else in Australia will they experience such a privilege.

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh historical Village, Entree
Entree of native animal meats

Spirits f the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, main meal
Generous main meal

Spirits of the Red Sand, Beenleigh Historical Village and Museum, Lemon Myrtle Dessert
Delicious dessert with Lemon Myrtle

Alison Muirhead was a guest of Great Australian Experiences.
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Why? To understand the plight of the Aboriginal population of Australia with the coming of the white man
When: 6.30 pm various nights of the week
Phone: 1300 259 016, 07 3801 8198
Where: 205 Main Street, Beenleigh, Q 4207
Cost: Adults from $99, children from $25
Your Comment
Thanks Alison - a story well worth telling.
by May Cross (score: 3|7996) 828 days ago
Thanks Alison - a story well worth telling.
by May Cross (score: 3|7996) 828 days ago
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