Australia is a film about a red dog

not so much extraordinary but merely in touch with the emotional ebbs and flow of the Pilbara ... you’re left with the feeling that it’s the legend that counts, not the real thing.’ – Mark Naglazas in the West Australian

Dogs float here with the first boat people to become dingoes
but Gadiya design you to round up stock & name Dampier after a pirate.
In 1861 they invade
& kill a big mob of Yaburara when a policeman is speared.

Hooves pockmark the red earth’s skin
then they build a port to take tons of country to Japan.
Now Rio Tinto sends ships every day to China
& aims for 333 million tons a year.

Homeless men drive monsters that eat Marga ancestors turned to iron
ore & don’t know why they feel so bad in this place.
No one needs working kelpies here.
You try to fit them in your pack. Most go for grog.

At nearby Murujuga, which means ‘hip bone sticking out,’
(Woodside names it Burrup Peninsula, after a Gadiya killed in 1885)
they pipe gas under the sea to a plant among thousands of stories
on rocks Marga etched millennia ago, that chemical fumes erode.

In the movie you adopt an American, John Grant,
played by Josh Lucas, based on a bloke in Bernierès’ book,
modelled on a company bus driver John Stazzonelli, who died in 1975,
after Col Cummings named you Tally Ho in 1971.

Our Red in Canberra loves Yanks too & sends soldiers to die
for democracy in Afghanistan, like we did in Vietnam.
You steal food, fight heaps, fart noxiously & sire many pups.
The film makes you fight a cat and fart once.

It leaves the Yaburara and Ngarluma mobs
on the cutting room floor & makes sure
Koko as you is a shoo in for best shaggy dog.
Grant rides his Harley to work after nookie, hits a roo, and skids.

We don’t see the face of the only (dead) native in ninety minutes
probably played by a stuffed toy from props
(you can’t really count the shark that mauls Bill Hunter’s leg
& doesn’t get a mouthful of Jocko the reluctant suicide).

Was it the cat-loving caravan park owner who poisoned you?
With WA and the Feds putting up the seed funding
no surprise it makes mining beautiful
with upbeat tracks from Skyhooks and Daddy Cool.

Campbell Thomson

Campbell Thomson is a Melbourne writer, artist and barrister. He used to talk about films on ABC local radio.

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