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Special initiatives

The Indigenous Department allocates funds to initiatives designed to address specific developmental objectives.

The Indigenous Branch was launched by the Australian Film Commission in 1993 to promote the quality and diversity of Indigenous films and develop a wider audience for films written, directed and produced by Indgenous Australians. Over the years the Unit has carefully developed groups of Indigenous filmmakers through a series of special initiatives.

Past Initiatives

No ordinary black short film initiative 

The No Ordinary Black: Short film initiative is designed to bring to the screen thought provoking First Nations stories, authored and crafted by First Nations people. This is a great opportunity for new filmmakers to launch their careers.
Guidelines: Go to page

Indigenous Producers Program

The Indigenous Producers Program will involve an intensive development plan that covers all aspects of producing and will be tailored to suit the needs and skills of successful applicants. This is not a full time program but requires commitment and availability to attend four workshops over 12 months and ongoing development including funded placements with experienced production companies.

Cook 2020: Our Right of Reply

Indigenous writers and directors to give a vital Indigenous perspective and ‘right of reply’ on the arrival of James Cook 250 years ago, with a short film to form an anthology.

[Black space]: web series production

A program for Indigenous talent, with big ideas at a production ready stage. As part of the Black Space initiative the successful teams attend a two day workshop focussed on marketing online content. Each series will be made entirely for online delivery in conjunction with YouTube and Facebook.

Short blacks Film INITIATIVE

The Short Blacks film initiative is designed to bring to the screen fresh Indigenous stories, authored and crafted by Indigenous people.

Songlines on screen

This initiative aims to give place to some of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songlines that are integral to the makeup of Indigenous Australia, incorporating the full spectrum of storytelling including dance, song, art, body painting, and sites of significance.

Indigenous Producers Internship Program

This initiative is for Indigenous practitioners whose careers would benefit from an attachment to a person, production or organisation.

Next Step: Indigenous screen business fellowship

Production companies run by Indigenous practitioners who have some track record in initiating and producing successful projects, and a vision for where they want their business to be in two to three years, but who are not yet at a stage where they can apply for Screen Australia Enterprise funding.

Indigenous Producers Initiative

This initiative sought self-motivated, organised, energetic collaborators with an understanding of the art of storytelling with the aim of developing new Indigenous creative producers within the industry, as well as providing professional development for less experienced practitioners.

Long Black Feature Program

This was a strategic initiative aimed at encouraging and supporting Indigenous filmmakers to work with longer-form narrative, and to bring to the screen feature stories authored and crafted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Exchange

Screen Australia's Indigenous Department and ABC's Indigenous Department called on published Indigenous authors of narrative fiction to submit ideas for short film development. The Exchange Initiative challenges writers to put forward story ideas with a maximum of two main characters, up to two minor characters and up to two locations.

Flash Black

This initiative called on emerging Indigenous filmmakers from across Australia to submit 10-minute dramatic story ideas. The successful Flash Black story ideas are currently in development. When completed the series will comprise six 10-minute dramas designed to bring to the screen Indigenous stories, authored and crafted by Indigenous people.

Redfern Now

A special initiative supported the development of the first contemporary TV drama series written, directed and produced by Indigenous Australians. Developed in collaboration with Jimmy McGovern and produced by Blackfella Films, the 6 x one-hour series centres around and explores contemporary inner-city Indigenous life.

The New Black

Completed in 2009 The New Black drama initiative developed and produced seven 11-minute dramas with emerging directors and producers. Financed by Screen Australia, ABC, NSWFTO and the Pacific Film and Television Commission the initiative explored individual notions and experiences of Australian life, from the unique perspective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • Aunty Maggie & the Womba Wakgun 
    (w: Angelina Hurley; d: Leah Purcell; p: Lisa Duff, Bain Stewart)
    Aunty Maggie struggles to feed her three boys, and what she finds as an easy solution becomes a major problem. It's a problem that makes her famous.
  • Bourke Boy 
    (w/d: Adrian Wills; p: Anusha Duray, Kath Shelper)
    A father and his adopted troubled teenage son take a trip to the son's birthplace of Bourke, where they try to find the right words to say to each other before it's too late.
  • The Farm
    (w/d: Romaine Moreton; p: John Harvey)
    A young girl named Olivia longs to know the people who came before and the stories they left, uncovering a landscape imbued with history and wonder.
  • Jacob 
    (w/d: Dena Curtis; p: Darren Dale, Rhea Stephenson)
    Gina, a young Aboriginal mother, finds herself in a predicament when her husband, Max, returns home and learns the truth about baby Jacob.
  • Nia's Melancholy
    (w/d: Sio Tusa Fa'aaefili; p: Andrew Arbuthnot)
    A young 'Yalanji' girl witnesses her sister's suicide. This is a tale of her descent into melancholy and her journey of redemption.
  • The Party Shoes
    (w/d: Michelle Blanchard; p: Darren Dale, Rhea Stephenson)
    A little girl devises a logical plan to rid the world of sadness… Well, her own world at least.
  • Ralph 
    (w: Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair; d: Deborah Mailmain; p: Jessie Mangum)
    For 10-year-old Madeline, it takes more than just dreaming to survive; it takes a friend.

