Author profile: Sam Watson

Sam WatsonSam Watson was born and raised in Brisbane. He is of the Munnenjarl and Biri Gubba tribal nations and he has blood ties to the Jagara, Kalkadoon and Noonuccal peoples.

He attended school at Mt.Gravatt in the 1960s and as a student he was active in the major political campaigns against the Vietnam War, the White Australia policy and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. He also marched against the Vietnam war and became involved with the core group of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders who established the first major Indigenous community service organisations in Brisbane. He was taught by people like Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Pastor Donald Brady, Uncle Don Davidson, Uncle Steve Mam and others. He quickly left the university to work full time with the Tribal Council and later organisations that delivered help to the Indigenous community in the areas of health, housing, education, employment and legal aid. He and Dennis Walker launched the Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971 that acted as a political spearhead for the ever expanding black movement.

Sam was a foundation member of a number of key Aboriginal and Islander community organisations and programs, and has served as a full time staff member for the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra. He was also active in expanding the reach of those organisations throughout the state and across the nation.

Throughout the 1970s Sam marched and fought and protested against State and Federal governments and then in the 1980s he chose to move to Caboolture where he took up writing and produced his first novel, The Kadaitcha Sung (Penguin, 1990). Following this Sam won the National Indigenous Writer of the Year Award in 1991 and his novel was short listed for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award.

In the early 1990s Sam moved back to Brisbane and became involved with the State and Federal Indigenous legal services. He was a co-founder of the first Aboriginal and Islander political party (The Australian Indigenous Peoples Party) and contested elections at both State and Federal elections.

In 1994 Sam wrote and co-produced his first film, Black Man Down, that was included in the award winning Sand to Celluloid collection of indigenous short films, screened to audiences across the globe.

In the past decade Sam has firmed up his relationship with the broader activist community and is a founding member of the new Socialist Alliance Party. He has contested senate elections as the lead candidate for Queensland and has fought for a Treaty between the Australian government and the Indigenous peoples of this land.

In recent years Sam has worked for Reconciliation, the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He is the Deputy Director of the Aboriginal and Islander Studies Unit at the University of Queensland, where he teaches courses in Black Australian Literature and Black Australian Politics. He also works as an adviser and cultural writer for film and television.

About Sam Watson’s play The Mack:

The Mack is Sam Watson’s first venture into writing for the stage and he believes that live theatre is the most appropriate and sympathetic environment for true Aboriginal storytelling.

‘At the core of Aboriginal culture is the story. We have all been prepared for the challenges of life by our grandparents and uncles and aunties, by being told the stories of our people’, says Sam Watson. ‘And those stories are best told by Aboriginal people performing in a close setting with a live audience.’

The Mack tells the story of a Murri family that lives and works in inner-city Brisbane. The family is now under extreme pressure as the leaders—Nanna and the grizzled veteran Bullock—are soon going back to their tribal homelands to attend to sacred cultural business. A fatal car accident has robbed the family of its next leader and the surviving son, Peacey, must now assume his rightful place as head of the Mack family. He must then guide them and advise them and protect them as the new Mack.

‘Every single Murri man, woman and child, are the keepers and custodians of our family stories. The Mack brings into play a number of events and experiences that we have all shared,’  says Sam. ‘This play unfolds around universal themes that resonate within most Murri families.’

This play also presents the broader audience with a window into previously unknown and secret Murri cultural business that provides an enormous sense of tension to the drama on the stage.

‘Even as a tribe that has lived and worked in a world of bitumen and concrete, we are all products of ancient and secret mysteries, that will be presented with all due respect and cultural sensitivity,’ Sam has said.

An angry and resentful Murri man in a wheelchair, a violent and hate filled policeman who is dedicated to the destruction of the Macks, a woman unhinged and searching for something that no longer lives in this world, and a powerful and deadly sorcerer who now comes hunting—The Mack is a play that is truly like no other…