A review of In My Blood It Runs

A review of In My Blood It Runs

Following Emma’s advice we saw the film In My Blood It Runs as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival at the Cinema Nova.  It was serendipitous that there was a review of the film by Jake Wilson in the previous week in The Age that helped us understand something more of a most complex film.

The main figure is Dujuan, a young Arrernte boy from Central Australia. Dujuan speaks four languages, one of them English, and is very articulate about his life. The film documents Dujuan’s experience of schooling in a settlement where his family live in Hidden Valley, an Aboriginal Town Camp in the east of Alice Springs. Dujuan’s experience of school is dysfunctional, even in a school that was specifically designed to be for Indigenous young people.   Both of us 

found one scene rather incongruous where the teacher read to the group about Captain Cook discovering Australia in 1770; in the 21st century this was doubtful and unnecessary as the deeper disconnect between what was happening in school and the lives and culture of Dujuan and his mates was very clear.

The scenes in this first and longest part of the film were distressing and frustrating as teachers and students struggled to make any connection with each other, except in occasional fleeting instances that could have led to new ways of doing things. We wished we had had Zoe and Tony McLachlan with us to have their perspective on what was in the film.  The school situations are mixed with situations in the wider community as Dujuan skips school and gets into trouble in central A.S. and we see young people being locked up under mandatory jailing laws.

Dujuan’s experience of learning changes when his mother sends him north to his separated father’s care out on homeland. Here Dujuan experiences a ‘schooling’ where he learns his own language, one of four he speaks, and this is linked with experience in the bush, where he learns more about his people’s understanding and feeling for the land.  In this new situation he describes his life as in school for 5 days and in the bush for 2, clearly something that makes much more sense to him.  The in-school part of this appears to be successful because his teachers are indigenous, he uses his own language much more and learns more about it, and what he learns is connected to his experiences culturally in the bush.  The link between this and the rest of Australian life is an issue that needs much more analysis.

One of the themes of the film, particularly as this was being shown as part of the Human Rights Festival, is the issue of the age of criminality.  The film told us that of all the children under the age of 12 years in gaol in the Northern Territory, 100% are aboriginal. As we left the film, we were handed a letter and envelope addressed to Jill Hennessy, Attorney-General in Victoria, asking her and all Attorneys-General to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. It is clearly a major issue of social justice within the whole range of matters of social justice affecting our First Peoples.

The film, by focussing on the voices of young people as seen in Dujuan, enabled us to see from his perspective what is his experience of the schooling that our governments provide for our First Peoples – disjointed, unconnected to anything to do with his life, and ultimately frustrating and quite anti-educational, all the opposite of what education should be.  At the end of the film Dujuan pleads for his voice to be heard; for the education of his people to be linked more to Indigenous experience – “Is nobody listening”.

As we waited for the film to begin this statement by Jonathan Hill was on the screen – it is a beautifully expressed statement that reminds us again about the way our First Peoples cared for this land and the nature of their spirituality.

Today we stand in footsteps millennia old.
May we acknowledge the traditional owners whose cultures and customs have nurtured,
and continue to nurture, this land, since men and women awoke from the great dream.
We honour the presence of these ancestors who reside in the imagination of this land
and whose irrepressible spirituality flows through all creation.

Written by Jonathan Hill

In The Age Online in October, 2019, the following article appeared.  It tells us more about Dujuan.

12yo Alice Springs boy to speak at United Nations in push to change Australia’s age of criminality by Rachel Clayton – updated 2 Oct 2019, 7:00am

Dujuan Hoosan wasn’t a big fan of school.

Key points:

  • The 12-year-old will speak to UN officials about the age of criminality in Australia
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility was a key royal commission recommendation 
  • The National Children’s Commissioner wants the Federal Government to implement Indigenous-led education

He struggled to learn the curriculum and was told that, although he could speak four languages, he was a failure. 

The Arrente and Garrwa boy from Alice Springs felt like a problem, and like many boys who are disengaged from the classroom he played up and skipped class. 

At just 10 years old, an age when most kids are starting their final year of primary school, Dujuan was almost thrown in prison. 

His family say the only reason he did not end up in youth detention was because they took him out of the system and placed him on the land to learn more about his culture. 

He is at the centre of acclaimed documentary In My Blood It Runs, which examines how Australia’s education system can be detached from Indigenous history and learning.

This week (Oct, 2019) the 12-year-old will be one of the youngest people to give a speech in front of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva.

He is set to deliver a half-hour speech to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which he will call for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14.

Representatives from the Australian Attorney-General’s Department will then be questioned about Australia’s efforts to improve children’s rights over the past five years.