SpecialEdition

Evacuation

THE STORY SO FAR

While Darwin is evacuated, Nullah is sent to Mission Island, which is in the oncoming path of the Japanese.

INSPIRED BY THESE HISTORICAL EVENTS

Evacuation of children from island missions during the war.

While most white and Asian women and children were evacuated from Darwin by late December, little thought was given to the large Aboriginal population: they were expected to fend for themselves. When it became apparent that a Japanese attack was imminent, plans were made to evacuate the children from the island missions. Some were evacuated prior to the bombing but on the day of the bombing many remained. At our Lady of Victories Catholic Mission, which had been established in 1941 at Garden Point on Melville Island, only the girls were evacuated. The Priests at the mission made a decision that the boys would remain on the island, regardless of the war activity that was in action overhead.

During the extensive research period for the film, which spanned over two years, Baz tried to get clarity as to why the boys were left on the island when everyone else had been evacuated. Baz interviewed some of the boys, now grown men, but was still unable to get to the bottom of it. Upon hearing that Brother Edward Bennett was still alive, he flew in a small aircraft to Alice Springs and interviewed the then 92 year-old Catholic brother. When asked why they kept the boys on the island after all others had been evacuated and a Japanese attack looked imminent, Brother Bennett had this to say "Bill (Father Bill Conners) and I, we decided to stay to keep a presence…to keep the mission open…Once we went out, we wouldn't get back in." (Source: The Shadow's Edge: Australia's Northern War by Alan Powell and Baz Luhrmann interview with Brother Edward Bennett, conducted in Alice Springs 27th August 2005)

Claire Henty Gebert, who was in the Methodist Mission on Croker Island during the war, wrote "Six days before the first air raids on Darwin, the mission was warned to plan for the evacuation of women and children. A radio message was sent along the coast by the Methodist Overseas Mission advising that all missionaries' wives and children were to be evacuated. The message said that any other white women wanting to leave with them could do so. The evacuation for half-caste children was to come at a later date. This outraged some of the missionaries and they chose to stay with the ninety-six children on the island. Following the Bombing of Darwin, the missionaries were shocked to hear that cows were being evacuated from some parts of the north. They couldn't believe what they were hearing. They said they would have liked to ask if we ninety-six children in the path of enemy bombers weren't more important than cows." (Source: Paint Me Black by Claire Henty-Gebert)


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