Aboriginal kids cling to the fence that keeps them out of the pool area. In the pool, Koorine (Carrie Prosser) races a young girl (Megan Drury). They talk about being like Dawn Fraser and Esther Williams. Koorine’s friend convinces her to sign up for the annual competition and introduces her to Eleanor (Celia Keane), who calls the Aboriginal kids outside the fence ‘a bunch of monkeys’. Koorine talks to her mother (Tess Leahy) about being a swimmer like her heroes. Her mother tells her that swimming is for white fellas.
Summary by Romaine Moreton
Koorine is a character who for the moment is tempted by white privilege, and exploits her ability to pass as a white person. The class divide and the restriction of dreams imposed upon Koorine as a consequence of racism, is echoed in this clip.
A short drama, set in the 1950s, about an Aboriginal girl Koorine (Carrie Prosser) who is fair skinned and gains access to the local swimming pool where Aboriginal people are legally denied access.
Two Bob Mermaid is the directorial debut of Darlene Johnson. It is the story of Koorine (Carrie Prosser), a fair skinned Indigenous girl who ‘passes’ – allowing people to think you are white. Koorine dreams of becoming a famous swimmer. The title of the film refers to Esther William’s film Million Dollar Mermaid, a 'two bob’ mermaid creating a correlation between class and dreams. In order to achieve her dream Koorine lets the townspeople think that she is white so that she can gain access to the local swimming pool from which Aboriginal peoples are banned.
Two Bob Mermaid is visually stunning, and Johnson manages to tell quite a political story through the eyes of a child, whose innocent tendency to dream is restricted by the political restrictions imposed upon Aboriginal people during the period the film is set (1950s). The banning from swimming pools was a reality for Indigenous people up until racism was outlawed in Australia. Dr Charles Perkins during the Freedom Rides of 1967 encouraged Indigenous people to fight the bans. Indigenous peoples were made citizens of this country after the 1967 referendum.
Notes by Romaine Moreton
This clip shows Koorine (Carrie Prosser), a young Indigenous girl whose Indigenous identity is unknown to her school friends. Koorine lives in 1957 in a rural town where Aboriginal people are excluded from the swimming pool. After a race in the pool Koorine and her friend decide to enter a swimming carnival. In subsequent scenes Koorine hides her Indigenous identity from her friends by ignoring her brother, who calls her Tidda – meaning sister, and by not openly responding to racist comments made by her friends. At home when Koorine talks to her Aboriginal mother (Tessa Leahy) about her dream of being a great swimmer her mother replies: ‘Swimmin’ ... that’s for white fellas’.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia