Speak Quiet, Speak Strong
The Cutting Edge: SBS TV
Tuesday, May 23, 8.30pm (8 SA)
Reviewed by Lou Stanley and Kath Gelber
Speak Quiet, Speak Strong is a lot louder than its title. The program documents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in their attempts to heal themselves of their domestic violence problems.
The simplicity of its magazine-style format in no way detracts from the complexities of the issues it addresses. In fact, the simplicity of style and language enhances the messages of self-examination by indigenous communities and education of the white Australian community.
The personal stories of women's journeys from being victims to being survivors of this violence are a tribute to the strength and honesty of these communities. Programs including the Cawarra Women's Refuge show how an Aboriginal-run organisation is of benefit to its own community, through its understanding of the problems involved in dealing with domestic violence.
The documentary shatters myths. Seventy per cent of the indigenous community do not drink alcohol — a much higher figure than in the white society, despite widely held assumptions. "Those who do tend to be more visible", the film makers point out. The reasons include the historical treatment of indigenous people and current widespread racism.
The historical and current treatment of indigenous people within the legal system bear this out. The program quotes a judge saying, in relation to a domestic violence case, "I take into account that you're a relatively unsophisticated three-quarter caste Aboriginal native accustomed to living in the bush. According to the old ways you were entitled, if not required, to give your de facto wife a beating." This level of ignorance about indigenous people extends to the white community as a whole.
The program not only conveys the despair within indigenous communities, but also leaves us with a message of hope that through self-help, education and support, things can change, and that violence is not acceptable.