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Intro to... the First Nations team

Screen Australia’s First Nations team discuss the sector, what they’re watching right now, and give their best tips for funding applications.

You can also listen to an interview with Angela Bates on the Screen Australia Podcast here and check out funding opportunities available to First Nations practitioners through the First Nations Department here.


Head of First Nations

Angela Bates

Angela Bates hails from country New South Wales and is a proud Aboriginal and Māori woman. She has a background in journalism and has worked at CAAMA, ABC and SBS and NITV. Her proudest achievement is setting up the first nightly National Indigenous News service in 2008 as its inaugural Executive Producer, overseeing its rapid growth including it’s free-to-air launch in 2012. Angela has a Master of Arts Screen: Business and Leadership from the AFTRS. She spent a year in Winnipeg, Canada in 2015 and 2016 working for the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBN) hosted by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). 


Development and Investment Manager

Jessica Byrne

Dr Jessica Byrne is a proud Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi woman and Development and Investment Manager in the First Nations department at Screen Australia. Jessica started her career as a regional practitioner in Broken Hill working across factual, scripted, stage and arts projects. In 2021 Jessica completed her PhD at the National Indigenous Knowledges Education Research Innovation (NIKERI) Institute at Deakin University. Jessica’s previous roles include Research Manager, First Nations audiences at SBS and NITV where she focused on research that supported the content, device, platform and language needs and preferences of First Nations audiences and non-Indigenous audiences engaging with First Nations content.


Development and Investment Manager


A proud Gangulu man, Joseph was born and raised in the Northern Territory and has worked in film and television production across Australia and Canada for the likes of Discovery Channel, Netflix, HBO and CBC. Joseph’s role within the First Nations Department as a Development and Investment Manager includes assessing funding applications, managing a slate of First Nations projects and managing various initiatives.



Development and Investment Manager


Jorjia is a proud Budawang/Yuin woman and Development and Investment Manager in the First Nations department at Screen Australia. Her previous roles include Manager First Nations, Industry Initiatives Team and Project Manager of First Nations Arts and Culture team at Australia Council for the Arts. Jorjia has a background in theatre and was Creative Associate at Playwriting Australia and Arts Educator at Bell Shakespeare. She holds a Bachelor of Theatre and Performance from the University of New England and a Diploma in Performance Practices at the Australia College of Theatre and Television. Jorjia was named the Balnaves Fellow of the Balnaves Fellowship in 2020.


Departmental Co-ordinator

Murray Clapham

Murray is the Coordinator for the First Nations Department at Screen Australia. He is a Murruwarri Man, born and raised on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country north of Canberra. Murray is a Sydney based, trans-disciplinary film and content maker with experience in producing, writing, directing, story development, production coordinating, editing, sound recording and performance. Murray has also worked in various roles over the years including project facilitator for Sharing Stories Foundation, Freelance Digital Content Editor for Football Federation Australia, Company Director for Triceratops Sound, and as an Administration officer for Broadcast Music and Archives at Fox Sports. Prior to his time at Screen Australia, he was teaching Production in the Bachelors Degree as well as Production Coordinator for both Bachelors and Masters Degrees at AFTRS.


Angela Bates: There are so many career highlights for me, from starting up NITV News and growing First Nations journalists in this country, to stepping into this role which I consider a great privilege. I am passionate about First Nations storytelling – promoting and supporting the growth of talent and content, and it’s something I have whole heartedly dedicated my working career to for the past 23 years.

Dr Jessica Byrne: My career highlight has been completing my PhD alongside my Elders, on Country. My PhD led to the development and production of the stop motion animation Sandhill Stories, sharing stories and knowledge from my Elders on the Sandhills of Narrandera, Wiradjuri Country. The stop motion film was five years in the making, and has become a vehicle to pass on knowledge within my family and community across generations.

Joseph Meldrum: Attending the NITV 10 Year Anniversary at Uluru at the end of 2022 was really special to me. To be out on beautiful Anangu Country with the whole Community celebrating the strength and success of First Nations storytelling was such a powerful and inspiring moment in my career.

Jorjia Gillis: Being announced as the Balnaves Fellow in 2020. I was a huge fan of all of the previous winner’s work, including Leah Purcell’s The Drovers Wife. It gave me the opportunity to create and develop work the way I wanted to, and as it took place during COVID and lockdowns it was a great reminder of how much we need stories.

Murray Clapham: I’ve been very lucky to be a part of many interesting projects in a number of roles, but one that stands out for me is that I had the privilege of directing the last ever Metro Screen short film. There was a cohort of us at the time, of which I was last to go into production. I list this as a highlight because I’m a passionate supporter of the grassroots level of the film industry, particularly for First Nations practitioners, and Metro Screen here in Sydney (sadly Metro Sydney is no more) was a big first step between film school and the bottom rung of the industry ladder, and was very important for me at a formative time.


