Family Confidential featured in National Indigenous Times

Thursday 9/12/2010

 

Mundine family to feature on ABC

The story of the powerful Mundine family, known largely through the_ controversial public figure of champion boxer, Anthony "Choe" Mundine, begins with a remarkable act of generosity 60 years ago. The owners of the northern NSW cattle station, where the Mundines lived and worked, gave the family 50 acres of land to call their own. This gave them an extraordinary advantage over many others in their community. Owning the land saved the family from untold suffering and dispossession by the Aboriginal Protection Board. Then, an asbestos mine was opened right next door and there was suddenly plenty of work close to home.

But in an ironic twist, the land that gave them their strength is now the cause of their undoing. Love them or hate them, the· Mundines are perhaps Australia's most high profile and powerful Aboriginal family. This film reveals for the first time the story of the cursed
source of the Mundine family's power

Over 60 years ·ago, in an extraordinary gesture that changed their lives forever, the Mundines were given a piece of land by their employer, Sam Horden, the owner of Yugilbar Cattle Station on the Clarence River in northern New South Wales. It was 50 acres of private property in Baryulgil, near Grafton, known as "The Square", where they built homes and brought up their children. The land was fenced and gated and it kept the family out of the hands of the Aboriginal Protection Board which was busy faking Aboriginal children and families away. Owning land helped the Mundine family become especially strong and self-reliant. They were especially delighted when an asbestos mine was opened right next door. Most of the men went to work there and with steady employment close to home, the growing, extended family flourished. Asbestos became an integral part of their lives. They used cheap asbestos sheeting to build their houses; asbestos tailings were used to fill their roads, gardens, and even the children's sandpits; recycled hessian bags from the mine made warm bed coverings and curtains. Asbestos dust was everywhere, and for the next 30 years they were blissfully unaware of its devastating. effect.
Instead, a new generation grew up with the confidence and means to move to the city and build exciting new futures. Leading the charge was Tony Mundine, who became a world champion boxer .md put the family and Baryulgil, on the map.

But gradually the Mundines became aware that for all their success, something was terribly wrong. One by one, the older members of their family were falling ill and dying horrible deaths well before their time, including Tony's parents, sisters and brother. In .an ironic twist of fate, the land that had given them so much was slowly but surely killing them. But it wasn't until 1977, when the story became public, that they realised they were dying from a killer disease, asbestosis.

Now, the Mundine women, who've held the family pain for over 30 years, are finally telling their story. They've lost hundreds of their family and 30 years after the closure of the mine, many are still getting sick and dying. Led by Tony, and his son, Choe, the family is facing the fight of their lives. Today most of them have moved away from the Square. But, despite all the deaths and the sadness, many family members are still drawn back to that land that will always be their home.

This amazing story will be screened on Family Confidential on the ABC on Monday 20 December.