Redefining the Mainstream: Local Government, Inclusive Communities

The Second National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism, Immigration and Human Rights


Laurence Aboukhater
Australian Arabic Council

Discussion of 'Tale of Two Peoples'

"Tale of two peoples" is a 26 minute, educational documentary that examines the effects of dislocation from culture among Arabic and Aboriginal youth in Australia. It focuses on their attitudes and aspirations whilst tackling the roots of racism. Young people from both cultures actively engage in debunking the myths that stereotype them. Tale of two peoples is packaged with an easy to follow teachers manual, and covers a number of learning areas. This film is relevant in light of the current levels of racism in Australia

The Age 20/8/01
Young Arabs and Aborigines Graft Olive Branch

Monday 20 August 2001
Multiculturalism seeps into Australian society, overcoming entrenched resistance. Cultural diversity insists on being a fact rather than a notion. Sometimes, often in unheralded ways, the essence of multiculturalism reveals itself.
And so it is with Tale of Two Peoples, a 26-minute documentary commissioned by the Australian Arabic Council which chronicles a historic joint project involving Arab and Aboriginal students.
The short film, just launched, features students from the Al Kamal College, in Melbourne's east, and their peers from the Worawa Aboriginal College, in Healesville.
The Al Kamal students, all from Arabic backgrounds, tell the camera how they are young Australians, but they want to retain, even develop, their sense of having an Arabic heritage.
We see them on a bus, heading towards their first tentative meeting with the Worawa students. In a series of role-playing workshops, the two groups recognise they have a shared future _ they are the latest generation of Australians to encounter racial stereotyping.
The revelation among the students that they have parallel issues is coaxed from them by Aboriginal musician and film maker Richard Frankland, who co-directed the film with Laurence Abou-Khater of the Australian Arabic Council. The "we are not alone" impact among the students is pervasive and, because of it, they all seem to take away hope instead of frustration.
The concept for Tales emerged from a discussion Mr Abou-Khater had about two years ago.
"We were talking about the shared experience of people not quite fitting into the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Australian society, " Mr Abou-Khater said.
"It's the same for minorities everywhere. If I grew up as an English kid in China, I'd have identity issues. Who would I talk to about it?
"When we came to making the documentary, we thought it might be a chance for this unlikely meeting, where the Arabic and indigenous kids could get together without a 'white' person as a conduit. "
In the decade since its formation, the council has developed a reputation as an active opponent of racism in Australia. Perhaps its biggest success has been in confronting and then correcting negative images of the Arab community, particularly lazy labeling of people as being "of Middle Eastern appearance".
The council received some funding for the documentary from the Federal Government's Living In Harmony scheme, and the team behind the film is negotiating with SBS over telecast rights.
In keeping with its charter of tackling racism through education initiatives, the council hopes the documentary will be used in schools, and is preparing a teaching pack.
Certainly, the participants are enthusiastic about the film.
"I learnt to keep a broader vision, to appreciate another culture, " said Josh Atkinson, from Worawa. Lillian Alame, from Al Kamal, thinks the sharing of stories and traditions is a truly productive outcome.
Wurundjeri elder Joy Murphy-Wandin said the project meant Melbourne's Arab community was "part of the Wurundjeri extended family".
Frankland believes passionately in the documentary's motif. "Aborigines were considered part of Australia's flora and fauna until 1967, " is his brutal assessment. "Minorities are made by attitudes, and attitudes are supported by legislation. "
It is a small step, but the Australian Arabic Council has grafted an olive branch on to a wattle tree, then planted it in Wurundjeri soil.
Who knows what new tree will flourish . . .

Presentation Type
30 min. Session


Deakin Woolstores Campus, Geelong Waterfront
30 November - 1 December 2001