Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ten Years After

Ah yes.. May 21st 1998.. and Indonesians were stunned as Suharto stood before TV cameras at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta and announced he was standing down as leader. His speech to the nation was covered live on Indoneisan TV and there was instant jubilation across the archipelago.
On that day, as this drama unfolded, I was reporting from the ABC's office in central Jakarta. It was a mad scramble writing radio news stories and crossing for TV News interviews describing events as they unfolded. Later in the day I joined the celebrating crowds of students at Indonesia's parliament as they sang and danced beneath the fountain in the forecourt.

You can read about this day and the massive change of REFORMASI that engulfed Indonesia in my book RUNNING AMOK.

I had the privilege to host and "In Conversation" session this last week with one of Indonesias's leading writers and intellectuals Goenawan Mohamad. He remembers those days very well too. The magazine he helped found TEMPO was banned during the Suharto years.. for daring to criticise the state.. only to re-emerge as reforms including press freedom took shape.

Pak Goenewan reckons the greatest issue facing Indonesians in 2008 is the rise and rise of radical Islam.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Website Explores North Australia

It's amazing how little most people know about Australia's deep north.

Check out this website newly created to foster a conversation about North Australia and to promote a free public forum organised by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) in Darwin on 24 June.

The website contains news and features about North Australia and you can register for the Forum.

Oh.. and you'll see that there's a feature on the front page about moi.. here's a taste:

Heads up: for great yarns, go north
With its proximity to Asia, North Australia is the jumping off point for some of the biggest stories in our region. But the ABC’s strong connection to local communities means some of the best gets can be a lot closer to home.
When ABC journalist Mark Bowling was asked if he wanted to swap the Sydney newsroom for Darwin, he jumped in his yellow Torana and hot-footed it to Australia’s northernmost capital.
Two decades and various job descriptions later – including North Australia Correspondent and the ABC’s Indonesia Correspondent - Mark is now ABC Director Northern Territory and is in a good position to know what it takes to make it as a journalist in the region.
“You need to be pragmatic, (you need) a sense of humour, flexibility and a good ability as an all-rounder,” Mark said.
“In the big cities you get dedicated to a particular round and you might be on it for a long time. You might be in an air-conditioned court system for months and months or years and years.
“But in Darwin or Cairns, Broome or Townsville, there’s more chance than not you’ll get the chance to work in lots of different areas.
“I like to think of it as a centre of excellence. There are many journalists and broadcasters who have cut their teeth in the north for the ABC and have gone on to all sorts of careers – foreign correspondents, leading broadcasters, key technicians – right around the ABC network.”
Communities in North Australia rely heavily on ABC content through
105.7 ABC Darwin and 783 ABC Alice Springs, news, current affairs, sport and entertainment – as well as its emergency broadcasts during times of flood, fire and cyclone.
The close connections forged by this relationship put the ABC in a position to uncover local stories that appeal around Australia.
The upcoming documentary feature In a League of their Own, which follows the first Indigenous football team to join the NT Football League in their first season, is just one example.
Filmed by Steve McGregor, who worked most recently as Indigenous acting coordinator on Baz Luhrmann’s new movie Australia, the documentary chronicles the first season of the Tiwi Bombers as they move from being the new kids on the footy block to passionate participants in the nail-biting finals.
Mark, the Executive Producer of the feature, said he was keen to capture the importance of football in North Australia, particularly in remote communities.
“In a place like the Tiwi Islands and in many remote Indigenous communities, it is not a cliché or stretching the truth to say that boys grow up bouncing plastic water bottles along the street like footballs until they get a real football in their hands. They end up with incredible skills.
“On the other hand, the situation they are living in, in some cases can only be described as third world. For instance, living in the Tiwi Islands community is in many ways precarious, with the highest youth suicide rate in the country and is struggling to find male role models.”
These harsh realities, set against the backdrop of the Northern Territory Federal Intervention, combine with the rollercoaster ride of the team’s football season to make compelling drama.
At the start of the season the Tiwi Bombers create their own code of conduct and commit to stick to it. It means no ‘ganja’ (cannabis) and reduced alcohol consumption – no drinking before games, a celebratory drink afterwards, but tapering down as the week wound toward the next match.
The documentary explores how the players handle this challenge, as well as the many other logistical barriers the Tiwi Bombers face in their first season.
Team members fly from all over the Tiwi Islands, or drive over rough dirt roads to Nguiu on Bathurst Island just to train, while game day involves flights to and from Darwin for all players.
“We film all these challenges. It becomes a journey of the season, a journey of week to week and then it is a journey of a new club,” Mark said.
In a League of their Own will be screened on ABC1 and there are already plans for an accompanying DVD, which will include footy tips and health and lifestyle advice from the players, to be distributed among Aboriginal communities.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bombers Crash - But Tiwi Island Football Alive and Well

