Welcome to Australia

Welcome to Australia is a 1999 Carlton Television documentary, written and presented by John Pilger and directed and produced by Alan Lowery that demonstrates the injustices endured by Aboriginal Australian sportsmen and women who were, until recently, denied a place on Australia's olympic teams.[1][2]

Welcome to Australia
Title card
Directed byAlan Lowery
Written byJohn Pilger
Produced byJohn Pilger
Alan Lowery
StarringJohn Pilger
CinematographyPreston Clothier
Edited byAndrew Denny
Music byDominic Murcott
James Ambler
Release date
  • 1999 (1999)
Running time
50 minutes


In the build-up to the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, Pilger finds that the elaborate preparations for the Olympics are overshadowing the reality of many Australia's Aborigines, who he argues continue to remain excluded, impoverished and mistreated in Australia.[2][3] The film uses sport as a mechanism to draw attention to and tell the story of the injustices endured by Aboriginal Australians while also arguing that Aboriginal Australians could have had a much more significant impact on Australian sport if they had not been deliberately prevented from doing so.[4][5]

The documentary mentions the official recognition of the stolen generations with the release of the Human Rights Commission report Bringing Them Home. It reports on the ongoing prevalence of the eye disease trachoma within the Aboriginal community and the fact that Aboriginal life expectancy is 25 years less than for whites. Pilger says: "Civilisations are judged by how they treat all their people, especially the most vulnerable, who are often the bravest... Why is it not possible for a nation’s leaders to behave honourably towards less than 2 per cent of the population?"[6]


Much of the information presented in Welcome to Australia comes from a book called 'Obstacle Race: Aborigines in Sport', written in 1995 by Colin Tatz. His view of Australia's treatment of Aboriginal athletes and the impoverished conditions faced by many Aboriginal Australians in 1999 lead Tatz to declare that Australia was not worthy of hosting the 2000 Olympics. Tatz argues that if China had made an issue of Australia's human rights record in the way in which Australia chose to make China's human rights an issue, it is unlikely that Australia would have been selected to host the games.[4][7]


"Whatever one may think of Pilger's style," stated Richard Ackland of ABC's Media Watch, "his film reminded us of a shameful and tragic history".[8]


Ceremony Category Year Result
New York Festivals TV Programming & Promotion Competition National/International Affairs 1999 Won[9]
WorldFest - Flagstaff Television Documentary & Information Programme: Political/International Issues 2000 Won[9]


  1. ^ "Welcome to Australia". johnpilger.com. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Welcome To Australia". Top Documentary Films. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Documentaries That Changed The World - Vol. 2: John Pilger's Australia". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Heritage Sports At The Royal Shows". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  5. ^ Maume, Chris (4 September 1999). "Sport on TV: Shameful past of Australia's forgotten black athletes". The Independent. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Welcome to Australia". johnpilger.com. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Welcome to another Australia". New Statesman. 11 October 1999. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  8. ^ "John Pilger's "Welcome to Australia"". ABC Media Watch. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  9. ^ a b "John Pilger's Awards". Global Information Services. Retrieved 22 December 2014.

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