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Troubled Waters

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SKU: SG138

This thoughtful and challenging documentary tackles a complex topic of ongoing importance: Australia's attitude towards and treatment of Indonesian fishermen. According to the film and related research, Australia's strict fishery protection laws are forcing poor fishermen to turn to people smuggling instead. Troubled Waters gives the fisher folk a chance to put their side of the story and it is very different from the one portrayed in most Australian media.
These fishermen come from the tiny island of Roti, off the coast of West Timor. It's seventy-five miles from their village, Papela, to Ashmore Reef, and it's two hundred miles from the reef to Broome in Western Australia. In 1979, Australia passed a law extending its territorial waters to two hundred nautical miles. This encroached onto the traditional fishing grounds of the West Timorese and South East Sulawesi people, who had been fishing these grounds for over three hundred years. This situation was made worse by a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Indonesia and Australia in 1982, allowing 'traditional' fishing to continue only in a small, defined area. The current definition of 'traditional' means that these fishermen are denied access to life-saving equipment such as radar, motors or electronic navigation equipment. One hundred and fifty fishermen from Papela alone have died at sea in the past ten years. As one concerned Australian commented, they have been 'frozen in time' by this law, which is 'unfair and risky'. In Troubled Waters, we hear the voices of the fishermen and their wives, as well as the opinions of the Australians charged with arresting them and others trying to defend them. The result is a thought-provoking documentary that should be widely seen and discussed. Some of the key issues and themes raised by this video are addressed in this guide.

Curriculum Links
This documentary is suitable for senior secondary and tertiary students, as well as concerned community groups. It is relevant to Legal Studies, Justice Studies, Studies of Society and Environment, Australian History, Cultural Studies, Geography, English and Media Studies.


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