Living in the Shadows is an introduction to an ongoing project exploring the Barkindji Aboriginal community of Wilcannia, New South Wales, Australia.
The Barkindji live in the deep shadows of stereotype attached to being indigenous in Australia. Despite being
the traditional keepers of one of the most prosperous countries on earth, they endure conditions comparable to a third world nation. They have been left behind by mainstream Australia, casualties of dark history, institutionalized racism and a vast socio-economic divide.
Wilcannia's men have an average life expectancy of only 35yrs. The rate of domestic violence is 13 times that of other Australian communities. The unemployment rate hovers over 50% and the infant mortality rate is 3 times higher than in non-aboriginal communities. The town, like so many others, has become a welfare state, dependent upon government subsidies for survival.
The goal of this work is to explore not only the challenges of the Barkindji, but also to cast light on the cultural fabric that remains despite these challenges. Informing the project is a belief that for many Australians, the plight of Aboriginal people rests on their own shoulders, the past forgotten and the Barkindji responsible for their own suffering. It is in this light that stereotypes become dissociated from their root causes and serve to erode empathy from those that have gained from the loss of the Aboriginal people.