Mar 26, 2013

(TheGrio) --- Unbeknownst to most, in the 1960s, a group of aboriginal Australian singers took the initiative and inspiration of the American civil rights movement, and made it a launch pad for their own self-liberation. That group was called The Sapphires, and their story has not been told until now.

In the new film The Sapphires, hitting theaters Friday, director Wayne Blair brings to the screen the tale of four indigenous women in Australia who form a country music group and embark on a journey to surpass the racist system that has hindered their advancement. Set in 1968, it’s a true story spotlighting a moment in one family’s life, as they find voice amidst a background of social unrest and defy a homeland where they are not even considered citizens.

“The correlation between the Aboriginal civil rights movement and the American civil rights movement is very close,” Blair tells theGrio. “Your 1961 Freedom Rides that you guys did over here – it was about people sitting on a bus – we mirrored those freedom rides. Black and white students did a similar thing; they rode a bus across the countryside of New South Wales, and came across racism at that time…We sent a couple of delegations over and talked to American Civil Rights leaders to see what you guys were doing. Those blueprints became the blueprints for our movements in Australia.”

As shown in the movie, aboriginals were considered second class in Australia, and the government would often removed lighter-skinned children from their families under the law to be placed in white homes and learn white ways. The indigenous population looked to the U.S. to find inspiration and hope in the struggle African-Americans were facing.

“When Dr. King passes away, that affected us, especially in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne,” Blair recalls. “Someone of color, who was our leader – that was sort of leading the world let alone the U.S.A. – to be assassinated like that was huge.”

It was a blow to Australia’s loudest protestors, but the movement continued and became an accent for The Sapphires’ initiative.



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