It’s rare to find a historical story about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people banding together to fight injustice. So when Italian-born Giordano Nanni came across the Minutes of Evidence in the 1881 Coranderrk Inquiry he knew he was onto something special. Together with the Ilbijerri Theatre Company (Australia’s longest running Indigenous theatre company), La Mama Theatre, Julie Evans (University of Melbourne) and Director Isaac Drandic, they have created a re-enactment of the official testimonies before the Inquiry, where the men and women of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve took on the Board for the Protection of Aboriginals.
“My epiphany occurred when I realised so few people knew about Coranderrk and the remarkable events that had taken place there,” Nanni says. “I thought to myself: something’s wrong; this should be one of the great Australian stories.” Over the next three years Nanni immersed himself in the 141 testimony pages before co-writing the text with Yorta Yorta artist and playwright, Andrea James. The final product resulted in a sell-out season in Melbourne.
“For me, the most remarkable aspect of Coranderrk lies, not so much with one particular individual, as with the relationships between those individuals – the sense of community, and the friendship, respect and loyalty which developed between the men and women of Coranderrk and their non-Aboriginal allies,” he explains. “Different people will take away different things, but hopefully one thing all people will take with them is a profound sense of pride and dignity for what our ancestors did at Coranderrk.”
Jun 28-Jul 1, Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Macquarie St, Sydney, $20-25, 9250 7777, sydneyoperahouse.com