Dreaming in Prison: Indigenous Survival in Colonial Australia

At a time when there is a serious threat that remote indigenous communities could be shut down, at a time where there is a controversial “deal” to end native title, at a time of catastrophic rates of youth suicide, and at a time when young Aboriginal men are incarcerated at a rate four times greater than black South Africans at the height of apartheid, it may seem quixotic to focus on the plight of one small Aboriginal corporation in Western Australia. However, the situation faced by Robert and Selina Eggington of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation encapsulates the degrading situation faced by Australia’s First Nation people.

Through the activities of Dumbartung, the Eggingtons have been stalwart servants of their people for nearly 30 years. The offerings of Dumbartung have been multifarious, encompassing healing and cultural programs, the preservation of precious artefacts and historic artistic works, education programs, the organizing of groundbreaking cultural festivals, suicide prevention, political activism, and beyond. That their critical work is not being funded speaks volumes as to the state of Aboriginal affairs in Australia.

This, despite the fact that their hometown state of Western Australia has benefited from a mining boom and buoyant economy through even the worst of the Global Financial Crisis. The relative pittance that Dumbartung requires to provide its essential services is apparently not forthcoming from either the government or private sector.

The following is an in-depth interview with Robert and Selina Eggington, a mini-documentary produced by ImportantCool associate Karun Cowper, with thanks to Zebedee Parkes for camera work and David Sheehan for audio production.




As a counsellor and educator, Karun, from Perth, Australia, concentrated on mental health and suicide prevention, challenging orthodox biodeterminist approaches to care and wellness. Cowper coordinated social media for Occupy Perth, edited political zines, and got into journalism with Perth Indymedia on RTRFM, Western Australia’s most popular alternative radio station, reporting, producing, and hosting. Karun has covered the aboriginal suicide epidemic with a focus on the macropicture of issues of social justice, poverty among indigenous communities, and their general chastisement. He’s also covered the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Australian government’s complicity in the genocidal activity of the Indonesian government in West Papua New Guinea, and produced and conducted interviews with Anthony Loewenstein, Scott Ludlam, Richard Dennis, Julian Assange, Ken Colbung, (a highly revered indigenous community elder and healer who led an expedition to retrieve the head of one of his ancestors that had been kept in the United Kingdom) and other prominent figures.

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