UNSW Art & Design's Elder in Residence Vic Chapman, longstanding member of teaching staff and seminal mentor within Indigenous arts and cultural communities, is about to have his life story shared in a new documentary produced by Matilda Films.
Uncle Vic, as he’s known to many on the Art & Design campus in Paddington, was the first Aboriginal person to qualify as a teacher in the New South Wales education system, later becoming the first Aboriginal principal appointed to a New South Wales public school.
He is now 85 years old and can say that he’s been actively involved in bettering the lives of Indigenous young people for more than 65 years.
For Chapman, "… education is the way out of the big hole into which we have fallen or been pushed. Particularly for Indigenous people, because we've gone through that period when regulations almost had monopoly control over the lives of Indigenous people. Regulation which stated with whom we could associate, where we could live, had control over our money, control over our kids.
"In the school system when I became a principal we had two handbooks which governed the conduct of schools. In the book related to personnel, it stated that a person of Indigenous descent could be barred from the public school system on the protest of one non-indigenous member of the community; and that was in the teachers' handbook up until 1972.
"When I got in a position of authority where I could have a say about what happened in a school situation, I would constantly remind my co-workers what a great responsibility they had to 'bend the twig'…”
The upcoming documentary has been commissioned by the New South Wales Teachers Federation and will feature interviews with Indigenous activists who have advocated for Aboriginal education over many decades. The documentary will be directed by Gillian Moody, Piers Grove, Xanon Murphy, and Paddy Gorman.
Matilda Films is a leading creator, producer and promoter of original Australian screen content. The stories they tell seek to capture the spirit of determination, mateship, and history that make Australia unique.