Actor Simon Baker has said now is the time for Australians to reflect on the trauma felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the British colonisation of the country.
His new film, ‘High Ground’, challenges accepted notions of Australia’s settlement, and the 51-year-old said he hopes “white Australians” will “absorb some of the guilt and shame” caused in the past, especially after a tumultuous year that’s seen the Black Lives Matter movement become part of the global conversation.
“I think there’s an appetite to look into some of the wounds of the past and absorb some of the guilt and shame, and accept and understand the anger and the grief associated with that,” Simon told HuffPost Australia over the phone.
He said it’s important “for white Australians to definitely understand the pain that we have caused, and also acknowledge and respect the depth and the richness of the culture from the oldest existing civilisations on the planet and the Indigenous culture that existed here for 60,000 years”.
When the British colonised Australia in 1788, Indigenous people were victims of violence, forcibly removed from homes, separated from family and placed in missions and reserves. As a result, many were unable to continue cultural traditions and protect the land, a spiritual duty. The displacement continues to traumatise Aboriginal people.
‘High Ground’, filmed on Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, is set in 1919. Simon’s character, Travis, is a World War I sniper turned policeman whose control of an operation spiraled out, resulting in the massacre of an Indigenous tribe. He left as his superiors tried to bury the truth, but returned 12 years later in the hunt for outlaw Baywara, an Aboriginal warrior who is attacking new settlers.
Travis recruits Gutjuk (played by newcomer Jacob Junior Nayinggul) as his tracker, later realising that the young mission-raised First Nations man is the only known survivor of the...