Bit of Black Business

The Bit of Black Business short-drama funding initiative was launched by the AFC and SBSi. Aimed at providing the opportunity for emerging Indigenous program-makers to experiment in the short format and give first time program-makers the opportunity to make their first television drama, Bit of Black Business created 5-minute drama story ideas that explored individual notions and experiences of contemporary 'Black Business', from the unique perspective of Indigenous Australians.

  • Back Seat 
    (w/d: Pauline Whyman, p: Kath Shelper)
    One day unfolds through the eyes of 12-year-old Janine when she goes with her foster parents to meet her biological family for the first time.
  • Bloodlines 
    (w/d: Jacob Nash, p: Kath Shelper)
    Blood Lines is about finding your heritage in urban Australia. Finding out where your blood runs...
  • Custard 
    (w/d: Michelle Blanchard, p: Kath Shelper)
    In her search for answers, a granddaughter's questions lead to the discovery of self and a chance to embrace the complexities of family.
  • Days Like These 
    (w/d: Martin Leroy Adams, p: Kath Shelper)
    Trying to find a job, Dan has to overcome social stereotypes.
  • Done Dirt Cheap 
    (w/d: Debbie Carmody, p: Kath Shelper)
    Amos enlists two larrikin miners into his ingenious way to make money from an unsuspecting tourist, who walks into the plot and gets less than what he bargained for.
  • Hush 
    (w/d: Dena Curtis, p: Kath Shelper)
    Ethel and her friend Mary resort to an unlikely occupation at night to top up their pensions. Ethel's daughter is horrified when she discovers they are not really 'playing cards'.
  • Jackie Jackie 
    (w/d: Adrian Wills, p: Kath Shelper)
    Jinaali is a sweet, overweight Aboriginal checkout chick at the local supermarket. Her boss, Mr Chuck, is constantly on her back until Jinaali finds a voice of her own. Have you got your Jackie Jackie doll yet?
  • Kwatye 
    (w/d: Trisha Morton-Thomas, p: Kath Shelper)
    Who would have thought a glass of water could cause so much havoc?
  • Nana 
    (w/d: Warwick Thornton, p: Kath Shelper)
    Nana's granddaughter thinks Nana's pretty special. She loves her Nana because she helps the old people, she's a good painter and other people love her too. Nana's got everyone under control.
  • Sharpeye 
    (w/d: Aaron Fa'aoso, p: Kath Shelper)
    When 11-year-old Whalen spies a Special Forces dinghy off the jetty, the whole town gets in on the action to outdo the professionals at their own game. Set in the Torres Strait Island communities of Barnaga and Seisia,Sharpeye tells the story of the Charlie Company.
  • The Turtle 
    (w/d: Kelli Cross, p: Kath Shelper)
    Thirteen-year-old Jason is going through the changes to become a young man. His mother sends him to the only decent role model she can think of, his paternal grandfather, for a holiday at a small coastal town.
  • Too Late 
    (w/d: Michael Longbottom, p: Kath Shelper)
    Ben's plea for forgiveness leads to a shocking discovery.
  • Two Big Boys 
    (w/d: Jon Bell, p: Annie Benzie, Kath Shelper)
    Two brothers face a crisis of dignity, which causes them to examine their relationship and sets them on a quest to become indeed, two big boys.

