Face to Face — An Old Fella’s Perspective

by Dr. Laurie Crawford

The inspirational play Face to Face written by dynamic playwright Emily Wells takes the audience on a multi-faceted journey that embraces many of the social, political, and cultural issues impacting on the lives of First Nations peoples today, and it does so in a most delicate, subtle and non-confronting way and this in no way distracts from the seriousness of the issues raised.

TRUTH TELLING is now an accepted lexicon and Face to Face certainly falls into this category.

Face to Face depicts a cultural CONUNDRUM that confronts many of today’s First Nations peoples, both young and old, in defining their own destiny and how to successfully navigate this. Many of our contemporary First Nations adults and children have come too far to go back to live a First Nations cultural lifestyle but have not come far enough to be successful participants in the twenty first century and are floating around in a cultural vacuum trying to find their roots.

The main character in the play Leila objectively and realistically provides a complex story of a young First Nations girl’s ENCULTURATION into big city lifestyle, far removed from her rural local community. Leila has come to the realisation that the pathway she has chosen to successfully reach her dreams, ambitions, and aspirations necessitates the taking on the dominant white cultures’ norms, but at the same time maintaining and clinging to and holding on tightly to her cultural heritage, her cultural grounding that has made her a loud, proud, resilient Black woman.

Leila’s situation completely depicts and brings us face to face with what social scientists know as the BRAIN DRAIN, where young educated, articulate, motivated, and focused First Nations people, leave their local community to pursue their goals and aspirations, thus draining their local community of their skills, expertise, knowledge, and wisdom.

Despite Leila being perplexed by the significant sounds of city life, she maintains her drive to survive, adapt, adjust, and develop her city lifestyle survival skills and business acumen, completely showing and displaying her resilience, her determination, enthusiasm, and motivation to succeed at the white man’s game.

Deep down Leila realises that white fella way of life comes at an enormous cost of alienation from her cultural grounding, spiritual belonging and most importantly by her family and extended family. She fully comprehends that FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.

Just when Leila thinks she has everything under control along comes Maddie her niece, the human dynamo who brings us face to face with a brand new perspective on how and why a completely new black approach needs to be actioned to address todays social, political, cultural, human rights and social justice issues that still lag so far behind. Through Maddie we are brought Face to Face with the many social, political, and cultural imperatives impacting upon the lives of today’s First Nations peoples.

Although First Nations people have come a long way in achieving social justice, there is still an exceptionally long way to go to achieve acceptance and equality. One of Maddie’s many strong points is that we now need a whole innovative approach that gets way from a blaming the victim mentality to blaming the systemic structures and bureaucratic failures that have long dogged First Nations peoples. We now need to see things through black eyes and not just white eyes.

Little does Maddie realise that her combative approach is grounded in the countless battles by our marvellous Aboriginal Freedom Fighters and ancestors who fought over many years and are still fighting today for human rights and social justice. Despite the many battles fought they remain invisible, and their countless battles ignored.

Now, a young generation of articulate, focused and grounded First Nations people, like Maddie, rekindle the fighting spirit of our ancestors and Freedom Fighters in their fight for social justice and human rights, on a whole new battleground with a whole new battle plan. A plan to bring about the achievement of true self determination, breaking away from the Government’s old hand out syndrome and abolishing their band aid approach to First Nations affairs that is hidden in bureaucratic jargon.

Notwithstanding the complete difference of opinions and approaches taken by both Leila and Maddie that has the potential to fully explode into a whole new break up, destroying their relationship… family wins through.

No matter what the world throws at you, nothing can ever destroy the connection of family and extended family.  

Family will always remain family.

Dr. Laurie Crawford

Dip. T, B. Ed, M. Ed, Dr. Ed (Honoris Causa)