Australia On Trial
Presented by historian Michael Cathcart, Australia on Trial is a thought‐provoking three‐part series recreating the historic trials that throw light on the Australia of colonial times.
These high‐profile and controversial court cases raised major issues of national identity at a time when Australia was evolving from the dominion of the British Empire into a more autonomous federated nation in the late 19th century. But they also raised universal themes and concerns that still resonate in modern‐day Australia. Each of the three episodes covers a separate trial, which triggered unprecedented social and political debate about subjects at the very heart of Australian society: democracy and justice, the identity and behaviour of Australian men, and attitudes towards women and Indigenous people. As well as witnessing the drama and intensity of the courtroom, we see flashbacks of the circumstances of each alleged crime and hear from key characters (journalists, politicians, etc) to see the ‘bigger picture’ surrounding each case.
Ep 1 - The Mount Rennie Outrage
We witness the 1886 trial of 11 Sydney ‘larrikins’ charged with a gang rape of a 16‐year old orphan, Mary Jane Hicks. This horrific crime came at a pivotal point in NSW history, emblematic of the changes taking place in Sydney at the time with rapid urbanisation and unemployment. The court case put Australian youth, masculinity and violence towards women under the spotlight as never before.
Ep 2 - The Eureka 13
This program recreates the 1855 trial of The Eureka 13 – the case 13 ‘diggers’ detained six weeks after the Eureka uprising and ordered to stand trial in Melbourne for treason. The ensuing court case would fuel public demand for popular democracy and lead to major changes in the Victorian constitution.
Ep 3 - Massacre at Myall Creek
We see the trials in 1838 of seven European settlers involved in the killing of about 30 unarmed Aborigines in northern NSW. The massacre was sadly indicative of the white people’s aggressive attitudes towards Indigenous people in the region and raised major questions about the settler’s relationship with Aborigines in general.
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