"In a relatively short space of time, Australian films have jumped from depicting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through racist clichés to First Nations creatives using film and television to document their cultures, promote social change and to entertain, thus entering the mainstream." - LIZ MCNIVEN
The following films, documentaries and series share First Nations stories through the eyes of this continent's First Storytellers and are recommended viewing for all teachers to gain an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, experiences, perspectives and activism. Some of the following recommendations are appropriate for students to view at the discretion of the teacher.
Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra is a historically important film that takes the viewer through Bangarra’s birth and spectacular growth to where the Bangarra Dance Theatre is today. It recognises Bangarra’s early founders and tells the story of how three young Aboriginal brothers – Stephen, David and Russell Page – turned the newly born dance group into one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies. Through the eyes of the Page brothers and company alumni, Firestarter explores the loss and reclaiming of culture, the burden of intergenerational trauma and crucially, the extraordinary power of art as a messenger for social change and healing. Available to watch on Netflix and is rated M for mature audiences (15 years and above).
The Final Quarter
Adam Goodes was a champion AFL footballer and Indigenous leader. In the final three years of his playing career he became a lightning rod for a heated public debate and widespread media commentary that divided the nation. He publicly called out racism, was named Australian of the Year, was accused of staging for free kicks, and performed an on-field war dance celebration. The cheers became boos as football crowds turned on him. Using only archival footage aired at the time, the film holds a mirror to Australia and is an opportunity to reconsider what happened on and off the football field.
The film and free learning and education resources can be accessed by teachers by registering here. It is also available on Netflix and is rated PG (Parental Guidance recommended). Suitable for students in Years 5-6 and above.
Rabbit Proof Fence
Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the true story of Molly, Gracie and Daisy - three Aboriginal girls in Western Australia, who where forcibly abducted from their mothers in 1931. It is based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Molly's daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara. This film explores the reality of the Aboriginal children who were removed from their families as the result of government policies resulting in the Stolen Generations. It is rated PG (Parental Guidance recommended) and is available to watch on Netflix.
In My Blood It Runs
In My Blood It Runs is an intimate and compassionate observational documentary from the perspective of a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Australia, who is faced with the challenge of balancing his identity as a First Nations child with state education. You can watch In My Blood It Runs on Vimeo on Demand or Netflix. You can also rent or buy the film online from the iTunes Store or order a DVD from the In My Blood It Runs website. It is rated PG (Parental Guidance recommended). A free professional learning resource specifically developed to support teachers engaging with In My Blood It Runs can be accessed here on the Narragunnawali platform. Teacher notes for Years 9 - 10 can be found here.
Cathy Freeman’s win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics is undoubtedly one of the greatest collective experiences in Australian modern history. Freeman draws on archival footage and a series of intimate conversations with Cathy Freeman, and takes viewers on a journey through Cathy’s remarkable sporting career and the frenzied build-up to September 2000. Cathy’s fast-paced climb to the top of the world is mirrored by the rise of a people’s movement supporting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians as her story becomes the symbol of a much larger struggle for equality. Freeman is available to stream on ABC iView.
Little J and Big Cuz
Little J and Big Cuz is an educational animated children's series following the adventures of Indigenous Australian kids 'Little J' and 'Big Cuz'. With the help of Nanna and their teacher Ms Chen they learn about culture, community and Country. Educational resources are available for teachers here. I have also made an overview document for teachers based on Series 1 which is available to download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store for free here. It provides a synopsis and a list of teaching points for each episode. The 12-minute-long Little J and Big Cuz epidoes are for young children in Early Learning Centres, as well as children in Years Foundation-2 and can be viewed on SBS on Demand.