Big Brother of Christmas Island


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1999, 55 Minutes. Exempt from classification.

Big Brother of Christmas Island documents the controversial life of Gordon Bennett and his role in the survival of Christmas Island and its people.

In the late 1970s a hard-drinking, fiery British immigrant called Gordon Bennett came to the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island to become General Secretary of the Union of Christmas Island Workers. By the time he died in 1991, he was known as ‘Tai Ko Seng’ which, roughly translated, means "big brother who delivers". Every year since his death, people gather on 30 July at the Island's Chinese cemetery, to pay tribute to Bennett as they would to their honoured ancestors. Big Brother of Christmas Island tells the moving story of how the legend of the "Tai Ko Seng" was born.

Phosphate-rich Christmas Island rears out of the Indian Ocean only ten degrees south of the equator. The British Phosphate Commission (BPC) ran the island like a Raj outpost, exploiting cheap Asian labour and practising a form of apartheid. Appalled at what he found, Bennett was determined to dismantle the archaic and racist institutions on the island.

In telling the story, we meet Australian citizens who were once indentured coolies on the island; lover Tracey Lim, who risked everything to work with Bennett; and family and friends who reveal the full brunt of the backlash against him, his increasing dependence on alcohol and the disintegration of his first marriage.

Most importantly, the film investigates the attempts by the company to crush the tiny union and shut down the mine and shows how Bennett and the Islanders fought back and won. 

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Wildfilm Australia Pty Ltd. Developed with the assistance of ScreenWest, Western Australian Film and Television Office. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Director: Mathew Kelly

Year: 1999

Running Time: 55 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Australian History; Globalisation; HSIE/SOSE - Immigration and Work; Industrial Relations; Trade Unionism; Work Studies.


Australian Biography: Jack Mundey

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SKU 199710500
Brand Film Australia

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