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Rainbows End

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Our interpretation of belonging varies as we all have different views about the feeling of being accepted, comfortable in a group or sharing a connection towards something. The concept of belonging and not belonging differ and are shaped by his or her personal, cultural, historical and social context. The prescribed text ‘Rainbow’s End’ by Jane Harrison and the related text ‘Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta’ directed by Jacob Hickey are composed of many different aspects of belonging which gives the viewer a greater and in-depth understanding of belonging and not belonging.

The main themes include racism, alienation, discrimination and isolation which associate with the concept of belonging as it focuses and supports the idea of fitting into society. Although both texts are set in different historical times, they both expand on the same misadventure when people living on the ‘fringe’ had to deal with the exclusion and judgements by the white people. In today’s society, our perception of belonging and not belonging has changed over time where people now understand the sense of being included, being known or connected to something.

The play ‘Rainbow’s End’ by Jane Harrison explores the aspects of acceptance in society, relationships and how personality can shape our perception of belonging and not belonging. It allows the reader to grasp the image of the disconnection Aborigines had to come to terms with during the 1950s. An Aboriginal family of three women, Nan Dear, Gladys and Dolly who own a humpy on floodplains with the rest of the Aboriginal community are all forced to live on the fringe. This was influenced by historical and social contexts due to the white society that segregated the communities and prevented the Aboriginals to be accepted.

Dolly, who is an Aboriginal teenager, faces racism throughout the play where she struggles with the terms of rejection because of where she comes from. She is frustrated knowing that she has to live on the fringe for the rest of her life and then becomes keen to be accepted and be equally a part of society. Dolly releases her frustration on her mother Gladys where she says, “What do you want from me mum? Do you want me to walk like them, talk like them…? ” We can see that she desires acceptance because she desperately wants to belong.

The Australian documentary television series directed by Jacob Hickey ‘Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta’ explores the concept of multiculturalism, racism and discrimination that were experienced by the new arrivals or also known as the Vietnamese refugees. Belonging plays a huge role because the feeling of not belonging is the reason that leads to such horrific stories which are told in the interviews. The Vietnamese refugees that found a new home in Cabramatta were withdrawn from society where every day was a constant battle to keep their families well and fed.

Not having many job opportunities open for them made it more difficult to be financially stable which is why many decided to earn money by selling drugs. The sense of belonging was crucial for the new arrivals because the social context kept them from being accepted due to the racism and discrimination they experienced upon arriving in Australia. The issue of racism in Jane Harrison’s Rainbow’s End, clearly examines the segregation between the whitefellas and the Aboriginal community where the Aborigines were forced to live on the fringe.

The problem is that the aspects of racism stops or excludes all Aboriginals to bond and be accepted into the wider community leaving them to be isolated. It is clear that the Dear family living in The Flats already gives the reader the impression that they don’t belong where it is far away from the white community. This clearly shows that the Dear family are estranged living on the fringe. Those who don’t belong seem to change or do whatever it takes to feel connected to something or have a sense of their true identity.

In the documentary Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, the victims who lived through the stage of being neglected from society tells their stories of how they lived and how they coped being outcasts when first arriving in Australia. Joe Le is one of the many Vietnamese refugees whose personal story embodies the community’s dark journey through the 1980s and ’90s. Before Joe tells his story of his early stages of arrival in Australia in the interview, he expresses himself in a quote.

“Cabramatta is like a tattoo. A tattoo I can’t get rid of. Due to Joe experiencing racism upon arriving in Australia, he always felt neglected by the white society as during this time, it wasn’t very multicultural. The Vietnamese refugees felt rejected and disconnected as they hoped Australia would be a new chapter of their lives. This documentary explores the concept of racism and alienation which were faced by the new arrivals reflecting Australia’s wider struggles with multiculturalism. Belonging provides security and direction for a human which also leads to acceptance in society. If we choose not to belong, we begin to segregate ourselves away rom what we need to be a part of and that is a main priority in our lives.

Through age and maturity, an individual’s perception of belonging and not belonging definitely changes by personal, cultural, historical and social context. The aspects of belonging and not belonging are important factors in Jane Harrison’s Rainbow’s End and Jacob Hickey’s documentary Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta where Aborigines and Vietnamese refugees had to overcome hardship where they were experiencing the themes of racism, discrimination alienation and isolation by the white community in which now became accepted into multicultural Australia.

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