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Reality check on 'Australia' film -

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Reality check on 'Australia' film

The World Today - Tuesday, 7 October , 2008 12:34:00

Reporter: Zoie Jones

ELEANOR HALL: The government agency charged with selling Australia to the world is about to launch
an international advertising campaign based on the yet to be released Baz Luhrmann film,
"Australia".

The Hugh Jackman Nicole Kidman extravaganza is set in the Northern Territory and many top end
tourism operators are anticipating cashing in on the film.

But former stockmen who worked on Territory cattle stations at the time the film is set say the
mistreatment of Aboriginal employees is a story that won't be told.

In Darwin, Zoie Jones reports.

ZOIE JONES: It's an epic tale of the Australian frontier set in wild cattle country in the Northern
Territory.

In a unique marketing move, Tourism Australia has worked alongside the film's director Baz Luhrmann
to pitch Australia both the movie and the tourist destination to the world.

Geoff Buckley is Tourism Australia's Managing Director.

GEOFF BUCKLEY: In the words of Baz Luhrmann, the film is very much about transformation, about the
way in which the land and its people actually can transform you.

ZOIE JONES: It's hoped that Australia the film will trigger a tourism boom in much the same way
that Crocodile Dundee did.

From this week an ad directed by Baz Luhrmann will start screening internationally, in the lead up
to the film's release next month.

Geoff Buckley again.

GEOFF BUCKLEY: Lord of the Rings or the Da Vinci Code even out of Africa are all film that you can
look at over the years that have been leveraged by a country but not in my experience have I ever
heard of a film which has actually been named after the country and resonates so well with the
country's brand.

ZOIE JONES: Geoff, have you seen the film?

GEOFF BUCKLEY: No I've seen bits and pieces of it we're pretty comfortable that the sort of core
message that he's trying to impart through the movie will be something that will be very positive
for Australia.

ZOIE JONES: The film begins in the 1930s when a wealthy English woman played by Nicole Kidman takes
over a cattle station.

Around this time hundreds of Aboriginal men and women worked for white station owners in the
Territory, often for basic food rations, tobacco and little or no money.

It took the famous protest at the Wave Hill station in 1966 before Aboriginal station workers were
given fair pay.

Billy Bunter took part in the Wave Hill Walk-off and is one of the few men still alive who worked
for the British-owned Vesteys cattle company.

BILLY BUNTER: Treating human being like a dog. They were nasty people there you know. Treated like
a dog and we want the world to know.

ZOIE JONES: Billy Bunter now lives at the tip of the Tanami Desert. He's at the centre of a legal
claim to get back unpaid wages.

BILLY BUNTER: Work was really very difficult one you know. Starting grabbing horses around about
four o'clock in the morning. Knock off about six or seven sometime. And you know we didn't get
overtime pay.

ZOIE JONES: He also says the Aboriginal workers were treated as second-class citizens who weren't
allowed to ride in company cars and trucks.

BILLY BUNTER: When our people passed away we had to carry them and get a sheet of iron, you know
four people had to carry it two miles south to where the graveyard is.

They wouldn't allow Aboriginal people get on the front seat, not only in Wave Hill but in every
Vesteys station.

ZOIE JONES: While Billy Bunter hopes the film Australia will draw attention to the legal claim,
tourism operators in the Territory are hoping to cash in.

GRANT RUBOCK: Ok tighten up on that, luff that down.

Grant Rubock runs harbour cruises on an old pearl lugger named the Anniki that was used in the
film.

GRANT RUBOCK: Most of the scenes that were shot on this boat were Nicole arriving in Darwin from
England. Probably the most dramatic scenes were aboard this old girl.

ZOIE JONES: What do you think those scenes will mean in terms of tourism for your boat?

GRANT RUBOCK: In reality I think that it will bring people to Darwin. There are many, many
operators around the place at the moment who are over the moon about this going on. It can only do
us all good.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Darwin tourism operator Grant Rubock ending that report from Zoie Jones.