Refugees. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, however this one word is enough to illicit a thousand reactions.
‘The Merger’ premiered in the Riverina last week. This Australian movie, filmed in the Riverina, is an unpretentious and comedic representation of the Australian spirit.
It represents the notion of how towns, like Wagga and Griffith, embrace different cultures and accept refugees and migrants into our culture. It also showcases how, while this welcoming is considered ‘the norm,’ many know people in our towns who are afraid of change.
Afraid of how ‘our culture’ is changing as a result of accepting ‘these people’ into our sporting teams, working in our cafes and restaurants, and owning businesses down ‘our street.’
Upon reflection, does Australia really, truly embrace its own multiculturalism? In the past, many would have answered yes. While US President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their families at the Mexican border sparking outrage in recent months, Australia is far from blameless. In our nation, the detention of asylum-seeker children has a long and brutal history.
Rooted in the sort of fear-mongering rhetoric and lack of understanding that is pushing itself deeper and deeper into the Australian mainstream, ‘The Merger’ arrives at just the right time.
The film’s Bodgy Creek is a struggling town. The drought won’t let up, jobs are scarce, and the footy team has to merge with another club or fold, characters team up with a refugee support centre to recruit new arrivals to save the team.
Some say education about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees is enough to help people understand and accept. Australians are a quirky lot, it’s true. However sometimes ‘Aussie’ films are so stereotypical and exaggerated that they miss the mark.
But with the successes of ‘The Merger’ so far and its seeming impact on young and old alike, maybe all we need is true-blue, fair-dinkum Aussie entertainment like this to recognise the human in everyone. Refugees are people with their own lived experiences, not only with hopes, wishes and dreams of their own, but, like everyone else on the planet, are just trying to battle through day-to-day life.
Everyone recognises a try-hard film. Maybe that’s why this movie is so successful – it’s not trying to push acceptance down our throats with Aussie cliches. It’s just a story about a footy team trying to keep it together.