Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Jack Davis, No Sugar (1986)

The Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis produced No Sugar in 1986 as part of a post-colonial project to bring Aboriginal voices to the arts in Australia and to revisit Australian history and social issues from an Aboriginal perspective.  Set in the playwright’s own state of Western Australia in the years 1929 to 1934, this post-colonial text challenges the dominant Eurocentric (or white) discourse on Australian settlement as the product of a pioneering spirit and a civilising mission, to instead characterise it as involving the forced and unjust dispossession, displacement, and oppression of the Aboriginal people. 

Written in the build up to the bicentennial celebrations of 1988, the play is part of the protests of those times by Aborigines, and others, who argued that, from the Aboriginal perspective, Australia Day is nothing to celebrate.  Like most post-colonial and Aboriginal political discourses, this play puts racism as at the heart of the unequal and unjust relationship between the Aborigines and their European colonisers, especially condemning the racism of most of those who were in authority over Aboriginal people and supposed to be caring for their welfare, like the Chief Protector of the Aborigines, the administrators of the Aboriginal settlements and the local police. 

Meanwhile, the play is also intended to raise the self-esteem of Aboriginal people, not only by expressing their current and historic grievances, but also by attributing the blame to whites for the problems affecting Aborigines. In addition, the play also does this by respecting and using Aboriginal languages, and celebrating Aboriginal family life, resistance, and survival in the face of oppression. 

Set mostly in the early 1930s, the play presents an indictment of the prevailing policy approach of that time of Aboriginal protection, which saw Aborigines placed on designated settlements to have their lives highly regulated by the white authorities.  However, the play also condemns the approach that followed protection, assimilation, which was seen as disrespecting the Aboriginal culture and traditions that most Aborigines sought to continue.  The play is in favour of the policy approach that replaced assimilation, which was Aboriginal self-determination.  This was the prevailing policy at the time the play was written and it had much to do with the promotion of Aborigines and Aboriginal perspectives that this play represents. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: No Sugar meaning, No Sugar themes, No Sugar analysis, No Sugar notes