Dramatically Black (2002–03)

'Dramatically Black' was launched on 23 April 2003. The initiative was set up in association with SBSi, who offered a presale and investment in each project. Film Victoria, FTO and Pacific Film and Television Commission provided production investment in projects selected from their states. The initiative aimed to support Indigenous filmmakers with at least one short fiction film credit, to consolidate their work in the longer format:

  • Crocodile Dreaming
    (w/d: Darlene Johnson, p: Sue Milliken, co-creator David Gulpilil)
    A modern-day, supernatural myth about two estranged brothers who struggle to come to terms with their traditional roles and identities, and who are reconciled through the spirit of their mother.
  • The Djarn Djarns
    (w/d: Wayne Blair, p: Kylie du Fresne)
    The story of a friendship between four boys, the responsibility they feel for their culture, and the love a young boy has for his father.
  • Green Bush
    (w/d: Warwick Thornton)
    Every night, DJ Kenny hosts the 'Green Bush' show for Aboriginal inmates and their families. Isolated at the station, he gets many mysterious visitors. Are they escaping the cold, hiding, or trying to control the information?
  • Plains Empty
    (w/d: Beck Cole)
    Sam has recently moved to an isolated mining camp with her man. While he is at work on the minefields Sam realises that she is not alone.
  • Sa Black Thing
    (w/d: Rima Tamou, p: Pauline Clague)
    On the eve of a lucrative business deal, life is about to go horribly wrong for businessman Clinton Spice. In desperation, he sets out to track down the thief. But what he finds is the last thing he expects!

Fifty/Fifty (2002–03)

'Fifty/Fifty' was aimed at supporting Indigenous filmmakers with at least one drama screen credit, to work in the longer short feature (50-minute) format. It was an attempt to bridge the gap between short film and the leap to first feature. Two 50-minute dramas were commissioned and screened as part of the 50 Minutes from Home festival:

  • Cold Turkey
    (w/d: Steve McGregor, p: Priscilla Collins)
    Roby and Shane, two brothers, are local Alice Springs boys who get on the charge every weekend. One night they decide to go to Coober Pedy to make their money in opals. They wake up in a cell block and Roby can't remember how or what happened the night before.
  • Queen of Hearts 
    (w/d: Danielle MacLean, p: Charlotte Seymour)
    The story of a grandmother's love for her family and her will that they survive after she has gone. The hand we are dealt is not the one we sit on.

Dreaming in Motion (2002)

'Dreaming in Motion' was aimed at supporting new and emerging Indigenous filmmakers working in the drama area to work in the film medium. Five 10-minute dramas were commissioned. The films toured nationally in 2002:

  • Black Talk 
    (w/d: Wayne Blair, p: Kylie Du Frense)
    Two cousins reunite one last time.
  • Flat 
    (w/d: Beck Cole, p: Rachel Perkins, co-p: Darren Dale)
    Marnie is given a hot Handycam by her Dad. In the 24 hours that follow she sets out to capture on tape life in the inner-city housing-commission flats she calls home.
  • Mimi 
    (w/d: Warwick Thornton, p: Rachel Perkins, co-p: Darren Dale)
    Once you buy black you can't go back.
  • Shit Skin 
    (w/d: Nicholas Boseley, p: Kimba Thompson)
    A stolen generation Christian grandmother and her open-minded grandson experience conflicting phenomena and understanding with the deserts of Arrente Country, Central Australia.
  • Turnaround 
    (w/d: Samantha Saunders, p: Jenny Day)
    A teenage guy heads to Sydney for a hot date. He's held up on the way and realises the real meaning of this journey.

On Wheels (2000)

  • Confessions of a Headhunter
    (w: Archie Weller, w/d: Sally Riley, p: Kath Shelper)
    Frank and Vinnie are modern-day headhunters. They don't just want any heads, they want famous people, heads with a price on them and heads that will stop the nation dead.
  • Dust
    (w/d: Ivan Sen, p: Teresa-Jayne Hanlon)
    Five people come together on a dusty, desolate cotton field. Angry at the world and each other, racial tensions are ignited as Leroy, Mick, Amy and Vance work alongside each other in the heat of the day. Ruby, Leroy's mother, is the only one who notices the uneasy sky forcing the elements to change. When a violent dust storm arrives, racial differences must be put aside as the five weather the storm together. Australia's history, black and white, is revealed as the storm unearths the secrets that lie beneath the surface of the land.
  • Road
    (w: Matt Ford, w/d: Catriona McKenzie, p: Lisa Duff, Enda Murray)
    Two Aboriginal men try to escape the city after a fight with a taxi driver. With the vigilante taxi in hot pursuit they make their way to the beach. Their paths cross with another couple.

