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TV greed feeds off bush-tucker men
Robert Reid
02dec00

ABORIGINES say they have been exploited by the multimillion-dollar United States production company behind the Survivor II reality television show.

Arthur Murray and Alec Hooligan were paid just $814 each for more than two weeks work as actors and bush-tucker consultants.

They said they were offered $200 a day by the show which paid its winning contestant $US1 million. The difference between the offer and their wages was about $2000 each.

Mr Murray and Mr Hooligan are members of the Warungnu tribe, traditional owners of the land where the series is being filmed in north Queensland.

Mr Murray said he was filmed clad in a kangaroo skin and carrying a spear and boomerang in a scene showing contestants too frightened to cross a river. It is believed the "wild native" footage will be shown early in the series on US television.

Warungnu elders are outraged at producers for ignoring the traditional owners and shutting them out of negotiations for use of country under a group Native Title claim by nine clans.

Mr Murray and Mr Hooligan told how they were hired to teach the 16 contestants of the show how to survive by eating native foods in the rugged Herbert River Falls area near Mt Garnet, 130km south of Cairns.

Mr Murray said he was offered work as a station hand on the property where the series was being shot but he had no idea he was to be used for any other work.

He only found out when he and Mr Hooligan were taken to the film site and were asked to explain their traditional bushcraft skills in front of the cameras.

The two men said they were told they would get at least $200 a day, but had received cheques for $814 after repeated requests and a wait of nearly three weeks.

The cheques arrived at the Mt Garnet Hotel by a bus driver transporting site workers back to Cairns on weekend leave. There was a small pocketknife as a gift.

Under the Actors Television Programs Agreement, first time performers are entitled to $586 a week or $140 a day.

Mr Murray said he felt insulted and unfairly used by the whole exercise.

"We weren't told what they wanted us for. We thought we were going to do a bit of fencing and cattle work like we always do," he said.

Mr Murray said he taught the young American male and female contestants how to recognise edible bush fruits and identify the different species of native animals in the area.

"They already had wire fish traps near the main camp when we got there, but they didn't know anything about bush tucker until we told them," he said. "Once a wedge-tailed eagle swooped on the cameras and that gave them a fright."

Mr Murray said he saw contestants "spinning a wheel" and each time the loser had to eat witchetty grubs in front of the others. "I saw a girl spew up. I think the last one not to be sick gets the points," he said.

Warungnu tribal elder Elder Danny Hooligan said the producers had obtained permits from all government departments to film the show but the first he knew about it was when he read about it in the newspaper and when trucks laden with equipment rolled through town on their way to the film site.

"The Government got their big whack, the station owners got a big payout, but we got nothing . . . no royalties, not one single job until they took Arthur and Alec out there and ripped them off," Mr Hooligan said.

"They came like a thief in the night and gave us nothing."

Mr Hooligan said his people were entitled to be involved in talks with the film company but they had been treated as if they didn't exist.

Herbert River Falls is on the pastoral leasehold property of Goshen which was not subject to a native title claim when the Survivor II camp was first set up.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance state secretary Anthony Lennon said if the exploitation claims were true, he would be concerned that a film company given special incentives to operate in Queensland did not abide by protocols concerning indigenous people.

"As a union we would be very unhappy if two Aboriginal workers had been given work other than what was intended, and were underpaid as well," he said.

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