Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paranormal documentary

THERE has been a lot of online discussion about the council's decision to approve the release of a documentary about a paranormal investigation at Willow Court. The video has been produced with council permission by a group called the Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit which is keen to share its work with the viewing public. The similarly passionate Willow Court Advocacy Group opposes the release.

Some months ago the advocacy group approached the State Archivist with its concerns and as a result a lot of footage was removed from the film by the producers. This particularly related to historical images of children in care who might still be alive today. It's my understanding that the State Archivist's deliberations included consultation with the Mental Health Services division of the Department of Health and Human Services for its professional opinion.

One day prior to last week's council meeting, the council was contacted by the Australian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner who asked that the documentary be provided to the State Anti-Discrimination Commissioner prior to release. The council's general manager sought legal advice on the commissioner's call and following this the council subsequently voted to approve the release of the film after it had been viewed by the council's solicitor. The implication is that should the solicitor find anything of concern in the film, he will advise accordingly. Social media commentary that the council acted without legal advice is wrong.

The following paragraphs are my speech notes from Thursday night's council meeting.

"Mr Mayor, I believe a large part of a councillor’s role is to represent the various views of our constituents. I fear that role is not performed often enough. It is ironic that in a state with such a vast number of federal, state and local government representatives, so many people feel their views are not heard.

"I would like to place on record that some in our community do not agree with the release of the documentary film produced by the Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit. They believe that the film derides, dehumanises and belittles the sufferings of those afflicted with mental disorders.

"They believe that the recordings made in the Alonnah and Carlton Wards are brief, indecipherable background noises which do not constitute sufficient material for a documentary. They do not approve the intent and language of the commentators in the film.

"Those are the views of some in our community and I am representing them tonight. But I am also aware that another cohort is eagerly awaiting the release of the film - and there are still others who will be possibly bemused by the search for paranormal evidence, but fascinated by the historical content in the film. I am one of those.

"The producers of the film have offered to donate 100% of the proceeds of the film to the fund for the restoration of Willow Court. I believe this shows the calibre of the people involved in this project and my personal view is that it is not their intent to belittle the mentally ill. In fact, several of the team have personal or family involvement in that field.

"Mr Mayor, I believe the next stage will be for the Australian Classification Board to determine the appropriate rating for this film, and it is not our role to act as the official censor."

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