News footage of men and boys ‘made up as Aborigines’ in blackface entertaining crowds on Australia Day just 53 years ago has surfaced on social media.
The NBN news clip, shot in Newcastle two hours north of Sydney on Australia Day 1970, was reposted on Twitter on Thursday with the title ‘White people doing blackface on Australia Day 1970’.
The historic video showed large crowds watching curiously. In a startling resemblance to today’s Australia Day celebrations, not a single Australian flag is on display.
the footage, disturbing to the modern eye, shows men and boys in blackface entertaining Australia Day crowds in Newcastle
Invasion and Survival Day events were mighty affairs in 2023
In the clip, two groups of young men and boys in black body and face paint gleefully chase the spectators and stab fake spears at them during a family-packed event that started on Hunter Street.
The young men had put on a black face, apparently completely unaware that it might already be inappropriate.
Their chests were also painted with what appeared to be white bones
The 1970 clip showed a second group of young Newcastle men also wearing full-body black paint
It had a man dressed as Ned Kelly accompanied by ‘police’ and a flatbed truck carrying a boatload of waving town officials dressed as First Fleet crew
They laughed and pretended to throw spears at men dressed as First Fleet sailors.
On the same day, 53 years later, Indigenous Australians and their allies marched somberly to express their collective grief over the effects of colonization at ‘Invasion Day’ rallies across Australia.
As the years pass, the losses continue to mount for the Australian Indigenous people.
For starters, they experience prison sentences, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and drug and alcohol addiction far more than most non-Indigenous communities in the same country.
The historic video showed large crowds, without an Australian flag in sight, curiously watching the men in blackface
Australia’s Indigenous people are dying younger – heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and cancer are the many culprits – and less likely to find stable careers and housing
They die younger – heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and cancer are the main culprits – and are less likely to find stable careers and housing.
Just a few hundred yards from where the black-faced boys played a starring role on Australia Day in 1970, Newcastle’s Day of Mourning event in 2023 was much more reflective.
It started at 10am at the Customs House fountain and was followed by a walk down Wharf Road to ‘release’ sorry business.
The 1970 clip showed a second group of young men also wearing black paint for the entire body.
On the same day 53 years later, Indigenous Australians and their allies walked glumly across Australia together
In Melbourne Invasion Day, protesters had several events to choose from
They were on Horsehoe Beach, near the famous Nobby’s Beach, looking menacing as another group reenacted the landing from Captain Phillip’s Botany Bay.
Aside from the gruesome blackface, the 1970 parade wasn’t all that different from what it would be like today.
It had a man dressed as Ned Kelly, accompanied by “police” and a flatbed trailer with a boat filled with waving town officials dressed as First Fleet crew.
On Twitter, people who viewed the post were surprised and shocked, but some found the video familiar.
“It is foolishness to judge people of the past through the prism of our current norms and understandings,” said one man.
“This is the world I grew up in. Glad we’re (somewhat) rid of this,” wrote one man from Perth.
“However, I think there are still a lot of people who still live in this paradigm of acceptability.”
Newcastle’s 2023 Day of Mourning event kicked off at 10am at the Customs House fountain and was followed by a walk down Wharf Road to ‘release’ sorry business
As frowned upon as it is, blackface seems to keep happening.
In September 2022, a Queensland football club came under investigation after a Mad Monday ‘blackface’ team photo was posted online showing players dressed as Michael Jordan and Usain Bolt.
The image, which featured representatives of the Highfields Eagles Rugby League Club in Toowoomba, appeared on the club’s Facebook page.
After community backlash, it was quickly removed.
Another notable difference was the complete absence of Australian flags from the visible spectators.
Most Australia Day events since about 2000 have featured Aussie flags plastered on everything from T-shirts to boardies, to sun hats and beach towels.