by Luke Voogt
The untold story of an Indigenous man who fought for Australia only to lose his traditional lands returns to Geelong on Remembrance Day.
Allan McDonald, who fought in some of WWI’s most famous campaigns, comes to life through great nephew and Gunditjmara actor Tom Molyneux in The Mission.
“This is a story about not giving up on what you believe in and fighting for justice, whatever the cost,” Molyneux told the Indy.
The play recreates the life of McDonald, who hailed from near Portland and was one of Victoria’s first Indigenous soldiers to enlist for the war.
The “fighting Gunditjmara” man fought at Gallipoli, the battle that created the ANZAC legend, and Beersheba, one of last great cavalry charges in history.
But when he returned to Australia, he was forced from his land at Lake Condah Mission by a government that had yet to recognise his people as citizens.
“Despite suffering extreme racism on his return to Australia, Allan fought for the rights of his Indigenous community,” Molyneux said.
After travelling 3000km to 13 venues across Victoria in a theatrical double bill, the Remembrance Day show was like a homecoming, according to conductor Joel Carnegie.
Carnegie plays the lead role in Stardust, the other half of the double bill.
“The tour has been pretty incredible, not just in terms of audiences that have come to see the show but in the way local communities are involved,” he said.
The show included ensembles from the towns they visited, with Geelong West Brass Band to take up the role next Monday.
James Jackson directs the piece, which Molyneux created in collaboration with Gunditjmara community members.
The play also features sound effects by Justin Gardam and the talents of lighting designer John Collopy.
But Molyneux’s ability to guide audiences through major moments in history through the eyes of McDonald was what set the play apart, according to Carnegie.
“Tom is an extraordinary actor and able to create those war scenes in a really compelling way,” he said.
“He has a pretty amazing way of building all the characters who were around Allan.”
The show plays for free at Courthouse Youth Arts as Geelong celebrates the 101st anniversary of the WWI Armistice.
“This show is all about remembering so it’s probably a perfect show to be playing on Remembrance Day,” Carnegie said.
While the show is free limited tickets are available, so bookings are essential.
Carnegie encouraged locals to get their tickets at www.courthouse.org.au.