It is Australia Day, 1934. Neville, Neal, and the Matron sit on a platform above the crowd. Billy and Bluey, wearing ill-fitting new uniforms, stand beside an Australian Flag. Sister Eileen delivers a speech.
Billy and Bluey have done their best to assimilate, but their ill-fitting uniforms demonstrate that their performative whiteness is just that, a bad performance, and they remain caught between being Aboriginal and being accepted by white Australians.
Sister Eileen calls on the assembled crowd to “pledge our allegiance to the King and to celebrate the birth of this wonderful young country.” She also asks the crowd to remember to give thanks to God. She says she, Matron Neal, and Neal are the Lord’s servants, and Jesus Christ himself has sent Neville to speak to the Settlement today. The white people in the crowd applaud, but the Aboriginals do not.
Neville rises and begins to speak. He describes driving to Moore River and seeing hundreds of men on the road, likely out of work and itinerant. He says that, although a depression has swept the globe, the people “in this small corner of the Empire, are fortunate in being provided for with adequate food and water.” Under his breath Jimmy comments, “yeah, weevily flour.”
Although Moore River claims to provide its residents with all that they need to live a healthy, happy life, in reality the food they offer is barely edible. In trying to control and corral Western Australia’s Aboriginal population, the government has instead forced them to accept a lower quality of life than they would have on their own.
Neville concludes his speech by reminding the assembled Aboriginal audience that they are preparing to join “Australian society, to live as other Australians live” and to “earn to enjoy the privileges and shoulder the responsibilities of living like the white man, to be treated equally, not worse, not better, under the law.” Sam asks Jimmy what Neville is even talking about. Jimmy says Neville is just “talkin’ outta his kwon.”
Neville’s personal prejudices have affected his professional policies. He believes Aboriginal Australians should assimilate into white Australian culture, as in his mind, it’s the superior culture. Jimmy violently disagrees, saying that Neville is “talking out of his kwon,” or ass.
Neville forgets what is next on the agenda, and Sister Eileen has to remind him that they will sing a hymn, (not a song, as he mistakenly announces) and that the hymn is “There is a Happy Land.” Everyone sings the first verse together, but on the second verse the Aboriginal crowd sings a loud parody, “No sugar in our tea, / Bread and butter we never see. That’s why we’re gradually / Fading away.”
The song “There is a Happy Land” thanks God and Jesus. However, the Aboriginal community at Moore River has little to be thankful for, and has no connection to the Christianity referenced in the song. They are not ungrateful, but they are resentful that they have been treated so poorly for so long, and are now expected to be happy.
Neville yells for the crowd to stop singing, but they continue and repeat the parody. Neville calls the Aboriginals ungrateful, as Jimmy heckles him from the crowd.
As always, Jimmy reacts to white authority figures trying to silence him by speaking more loudly and aggressively.
Neville and Neal accuse Jimmy of being a troublemaker and a ringleader. Jimmy invites Neville to come eat the dinner served to the Aboriginal families. Jimmy asks Neal if he voted for Jimmy Mitchell, which silences the men and the crowd. Jimmy continues, beginning to shout that he understands that the quarantine was not because of scabies—it was so the white Australians in their newly all-white towns would vote for him.
Neville and Neal’s hatred of Jimmy comes as much from their own personal prejudices as it does from positions of power, which he does not respect. Jimmy does not respect Neville and Neal because he sees that their policies are not for the good of the Aboriginal population, but instead for the perceived good of the white community.
Overexcited and overexerted, Jimmy collapses on the ground. Mary rushes towards him and asks the Matron for help. She takes his condition seriously and orders Billy and Bluey to help take him to the hospital. The group exits as Neal assures the white crowd “he’s only fainted” before exiting in the other direction. Sister Eileen remains onstage, not sure which group to follow.
Mary knows that Jimmy has a heart condition, and so is immediately concerned about his wellbeing. The white Australians for the most part do not care enough to even investigate. Sister Eileen, who does care about the wellbeing of the Aboriginal community, but still feels an alliance to her white employers, is torn—physically unable to decide who to align herself with.