Angela Bates: I am excited (but not surprised) about the success of our First Nations stories at both a local and global level. Mystery Road: Origin is the most watched adult TV drama on ABC iview in history. Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy has just screened at Cannes, and although not in competition, it’s the only Australian film to do so this year. Feature Films We Are Still Here, Sweet As and TV Drama Mystery Road: Origin screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Sweet As screened at Berlinale this year. It goes to show how far our stories can travel when they are told through our authentic voices. This year marks 30 years of the First Nations Department at Screen Australia; that’s 30 years of government investment in First Nations storytelling both in developing talent and content, and funding production. I am also excited about the next wave of talent coming through.

Dr Jessica Byrne: I am noticing innovation across platforms and devices, shifting the way our mob share stories, Culture, Language and activism etc. I predict this shift, particularly within social media, online and games, to continue to change the way we access, connect with, and pass on stories and knowledge within our Communities.

Joseph Meldrum: I am noticing an increase in bold stories coming out that push the boundaries of not only First Nations storytelling, but filmmaking in general. With the likes of Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy, Ivan Sen’s Limbo, John Harvey’s Katele, and many more exciting projects coming through development that combine genre with culture and lore in ways that have not been seen before and I would love to see more of it.

Jorjia Gillis: It’s exciting to see there are a wide range of new voices coming from many different parts of the country, including remote, regional and city areas. First Nations creators are not only traversing genres but also forms. Gaming is great example of this with First Nations visual artists, screenwriters, musicians, and actors flexing their skills in games and in other digital forms.

Murray Clapham: I think there is more of an appetite in Australia than ever before for First Nations stories on our screens. In conjunction with this, and more opportunities becoming available in the industry for First Nations voices, we are seeing the emergence of a wider variety of portrayals of First Nations characters for a modern audience. The Sydney Film Festival opened with a First Nations feature for the second year in a row and such programs as All My Friends Are Racist, Firebite and Mystery Road: Origin. Upcoming films like The Moogai and The New Boy are revealing that not only are stereotypes of the past shifting, but First Nations practitioners are fast becoming some of the best content makers in the country.


Angela Bates: Unique and authentic voices. To echo previous Heads of First Nation Department Penny (Smallacombe) and Erica (Glynn): we fund excellence.

Dr Jessica Byrne: I think the most powerful stories are those positioned in lived and shared experience. We are looking for storytelling that is compelling, original, innovative and thought-provoking.

Joseph Meldrum: We are looking for stories that are unique and original, stories that have not been told before and have something new to say. We are also looking for projects that have strong vision and direction in terms of market and audience as well. Projects have to have a good balance of creativity and logistical viability to ensure the stories are reaching their best potential.   

Jorjia Gillis: It’s an important opportunity for the creator/s to express their voice and the vision of their work; no one else is like you so as cheesy as it sounds, be yourself, it comes through in the application. And timeliness of the work, why does this story need to be told, why now?

Murray Clapham: I think originality carries a lot of weight. We are looking for courageous, original stories with authentic characters. It’s always good to hear the unique voice of the creators shining through an application and to see a clear, bold vision for audience as well as for the lifecycle of a project.


Angela Bates: Everything we fund!

Dr Jessica Byrne: With over 90% of First Nations language groups recognised as endangered, it is wonderful to see programs such as Little J & Big Cuz (NITV, ABC), True Colours (SBS, NITV), and interactive content such as My Grandmothers Lingo (SBS) highlighting First Nations languages. Our Languages are intrinsic to our Cultures, our identities and wellbeing as First Nations peoples, and having access to them across high quality storytelling is powerful.

Joseph Meldrum: I have been a big fan of series Our Law produced by Pink Pepper Productions and Periscope Pictures which focuses on First Nations police officers and cadets in training who work in and around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. It is a powerful series that shows the positive impact that comes from having law enforcement in the hands of the Community which is available on SBS On Demand.  

Jorjia Gillis:
If you love new work and a good coming-of-age story do yourself a favour and see the new film Sweet As by writer/director Jub Clerc, and if you’re in or visiting Naarm (Melbourne), check out at ACMI the animated work titled Arrkutja Tharra, Kungka Kutjara, Two Girls about artists Sally M Nangala Mulda and Marlene Rubuntja — the exhibition is a great intersection of art and film.

Murray Clapham: Everyone needs to watch Mystery Road: Origin ASAP — it’s gorgeously shot, the performances are just unreal, and the end will genuinely surprise you. Another recent stand out for me is the animated series Childish Deano created by Dean Thomas. It’s a hilarious show about a rambunctious young Noongar boy facing the many perils of primary school, it’ll make you literally snort out loud with laughter, and then a moment later break your heart.


  • All My Friends Are Racist here.
  • Childish Deano here.
  • Firebite here.
  • Little J & Big Cuz here.
  • Mystery Road: Origin here.
  • My Grandmother’s Lingo here.
  • Our Law here.
  • True Colours here.