Crossing Tracks (1999)

  • Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
    (w: Archie Weller, w/d: Rima Tamou, p: Pauline Clague)
    Based on the Archie Weller short story, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning takes a shy, disenfranchised teenager in constant conflict with her single dad and places her hostage with three young men for whom actions have no consequences.
  • Harry's War
    (w/d: Richard Frankland, p: John Foss, Richard Frankland)
    A story of mateship, brothers in arms and friendship that embraces culture, war and death. Harry and Mitch are two mates who go off to fight in the jungles of Papua New Guinea during World War II. Harry is a Koorie and Mitch a non-Aboriginal Australian. Harry's War is about when mateship transcends race, cultural differences and societal barriers. It is a story of how war drives men to the brink and how the journey becomes more important than the journey's end.
  • Wind
    (w/d: Ivan Sen, p: Graeme Issac)
    Australia, 1867. In the cold, bleak high country, Jess, a young black tracker and his elderly sergeant follow the trail of a killer, a traditional Indigenous man. With every step closer, the killer delves into the mind and soul of Jess, until ultimately being faced with the choice between his ancestral heritage and the only life he has ever known.

Shifting Sands (1998)

  • Grace
    (w/d: Wesley Enoch, p: Owen Johnston, Justin Malbon)
    Grace lives a comfortable life with her family, however she must return for the funeral of her sister and confront the family she has never met, a past she has forgotten and the spirit of her country.
  • My Bed, Your Bed
    (w/d: Erica Glynn, p: Penelope McDonald)
    In an isolated desert community, Della and Alvin are promised under the traditional laws of marriage. Their time has come. They move in together. One house, two swags, a guitar... no idea.
  • My Colour, Your Kind
    (w/d: Danielle Maclean, p: Steven McGregor)
    A young girl incarcerated in a dormitory escapes to her rightful place in the world. During her journey she recollects her life and the treatment she has endured.
  • Passing Through
    (w/d: Mark Olive, p: Helen Lovelock)
    On her way to visit relatives, Margie meets up with two old men who knew her family. Before they are able to delve into their stories, she leaves to continue her journey. Has she missed the opportunity to discover the secrets of the past?
  • Promise
    (w/d: Mitch Torres, p: Pauline Clague)
    An old woman, overseeing her grandaughter making some damper, asked how it came to be that she was promised (betrothed) at a young age.
  • Tears
    (w/d: Ivan Sen, p: Teresa-Jayne Hanlon)
    A teenage couple are leaving the mission on their way to a new life. As they walk to the bus stop they discuss their reasons for leaving, but ultimately they choose different paths and must confront their separate futures.

From Sand to Celluloid (1996)

  • Black Man Down
    (w: Sam Watson, d: Bill McCrow, p: Sam Watson, Bruce Redman)
    A frightening look into the very core of the Aboriginal psyche. The Black Man is alone in a prison cell and feels that he cannot go on. Will he survive the night? Death calls him but the spirits urge him to live.
  • Fly Peewee Fly!
    (w/d: Sally Riley, p: Adrienne Parr)
    When six-year-old Robbie takes up residence in his favourite tree, to be with his friend the peewee bird, his family is forced to see the world from his point of view.
  • No Way to Forget
    (w/d: Richard Frankland, p: John Foss)
    No Way to Forget is based on Richard Frankland's experiences as a field officer during the 1988 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Royal Commission investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders held in police custody throughout Australia.
  • Payback
    (w/d: Warwick Thornton, p: Penny McDonald)
    Paddy, an Aboriginal man, has been in jail going on 20 years. It is the day of his release. Paddy knows of the two laws – a white one and a black one. The 20 years he has spent doing time for the white man's law have been in preparation for this one day – his payback.
  • Round Up
    (w/d: Rima Tamou, p: Pauline Clague)
    Two stockmen – one white and one Aboriginal – become injured in a brumby round-up. They are forced to spend a night in a city hospital where they learn that maybe they are not as different as they think they are.
  • Two Bob Mermaid
    (w/d: Darlene Johnson, p: Antonia Barnard)
    The year is 1956 and Aboriginal Australians are not allowed to swim in public swimming pools. A fair-skinned Aboriginal girl who passes off as white goes to the local pool. A film about identity.