It was the night that the Tiwi Bombers dived out of the Northern Territory Football League finals. It was the emotional end to their first year in the "big league" - as they described the NTFL - an end to their fairytale run which saw the team dominate early in the season, and win over fans who witnessed their "Island-style" of football with freakish skills, lightening pace and keep-the-ball-alive-at-all-costs play.

But in the end, the Tiwi Bombers succumbed to the far more experienced clubs with their big name players, structured football and hard-trained bodies. Frankly, the Bombers looked puny in their final game against the Warriors. It seems that by the "business end" of the footy season opposition coaches had worked out the Bombers magic formula.

But the Bombers have proven inspirational. They have fans in remote indigenous communities right across remote Northern Australia, and beyond in the suburbs and cities of main stream Australia (and around the globe!). They have proven what can be achieved with hard training and discipline and a will to tackle new challenges.

A documentary "In a League of Their Own" featuring the Tiwi Bombers in their first season will be out mid year (July 2008), and will delve into the lives of the players and the unique aboriginal community of the Tiwi Islands which they call home.

Find out more about "In a League of Their Own" by dropping me an email. And in the meantime, tell me: What do you think about the Tiwi Bombers? Leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A New Groove for Indigenous Songs

What happens when an Australian jazz musician living in the mainstream decides to team up with aboriginal women singers from the tiny Tiwi Islands? A new music blend which is like no other!

The jazz musician in question is Genevieve Campbell: "The idea for this project started in late 2006 when I heard a tape of the ladies singing and thought it might be fun to put my music together with theirs… just to see what might happen. The journey since then has been one of song, laughter, friendship and sandfly bites. On the face of it there's perhaps not much in common between the main street of Nguiu and the inner city of Sydney, but we've found, having talked and played and sung and danced together that in many ways we are coming from the same place."

Of course the Tiwi Islands are also the home of the famous Tiwi Bombers. Some of these women singers are mothers and aunties of these emerging stars.. and on Saturdays can always be found at the football.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tiwi Bombers - thrilling football as new doco takes shape

(Right:The Tiwi Bombers in a half-time huddle)

(Director Steven McGregor. Photos: Mark Bowling)

Lights. Action Camera. Shooting is in full swing for the film "In a League of Their Own". It's an observational documentary tracing the exploits of the Tiwi Bombers - a team of talented and highly skilled Aboriginal footballers from the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin. The Bombers are flying high in their first full season in the Northern Territory Football League. With just a few games until the finals, they are on top of the league table.

But can the Tiwi Bombers go all the way and win the coverted NTFL Premiership? And can the Bombers prove to their fiercely loyal supporters that they are capable of not only matching the best footballers in the TOP END, but they are in fact "In a League of Their Own"?

All will be revealed as this film takes shape - documenting the excitement of the Bombers first season, but also the real lives of the players, their supporters and their island community. I am the Executive Producer of this documentary, and together with co-pro Producers Tony Collins and Carmel Young, I'm proud to have the acclaimed indigenous Director Steven McGregor (pictured above) leading the project. His last major work was the award-winning drama
"My Brother Vinnie".
Stay tuned for updates as the Bombers season reaches a crescendo in coming weeks.

See also: Tiwi Bombers blast off