No Sugar Jack Davis Essay Outline
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The Government Well Aboriginal Reserve. 1929. Not too far from Northam. Western Australia. Poverty runs rampant and the Millimurra-Munday family are not special. They too are despondent and filled with despair. The world was fighting a war with each other a decade before and the world is about to suffer from an economic collapse for the next decade. Looking around the Millimurra-Munday estate…you wouldn’t have the slightest idea about such things. The decision to cut back further on the rations provided to the aborigines by the Chief Protector of Aborigines Neville has absolutely nothing to with anything going on elsewhere. It’s an Australian thing.
One day Frank takes up new friend Jimmy Munday on his offer to come to his place for dinner. Frank is not Aboriginal; he’s a white man who used to work a farm. Doesn’t have a job now so a free dinner is not a bad idea at all. During the evening, Frank supplies Jimmy and Jimmy’s brother-in-law Sam with alcohol. Which just so happens to be a crime. The very next day Frank is charged for this crime and gets a sentence of six weeks in jail. Jimmy gets three months while Sam receives just a fine. In the wake of this incident, Sergeant Carrol receives orders to give the bum’s rush to the tribal population. They will be forcibly exiled from Government Well Reserve to Moore River Settlement. The stated reason for this move is protection against an outbreak of scabies. Everybody knows better. Even the matron at Moore River once she inspects the members of the family and discovers that no scabies are to be found.
Resistance is futile, but you have to fight. Until you have to give up and so the families make the movie to the Moore River Settlement where they fall under the authority of Superintendent Neal. Sam’s son Joe falls in love with Mary. Neal decides he is going to get Mary a position at the hospital. This upsets everyone because everybody pretty much knows that is code for Neal getting the underage girl into a position where he can molest her. So Joe and Mary make the decision to run away back to Government Well. No sooner does Supt. Neal get word of this than he orders a guy known not too affectionately as Billy the Tracker to track them. When Billy the Tracker trails the runaways to the train tracks, a scuffle ensues, but Joe manages to get the upperhand as well as well as getting Billy the Tracker’s hands into his own cuffs.
The celebration is short-lived. Upon reaching their destination, Joe and Mary discover to their horror that the camp has been utterly destroyed, forcing them to fend for themselves. When Sergeant Carrol discovers them, he decides to arrest Joe and send the now-pregnant Mary back to Moore River where is once again ordered by Neal to work in the hospital. When she refuses, he beat her with whip and afterward Mary escapes to stay with Joe’s family.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made for the big speech that Neville is expected to give in celebration of Australia Day. Coincident with listening to the speech is the heart attack that claims the life of Jimmy, an occurrence which has absolutely no emotional effect at all upon Supt. Neal.
Joe returns not long after Mary gives birth to their baby boy which he decides to name in honor of Jimmy. After seeing marks left on Mary by Neal’s whip, the two decide to file for permission to leave the settlement. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, Neal agrees to let the two leave; dependent, of course, on signing a statement clearly outlining his terms and conditions.
The trio head to Northam amid gifts and song.
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The stage drama No Sugar, by Jack Davis explores the bad treatment of minority groups and their responses to this treatment. The performance set in the 1930’s presents the Milimurra family who are the minority group fighting against the injustices inflicted on them by white authorities. No Sugar provides a voice for the aboriginal people, confronts European Australians with the past, restores Aboriginal culture and pride and explored the value of equality. All these ideas are used as a way to convey its message to the audience.
It appears that the stage performance of No Sugar provides the Aboriginal people with the voice they have lived without for decades. The Milimurra family are used in the play to represent the voice of the Aboriginal people who stand up against white authority. Milly and Gran who refuse to give in without a fight, go to the Sergeant and confront him about the reasons why their rations have been cut, and push for him to provide them with blankets. Characters such as Topsy and Billy are representations of those Aborigines who did not fight for their rights. These characters bowed down to white authority, Billy who does not speak his own language, but broken English is happy to work for the white authorities tracking down members of his own race who escape their clutches.
Milly’s response to the Sergeant when he tells her that her problem is she has three grown men budging off her, who are too lazy to work, is by asking him “Where they gonna get work?” she asks the Sergeant “Do you want em to work for nothing?” and Gran backs her up by saying “Their not slaves you know Chargent!” The staging is also used as an added technique to provide the aboriginal people with a voice, the white colonies are positioned on the outskirts of the stage and the Aborigines are given center stage, as a means to respond to their mistreatment in Australian society so many years ago.
No Sugar also confronts the European Australians with the past, the truth about the treatment of Aborigines and the injustices committed against them. Mary Dargaru exposes the treatment of Aboriginal women to the audience, through her conversations with Joe and her fears of working for Mr. Neal at the hospital. She tells Joe that when Mr. Neal asks a girl to work at the hospital it means he wants that girl for himself. The audience also learns through Mary that this is a common tragedy faced by Aboriginal girls at the time. After the birth of her child Mary is fearful that Matron will take her child away and provide it with the same fate as her friend Lillian’s baby, who was buried in the pine plantation. In order to escape these injustices Joe and Mary run away to Northam, when caught and returned to the Moore River Settlement, Mary responds by refusing to work at the hospital. Mary’s response gives her the desired outcome she wanted, but at a cost, Mr. Neal beats her, but not before Mary tells him “Go to hell.”
The stage performance restores the Aboriginal people with their pride and culture which were stolen from them so many years ago. Jimmy in Act one reveals the resentment the aboriginal people feel towards the whites. When Joe reads the newspaper article about the Australia Day celebration, Jimmy responds by saying “them bastards took our country and them blackfellas dancing for em bastards.” Later in the play the males of the Milimurra family engage in a Carobaree, this shows that they are not prepared to give in to the white authorities and allow them to take their culture and identity without a fight. The aboriginal people also use their own language throughout the play, indication to the audience their perseverance and determination not to give in.
The stage performance of No Sugar greatly explores the value of equality, presenting a contrast to the ideal equal world, and conveying the injustices and inequalities faced by the aboriginal people. It shows how the unemployment allowance for aboriginals was 2 shillings, whilst everyone else received 6 shillings. Use of props is also an affective medium in portraying certain inequalities, for example the sign for the Aboriginal department reads “The department of fisheries, wildlife and Aborigines”, this department also has two separate entrances, one for Aboriginals and one for Europeans. The Aboriginal people are not even allowed to consume alcohol.
Jimmy responds to these inequalities, by ignoring the signs and goes to talk to Neville when told to wait around the back he refuses to budge and waits until they give the train ticket he wants. Jimmy also chooses to ignore the alcohol restrictions. In doing so he is put on trial which arouses another injustice. His trial is not a fair one and the Justice of the Peace conveys the attitude that he would rather be somewhere else. Jimmy does not stop, he responds to further injustices in the courtroom by talking out of turn and attempting to defend himself, he also turns up late to the trial showing that he is not intimidated by white authority.
The stage performance of No Sugar presents the Aboriginal people as they were treated in the 1930’s they are presented as being an inferior race and this is an accurate representation of their treatment during this time period. The performance conveys the groups responses to their poor treatment and is used as a means to finally give these people their much deserved voice, confronting Australian with the horrible truth of the past, restoring culture and pride to the Aboriginal people and exploring the value of equality.