On Country performance
On 21st February 2016, Allan Wandin together with his daughters Jacqui Wandin and Brooke Collins, generously opened their home and welcomed us to Country to share the experience of the powerful re-enactment of a moment in Coranderrk’s history. The historic performance of the play ‘Coranderrk: We Will Show the Country’ took place on the very land where Coranderrk residents testified 135 years ago as part of the 1881 Parliamentary Inquiry.
On this remarkable occasion, the 500-strong audience came together to pay tribute to the men and women of Coranderrk: to their courage and resilience, to the continuing strength and survival of their descendants who are working to realise Barak’s dream of a permanent home for his people.
Written and directed by Giordano Nanni and co-writer Andrea James, the play is the verbatim re-enactment of key passages from evidence presented to the 1881 Parliamentary Coranderrk Inquiry by 20 witnesses. Nine of the witnesses were Aboriginal residents of Coranderrk including William Barak. This was the first Victorian inquiry to which Aboriginal people were allowed to give evidence.
In the heat of the late summer afternoon, people gathered in patches of shade. Picnics were enjoyed and shared. Charcoal Lane, a Fitzroy-based Mission Australia restaurant offered tasting plates from their bush tucker-inspired menu. As more and more people arrived, the feeling of expectation and excitement grew.
For Allan, Jacqui and Brooke, who are descendants of Robert Wandon – a participant in the 1881 Inquiry – this performance was the realisation of part of their dream. For them, together with playwrights Giordano Nanni and Andrea James, Melbourne University’s Minutes of Evidence project team, La Mama Theatre, Ilbijerri Theatre, and many committed supporters, this performance was the culmination of hopes and dedication.
In poignant words, Allan welcomed everyone to his Father’s Country. He told the audience that all the day’s footsteps on Coranderrk had cleansed the ground. A smoking ceremony was not needed: there were no bad spirits on Coranderrk that day.
And then it was time for the performance to begin. The actors walked on-stage and immediately we were transported back to 1835. Complete silence fell over Coranderrk during the performance. The combined power of the performance and the place was extraordinary – a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The audience was suspended in time.
After the performance, Brooke spoke passionately about the play and the meaning this carried in today’s world. She spoke about the triumph of the day and what this meant for her personally, for her family and the wider community – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Brooke outlined plans for the rejuvenation of the land and waterways involving removal of weeds and non-indigenous plants and planting 2000 trees. Interested people are invited to lend a hand by joining ‘Friends of Coranderrk’. Information about this group can be found on the ‘Friends of Coranderrk’ page.
This was an incredibly moving, unforgettable experience. What a privilege it was to be there and to have witnessed this re-enactment of part of the 1881 Parliamentary Inquiry – history informing the present 135 years after the event. Kathryn Nauta
Giordano Nanni, Director and co-Writer: ‘It was the most powerful performance ever from our brilliant cast-family; standing ovation, many tears and such good vibes – the undisputed climax of this journey on which we’ve been on for the past 6 years with ‘Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country’ – this is what it’s all been building up to.’
‘Thank you Charcoal Lane for the meals you gave us yesterday at Coranderrk : We will show the Country – on Country. I had the Roast sweet potato salad with silverbeet, chickpea lemon and eucalyptus dressing. It was delicious – very much appreciated..’
From the audience: