“Silence is violence; complacency is complicity,” Wyatt said.
The monologue quickly attracted widespread praise with high-profile figures including businesswoman Lucy Turnbull, television presenter Julia Zemiro, former footballer Craig Foster and former Victorian politician Rob Hulls sharing the video and urging others to watch, listen and share.
“People could see it was authentic, it was me speaking to camera, it was me talking. I was venting a lot of frustrations… this has been a thing I’ve had to deal with all my life. It’s like the inside of a pressure cooker,” Wyatt says.
Best-known for his work on Mystery Road, The Sapphires and Neighbours, Wyatt wrote the semi-autobiographical play, City of Gold, in 2017. It was staged in Brisbane and Sydney last year and after Monday night’s broadcast, there have been calls for it to tour nationally.
Showing how he felt for a national audience on Monday night was deliberate, Wyatt says. Past experience has shown that being polite doesn’t work.
“People feel defensive when anger is expressed, they feel like it’s an attack, but in education, anger needs to be there – because the message needs to get through.”
Seeing Leetona Dungay, whose son David died in custody, and another mother whose son was knocked to the ground by a police officer in Sydney last week (who was not named), in the front row of the show’s audience made him even more aware of what was at stake.
Awareness about racism comes early when you are Indigenous, he says. When you are very young, your parents sit you down and tell you that there are going to be people in your life who just don’t like you, that’s just something you have to deal with. “They’re never going to like you but it’s the truth and reality – you grow a thick skin very early.”
Growing up in Kalgoorlie, Wyatt and his friends from as young as 10 were regularly stopped by police and interrogated about what they were doing, where they were going. That has continued through his life, wherever he is in Australia. “It’s racial profiling to the highest degree,” he says.
His speaks about his father, who he says for no apparent reason was held down and kicked in the face, then beaten by seven police in Laverton, WA, in 1974.
While there has been “an overwhelmingly positive response” to Monday night, Wyatt also knows that there has been pushback. “I prewarned my family, logoff – I’m going to get heat.
“It’s an occupational hazard, [having] a platform and being Indigenous.”
The process is exhausting too, Wyatt says, but you rest and recharge, in readiness for the next fight.
While many around the country have expressed support for Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, it has highlighted racial issues much closer to home.
Kerrie is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald