MLA to push on with Australia Day ad despite Aboriginal unease after leak of ‘early draft’ of script

Meat & Livestock Australia is understood to be pushing on with its plans for its 2017 Australia Day campaign despite a leak of a draft of the script causing apparent unrest amongst some in the Aboriginal community.


According to Buzzfeed, which leaked the script, the MLA’s creative agency The Monkeys is struggling to recruit Indigenous actors for the production because of scenes showing the first settlers arriving by canoe and another with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apparently making light of his apology over the Stolen Generation.

Mumbrella understands the leaked version of the script is a month old, with MLA describing it as an “early draft” which shows “one creative idea”. It is also understood Rudd will not be appearing in the finished ad.

Australia Day has become a highly-charged political topic in recent years, with some Indigenous people referring to it as ‘Invasion Day’ as it falls on January 26, the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia from the UK.

The MLA's spring ad was centred around diversity and featured prominent Aboriginals including Greg Inglis and Cathy Freeman (far left)

The MLA’s spring ad was centred around diversity and featured prominent Aboriginals including Greg Inglis and Cathy Freeman (far left)

The Buzzfeed report highlights two scenes from the longer treatment.

The first dubbed the ‘First First Fleet’ shows Aboriginal people pulling up on a beach and setting up a BBQ.

Another shows former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moving through a crowd of Aboriginal people and saying “sorry, so sorry, sorry” with one man turning to him and saying “We know, Kevin”, an apparent reference to his apology as Prime Minister for the long-running practice of removing Aboriginal children from their parents and placing them in into forced adoptions.

Buzzfeed reports:

A description of the commercial reads, “Starting with the First First Fleet 60,000 (ish) years ago, this film celebrates all the new arrivals who have contributed to making Australia the great place it is today, as they get together over a lamb BBQ. It’s the first united celebration of Australia”.

Two Aboriginal characters called Ian and Stewart bring their canoes to the shore and step onto land. One says, “Cracking spot. Let’s fire up the barbie.”

The Indigenous characters then decide to have a BBQ on the same date a year later to celebrate Australia Day.

According to Buzzfeed the script then goes on to show settlers including the British, Chinese, Dutch, French and Germans arriving by boat and joining the BBQ.

The leaking to the press of a script is thought to be a first for the MLA’s big annual campaign, which has become one of the most eagerly anticipated in Australian adland.

It is understood the MLA had been consulting with members of the Aboriginal community about the idea of pushing a wider discussion about Australia Day from an Indigenous viewpoint.

In recent months the MLA vehicle has made a big push to highlight the lack of diversity in the Australian media compared with the wider society, with an ad featuring an array of people from different backgrounds as its spring marketing push.

That ad featured several prominent Aboriginal people, including Olympian Cathy Freeman and NRL star Greg Inglis. However, it drew complaints from some who said it was discriminating against white people, which were not upheld by the Ad Standards Board.

The MLA moved its lamb creative to The Monkeys two years ago, with the Sydney-based independent agency moving the annual campaign on from brand spokesman Sam Kekovich to historical figures joining Richie Benaud for an Australia Day BBQ in its first ad in 2015.

That ad was criticised in some circles for featuring too many white Australians.

This year’s ad dubbed ‘Operation Boomerang’ showed a massive, military-styled operation fronted by SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin, which repatriated Aussies from abroad in time for Australia Day.

It became the most complained about ad of all time in Australia for its portrayal of a vegan’s dinner table being overturned with a soldier using a flame thrower on it, although those complaints were dismissed by the Advertising Standards Board.

There were also complaints from Indigenous leaders about the appropriation of the Aboriginal word ‘boomerang’ in the ad.

Both ads garnered more than 5m views on social channels.

A statement from the MLA said:

“We understand there is always a high level of anticipation and interest in MLA’s upcoming lamb advertising campaign, and the 2017 instalment is no different.

“It’s important to note that media reports have made reference to an early draft of a script dealing with one creative idea.

“MLA always consults widely in the development of our marketing campaigns as we continually strive to be inclusive of all Australians.”


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