National Therapy Session

I’ve circled around this sun 46 times now and I must say that the last two years of my life have been the most transformational.

Dean Gibson

Two years ago, I walked into a therapy session for the first time in my life and began to unload. I’ll never forget that first session. It was a 45min drive that contained numerous outbursts of fear resulting in contemplating cancelling and going back home. But I didn’t – I arrived and patiently waited.

As I waited in the hot seat I could feel my body physically trying to fight my mind to leave. I could feel my throat dry up, my limbs stiffened up, my heart rate was rising as I could sense a shortness in my breath. I didn’t know what was ahead of me – but deep down I knew it was necessary. 

See for me, like many of us we build up this expectation that we must have our lives together and that we must portray a certain image to my family and friends. But the truth was, that on the inside I needed to deal with some hard truths. So then walked in the therapist and after we dealt with the small talk - I began to lay it all out. At first, I thought the flow would be nothing more than trickle, but quickly and surprisingly easy – it became a strong flowing river.

It’s no mistake that in the midst of this, I was working on developing the film concept for Incarceration Nation – a film about truth. And having grown up going to Sunday School, one line from the bible resonated with me – “the truth will set you free”.

For me, Incarceration Nation is just like that drive I did to my first therapy session. It represents a chapter in our nation when we know something is not right. We know that there’s a block that needs working through and yet the first steps to truly understanding just feel too hard and can feel overwhelming.

For what it’s worth, I reckon you’ve got this Australia – I’ve seen you step up for the defining moments in history.  For what it’s worth, I reckon you’ve got the courage, strength and compassion. We saw it on the shores of Gallipoli, through to our natural disasters and the community responses. We clearly have it in us to do and be better on all fronts. 

So, it’s time to take that hot seat in the therapy room, Australia. 

Today, thousands of Aboriginal people across Australia wake behind the bars of our prisons: Aboriginal children waking in juvenile detention centres away from their family; Aboriginal women waking up in women’s prisons away from their children; and Aboriginal men waking in high security prisons, thousands of kilometres away from their communities and their lands. 

The recent explosion of Aboriginal incarceration numbers is beyond belief, leaving communities and governments scrambling for solutions. The numbers are mind-blowing. In the 2016 Australian Census, Aboriginal people accounted for 2% of the population. Sadly, they accounted for 27% of the prison population. Even worse, all the trends are going up.

For those in mainstream Australia who have been paying attention, this crisis has felt like an overnight catastrophe linked to alcohol and unemployment. But the reality behind Aboriginal incarceration tells a different story, a story that dates back well beyond the advent of modern prisons, government programs and support services. 

Incarceration Nation will tell that story – the tragic story of the systematic injustice and oppression of Aboriginal people since European settlement. This film will take its audience on a journey back into our dark past and spotlight the concept of incarceration from an Aboriginal perspective. Many things have changed, but many stay the same.  We will take its audience across the country to witness many of the personal stories and people affected by this modern national catastrophe. We will see the first-hand devastation, meet people trying to make a difference, and talk to some of our nation’s brightest minds.

Incarceration Nation will be tough viewing, but it will be necessary to move forward and confront the truth.

Because without the truth, we’ll never really be free.

Watch Incarceration Nation now on NITV/SBS On Demand

Dean Gibson

Dean is a multi-award-winning Aboriginal filmmaker with more than 12 years of experience in documentary and drama. Director of Bacon Factory Films (baconfactoryfilms.com) and most recently wrote and directed the multi-award-winning feature documentary Wik vs Queensland. Dean also co-created and ran a program for emerging Indigenous filmmakers in 2014, called The Production Line, as part of his passion for helping others to have opportunities in the industry. He is a passionate creative who believes in the power of stories for change.