The Age of Bones: the human story of people smuggling.

In 2011 nearly 60 Indonesian teenage boys were incarcerated in adult jails throughout Australia for their involvement in human trafficking.

These boys were told stories that they would be working on sightseeing boats, offered more money than their families would see in a lifetime. Instead they found themselves working on asylum seeker boats, only to be intercepted by the Australian Navy and charged with people smuggling. Many of them spent more than two years in jail.

Age of Bones is a new Australian-Indonesian production inspired by the story of the 60 Indonesian boys wrongfully imprisoned in Australia for working on refugee boats. Photo: Sarah Walker

 Age of Bones is a new Australian-Indonesian production inspired by the story of the 60 Indonesian boys wrongfully imprisoned in Australia for working on refugee boats. Photo: Sarah Walker

When Darwin playwright Sandra Thibodeaux heard of their plight she knew she had the makings of a good story.

“At the time a big media issue was live cattle exports to Indonesia, there was a huge uproar about that,” she said.

Darwin playwright Sandra Thibodeaux said it would be too dull to locate the stories in prison cells and courtrooms. Photo: Sarah Walker

 Darwin playwright Sandra Thibodeaux said it would be too dull to locate the stories in prison cells and courtrooms. Photo: Sarah Walker

“What struck me was the parallel, that we seemed more concerned about cattle than we did about Indonesian children.”

She began to research the story, talking to journalists and lawyers involved, eventually travelling to Indonesia where she met some of the families caught up in the situation.

“Moving there gave me better insight, a better sense of what it was like to live in eastern Indonesia.

“It’s poverty stricken, there’s no running water, or electricity, no cash. You could understand how these boys were lured by the traffickers.”

The Age of Bones is a fantastical story of a young Indonesian boy who goes fishing one day and never comes home. Photo: Sarah Walker

 The Age of Bones is a fantastical story of a young Indonesian boy who goes fishing one day and never comes home. Photo: Sarah Walker

It was, and is still an ongoing, dark story. But the artist in Ms Thibodeaux knew she had to find a way to tell the tale.

“It’s my personal preference not to do theatre which is grim,” she says. Read More

The play has a narrator and his offsider is a shadow puppeteer, making the journey easier for the audience to access. Photo: Sarah Walker

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