Lamb producer Meat and Livestock Australia says it looks forward to sharing its latest Australia Day ad "with all Australians" after Indigenous people complained they were offended by a draft script of the commercial.
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News obtained a draft script for the company's annual Australia Day Lamb commercial, which depicts Aboriginal people arriving in Australia by canoe, setting up a BBQ for Australia Day and then partying with others, including the British.
Several Aboriginal people who had seen the script told BuzzFeed News they were upset and offended by its portrayal of Indigenous people.
But a spokesperson for MLA told BuzzFeed News that the company "always consults widely in the development of our marketing campaigns as we continually strive to be inclusive of all Australians".
"The 'We Love our Lamb' campaigns, and MLA as a company, are committed to celebrating diversity and we look forward to sharing our latest ad with all Australians early next year."
The script, dated September 25, is titled The First First Fleet and opens with Aboriginal people discovering an uninhabited Australia with the subtitle: "Arrival of the first fleet Terra Australia, late January, 58,000 B.C. (ish).”
A synopsis at the top of the script 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”.
After rowing their canoes ashore, the Aboriginal characters, Ian and Stewart, decide to "fire up the barbie" to celebrate. They come back a year later and have another celebration, marking what is essentially the first Australia Day.
Different boats then arrive on the beach to join the party from different countries including, "some British characters in old-timey garb ... Couple of sailors and a bunch of prisoners".
The Aboriginal character says to the British man, "Oh hello. Where you lot from?"
"Great Britannia. We are the First Fleet," the British person replies.
"The Aborigines and Dutch all let out a hearty laugh," the script reads.
Another scene features former prime minister Kevin Rudd elbowing his way through a group of Aboriginal people "clutching his plate of food" and saying, "Sorry, so sorry, sorry. I’m very sorry".
It's a reference to Rudd's 2008 apology to the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal people forcibly removed from their families as children because of their race.
The MLA says the script is an "early draft" that deals with "one creative idea".
"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," the spokesperson said.
BuzzFeed News asked the advertising company responsible for the commercial, The Monkeys, for comment, but the agency declined.
Last year the agency came under fire over another Australia Day lamb commercial for the MLA called Operation Boomerang. The commercial prompted more than 600 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau, predominantly over its depiction of vegans and the level of violence portrayed. All the complaints were dismissed.
Earlier this year the agency received praise for the diversity of the casting in its Spring lamb commercial.
Australia Day is commonly referred to as Survival or Invasion Day by Aboriginal people and marks the start of a violent and bloody conflict between the British and Aboriginal people.
Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.
Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.
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