They say if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
The number of Indigenous parliamentarians is so historically low, you’d have to wonder why any young Indigenous person would ever contemplate a career in politics.
The statistics are bleak -just as they are as Indigenous CEOs in corporate Australia, or for heading up government bodies.
The numbers are also stacked heavily against the community for tertiary education too. ABC doco Will Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister? certainly begin from a position of optimism, but it’s an important conversation.
Actor Mark Coles Smith (Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Gods of Wheat Street, Hard Rock Medical) embarks on a quest for answers criss-crossing the country to meet those who have been at the face of change, and those from whom it lays ahead.
Coles Smith was just 14 when he landed his first role in Ocean Star, after auditioning in Broome. He’s gone on to continued success but statistically, young Indigenous males are more likely to enter prison than parliament. As he discovers, the education and support systems for his peers means the part is doubly harder.
Over the doco he meets primary school students in Broome, learns about a lack of aid in the Northern Territory and hears from WA politician Ken Wyatt , Liberal member for Hasluck.
His own sister, Malika, is currently studying at Sydney University, the same path tread by multiple PMs. She has her sights set on law not politics, but acknowledges a desire to affect policy change may come later in life. Aretha Brown, the former Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, is also a young woman with much ambition and you’d wish there were more of her in our real Parliament.
But it is Stan Grant who offers the most wisdom here, suggesting that while Australia won’t have a Black PM, it can have a PM who is Black. Grant believes their heritage will be secondary to their leadership and policies, going as far as to suggest that they will more likely face questions about whether they are Indigenous enough….
Barry Cassidy also appears with a few history lessons, mostly surrounding the 12 post-War PMs (5 of whom held office in the last 12 years alone).
But it is Professor Yin Paradies from Deakin University who crunches the numbers and paints the bleak outlook.
Coles Smith reacts to the realities for the camera and producers Joined Up Films have sought to ensure there is optimism to be found, largely through the eyes of youth.
Sometimes the script gets a little preachy (the opening scene feels too forced) and frankly there are other minorities that could also ask the same question. Indeed, with only 1 woman having ever taken the office majorities too…. I guess if a Reality TV boss can become US President anything is possible.
Will Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister? is definitely food for thought.
Will Australia Ever Have a Black Prime Minister? airs 7;40pm Sunday on ABC.