More than 60,000 years after their settlement on the island-continent, the indigenous peoples continue to be marginalised on their own lands. Last October, a referendum was held, with the modest aim of creating an Aboriginal Voice – a mere advisory body to the government and parliament, with no decision-making powers. It was widely rejected by Australian voters. Proof that the country is far from having made peace with its colonial past, as historian Romain Fathi, from the University of Adelaide, explains: “What can you expect from a nation that still has the Union Jack on its flag and when its national holiday marks the day it was invaded by the British on 26 January 1788? They are afraid that the land they stole will be taken away from them.

As a result, the Aborigines, who today represent 3.5% of the Australian population, are effectively second-class citizens: their life expectancy is almost ten years shorter than that of the rest of the population, and they consistently fall behind on all the economic indicators, from poverty to unemployment, and from poor housing to infant mortality.

The true strength of Agence France-Presse and its network of 450 photographers worldwide lies in their ability to shed light on news that may otherwise go unnoticed, sometimes showing what we would prefer not to see, combating preconceived ideas in the name of truth, telling stories about our changing societies, and catalysing emotions. And this holds true for the peoples of Oceania, and Australia in particular. Behind the picturesque folkloric images taken by photojournalists lurks a sad reality. The brutal truth can sometimes be summed up in a single photograph, like the one taken by Anoek de Groot capturing the forlorn gaze of a child living in squalor in an insalubrious camp in Alice Springs.



Exhibition produced in association with Agence France-Presse, which, for the 5th consecutive year, is partnering our Festival to highlight the remarkable work of press photographers.
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© Torsten Blackwood / AFP • Exhibition Survivals