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2009, 2 x 54 Minutes

Historian Michael Cathcart tells the epic story of how the colourful characters of early colonial Australia transformed a penal settlement into a land with rights and opportunity in a mere 40 years. This sweeping two-part dramatised documentary covers formative events in Australia’s history, including the Rum Rebellion and early court cases, which established independence and civil rights for all settlers. Rogue Nation explores how a fledgling colony on the wrong side of the globe was rapidly transformed from a place of punishment to a place of opportunity; a confident and prosperous community.

It examines the fight for power and control between two powerful interest groups—the wealthy and entrepreneurial landowners and the offspring of convict settlers who took on the governors appointed by the Colonial Office in London. Rogue Nation introduces well known figures including pastoralist John Macarthur, barrister and newspaper proprietor William Wentworth, and Governors William Bligh, Lachlan Macquarie and Ralph Darling. And it shows how a handful of driven, anti-authoritarian and fiercely independent men saw off several British governors, encouraged upheaval and learnt the art of politics - discovering that debates, pressure groups and propaganda could change governments and shape policy. In doing so, they helped to lay the foundations of the prosperous liberal democracy of Australia.


Honour Among Thieves Historian Michael Cathcart introduces John Macarthur and the powerful faction of landowners, entrepreneurs and local military who take on Governor William Bligh and trigger Australia’s only military coup, the Rum Rebellion of 1808.

Set in colonial Sydney from the 1790s, the first part of the dramatised documentary history series Rogue Nation delves into the struggle for power and control between ambitious landowners and the colony’s British governors.

While on the surface a dispute over the importation and sale of rum, the real battle is about access to prime Aboriginal land in a vibrant and growing frontier town of more than 7,000 soldiers, merchants, convicts, civil servants, Aborigines and free settlers. Led by army lieutenant-turned-pastoralist John Macarthur, wealthy landowners and entrepreneurs tackle first Governor Philip King and then his replacement, Governor William Bligh, a naval captain best known for a mutiny aboard his ship, The Bounty. Escalating tension between Macarthur and Bligh leads to the military insurrection and house arrest of Bligh, known as the Rum Rebellion. Bligh returns to England a broken man and a new era of hope arrives with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who believes in the redemption of convicts and a fair go for all.

Rights of Passage Historian Michael Cathcart introduces William Wentworth and the “Emancipists”, a loose-knit group of former convicts and their children who take on British Governor Ralph Darling in the 1820s in a struggle for independence and civil rights in colonial Australia.

Set in Sydney in the 1820s, the second part of the dramatised documentary history series Rogue Nation delves into the conflict between the visionary Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who believes in the redemption of convicts and a fair go for all, and those who argue that his social experiment has gone too far.

After 25 years as a penal colony, Sydney’s white population has grown to around 36,000, the convict class is creating a new identity, the giant textile mills of industrial England are hungry for wool and the booming Australian pastoral industry, led by John Macarthur, relies on cheap convict labour to supply it.

But with the industrial revolution comes a revolution of ideas and Macquarie believes in treating ex-convicts and their children as the equals of free immigrants—granting them land, government jobs, rights and respect. It’s a controversial view and strategic lobbying by the pastoralists leads to Macquarie’s recall and replacement by Governor Ralph Darling, whose mission is to reassert imperial authority and reinforce the colony’s status as a place of punishment.

But it won’t happen without a fight and the “Emancipists”, championed by newspaper proprietor-turned-barrister William Wentworth, challenge Darling head on. At stake is the question of whether a penal colony can ever become a nation. Two high profile cases, the Sudds and Thompson torture scandal and the Jane New trial, expose the frailty of Darling’s rule as the “Emancipists” fight back with calls for justice and independence. The despised Governor is sent packing to a colourful Sydney farewell.

A Screen Australia Making History production in association with Essential Media & Entertainment. Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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Directors: Peter Andkidis, Lisa Matthews

Year: 2009

Running Time: 2 x 54 Minutes

Classification: M. Consumer advice: Infrequent violence and themes

SKU 200620200
Brand Film Australia

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