Then He Came Home emerges from personal stories of forgotten ANZACS

UNTOLD STORIES: Director Elaine Crombie and writer Leisa Whyte have a shared vision for Then He Came Home, which will be presented with an animated rehearsed reading at the Butter Factory on June 8. Picture: MARK JESSER
UNTOLD STORIES: Director Elaine Crombie and writer Leisa Whyte have a shared vision for Then He Came Home, which will be presented with an animated rehearsed reading at the Butter Factory on June 8. Picture: MARK JESSER

Leisa Whyte’s Then He Came Home will be aired tonight with a rehearsed reading at the Butter Factory Theatre.

The original play is based on the homecoming experiences of Aboriginal soldiers who fought for Australia in World War One, and subsequent wars.

Whyte is a Border playwright and drama teacher who has already written plays and monologues. She began creating Then He Came Home several years ago to coincide with the ANZAC commemorations 2014-18.

She based the work on the experiences of Aboriginal ANZACs and their families who live in Albury-Wodonga.

During research many families shared their histories from the war years and elements of these stories were woven into the play.  

“The play is written fictionally, so no individuals are identified, it’s a combination of everyone’s stories that I’ve heard over the years,” Whyte says.

“People will hear elements of their stories and recognise it.”

Although they were not considered citizens many Aborigines enlisted to fight for Australian freedom and returned to find that freedom not bestowed upon them.

“And they kept going back,” Whyte says.

“The First World War but then the Second World War, The Korean War and then the Vietnam War.”

This significant part of our ANZAC story has largely been untold but Then He Came Home highlights the universal theme of the effects of war on society.

The reading is being directed by visiting Pitjanjtajtarra, Warrigmal, South Sea Islander woman Elaine Crombie and features 10 actors from the Border.

Researcher Maggih Coates, director Elaine Crombie, border playwright Leisa Whyte and actor Mark Delphin.

Researcher Maggih Coates, director Elaine Crombie, border playwright Leisa Whyte and actor Mark Delphin.

Crombie (Kiki and Kitty, ABC. Barbara and the Camp Dogs, Belvoir) has been working with Whyte and the Black Border Theatre actors as part of her A Month in the Country residency sponsored by Hothouse Theatre. 

“When we’re talking about black diggers, indigenous diggers, we need as many black artists and creatives presenting and honouring these stories as we can,” Crombie says.

“There is an air of privilege to being able to tell these stories.

“We have an opportunity here so I will run as far as I can to make it happen, to get it told.”

During the researching Nomad Films created a short documentary, highlighting the interviews. The documentary will be screened as part of the rehearsed reading, from 7pm at the Gateway Village theatre.

The Lowdown

What: Then He Came Home, play reading

When: June 8, the Butter Factory Theatre 7pm

Tickets: from $10