JEFF'S ADVOCACY WORK.
For over four decades McMullen has gone beyond his professional brief to raise his voice against the forced assimilation and abuse of human rights of so many First Nations people.
In 1973 McMullen was among the first film-makers to report on the slaughter of Indigenous tribes in the Amazon. An hour-long documentary on the slaughter of some 250,000 indigenous people in Guatemala was screened before an American Congressional Committee and influenced its vote to suspend military aid to that regime.
In West Papua, McMullen interviewed members of the independence movement who were harassed (and in some cases killed) for opposing the Freeport Mine which sliced off the top of a tropical mountain in that gold rush. He has also filmed the work of conservation agencies trying to halt desertification in Africa and the pollution of India’s sacred Ganges River.
McMullen’s investigative reports on the abuse of children in the orphanages run by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia helped force a public apology and compensation for the victims. This series was commended as a finalist for the Walkley Awards.
In 1993 he led a Sixty Minutes crew into Kazakhstan, the former Soviet republic, to document the aftermath of more than forty years of nuclear testing. McMullen visited and filmed the massively irradiated Atomic Lake and whole villages where people had been affected by the nuclear fallout. His pursuit of that same issue also led him to make risky trips just weeks after the Chernobyl disaster in the USSR and to the site of nuclear tests at Montebello off the coast of Western Australia.
McMullen began to travel behind the Iron Curtain long before the death throes of Communism. As the Russian empire broke up, he made films in the Baltic States, the Ukraine and Georgia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Asian Republics. It was McMullen who broke the story of the KGB’s interrogation of Americans captured in Vietnam and the subsequent execution of some of the POWs. This report made front-page news in America and led to the appearance of a former KGB chief before the United States Congress. McMullen also has reported extensively inside that other Communist giant, China, with powerful exposes on female infanticide and the Chinese prison labour camps.
One of McMullen’s strengths as a reporter has been his enormous range of interests and his eagerness to put television to some socially useful purpose. A revealing report about melanoma skin cancer, built around the terminally ill and very brave Mark Marcellus, was hailed by Professor Bill McCarthy of Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as the single most effective television program ever screened in Australia to combat a treatable, life-threatening illness. By computer tracking of patients who were alerted to their problem by that Sixty Minutes story program, Professor McCarthy calculated that the warning had saved many thousands of Australian lives.
For many years, Jeff McMullen has worked on a number of projects to help the disadvantaged. He is a patron of the Merry Makers group that introduces Down Syndrome children to the joy of music and dance. He is also a patron of the Mirabel Foundation which supports children left behind by parents who died of drug addiction. In May 2001, McMullen was asked to help launch the SANE Australia campaign to seek more government assistance for people with depression and other mental illnesses.
Since 2001, McMullen has been devoting most of his work to improving the health and education of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. For 14 years he was CEO (gratis) of Ian Thorpe's Fountain for Youth, a not for profit organisation which contributed support to early learning of pre-schoolers and literacy development in more than twenty remote communities and programs that support the cultural education of Indigenous children. The emphasis of these programs was on empowerment and building knowledge to allow children to find their way out of the maze of poverty.
With Ian Thorpe, Australia’s greatest Olympian, McMullen has been involved in efforts to increase access to affordable food and improve nutrition in the remote Indigenous communities. At Wugularr, 120 kilometres south west of Katherine in the Northern Territory, the Fountain for Youth Foundation has worked with Aboriginal people led by Tom E. Lewis to establish a Cultural Centre, Art shops, a small hotel and a growing tourism program. McMullen was the patron of the annual Walking with Spirits Festival where Aboriginal dancers and songmen performed at the serene natural amphitheatre of Beswick Falls, just as they have for thousands of years.
To increase awareness of the serious disadvantages still faced by Australia's Indigenous people, McMullen has campaigned around the country and around the world, particularly after the federal government’s seizure in 2007 of 73 remote communities in the Northern Territory. With Aboriginal leaders from the occupied communities including Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM of Elcho Island and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM from Utopia in Central Australia, McMullen has chaired hundreds of forums and community lecture series to inform the Australian public of the disadvantage and discrimination still experienced by so many Indigenous Australians. He met Government Ministers, lodged protests with the Australian Government and submitted evidence to Senate hearings extending this federal control over Aboriginal lives.
McMullen was part of the film making team led by directors Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis who in 2010 produced the documentary, Our Generation, expressing the outrage of Aboriginal people oppressed by the federal assault on their human rights. Musicians including Archie Roach, Xavier Rudd, Shane Howard, John Butler and Shellie Morris, supported the tour by Aboriginal community leaders, with a united message that discrimination was still continuing on the homelands.
McMullen was one of 100 Australians invited by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to attend his 2020 Summit in 2008, focusing attention on the extreme disadvantage suffered by Indigenous people and evidence on what could improve this national neglect. By writing and speaking about the genuine health crisis that is cutting the heart out of another generation of Indigenous people, McMullen supported Dr Tom Calma AM in the struggle for health equality known as the “Close the Gaps” Campaign.
As one of the original Trustees of the Jimmy Little Foundation, McMullen also worked on efforts to improve dialysis and helped set up the children’s nutrition program, “Uncle Jimmy’s Thumbs Up”, aimed at reduction and prevention of the epidemic of chronic illness.
McMullen is a patron of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) which leads the nation in developing a cohort of Indigenous health professionals. This is one of the most hopeful changes in Australia's recent history as Indigenous expertise shapes the path to wellbeing.
McMullen has supported the work of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health, NSW Aboriginal Health Services, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health and the Sunrise Health Service in the Northern Territory.
As a strong supporter of Indigenous Education leader, Dr Chris Sarra, McMullen has travelled the country over the past twenty years participating in a growing movement to lift the expectations of what Indigenous students can achieve educationally and to support the growing focus on literacy, critical life skills and the requirements for productive work.
For 15 years McMullen was a foundational Director of AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). Led by CEO, Jack Manning Bancroft and his Deputy, Ben Abbatangelo, this program engages undergraduates to be mentors for Aboriginal high-school students in urban areas, creating a rising tide of higher achievers completing high-school and entering tertiary education.
McMullen is also a Director of the Australian Indigenous Engineering Aid Summer School program which over the past two decades has created an education pathway for many of the nation's first Indigenous engineers.
In 2006, McMullen was awarded an Order of Australia (AM), for service to journalism and efforts to raise awareness of economic, social and human rights issues in Australia and overseas, as well as service to charity.