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The amazing work of Brother Al and understanding mental illness.

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In 2014 I had the opportunity to spend a week at a place called Emmaus Community in Perth. Emmaus Community, run by the amazing Brother Al (pictured above), provides long term independent community living for adults who live with mental health issues. Brother Al was once a fast-living music producer working in Los Angeles. These days he lives quietly and humbly at Emmaus Community where he oversees the day to day running of this truly incredible home that has changed the lives of so many.

It was the first time I had an opportunity to spend time with people tackling serious mental health issues. They welcomed me into their community, their lives and some shared their stories. It was the first time my eyes were really opened to what it’s like to live with mental illness. It was also a great opportunity to hear some amazing stories of hope and change -lives that have been turned around by one humble man.

Spending time at Emmaus Community made me understand how important a sense of family and community to good mental health and recovery is. Brother Al uses simple principles to create miracles: treat people with honesty; show them love; give them freedom and provide a nurturing space to live. It’s truly amazing what Brother Al has achieved through Emmaus Community and a shining example of how mental illness can be better understood and embraced.

To watch the short film I made for Emmaus Community, click here.

To find out more about Brother Al and Emmaus Community, click here.


The Incredible Spirit of the Ni Vanuatu

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Mid 2013, I spent a couple of weeks in Port Vila, Vanuatu followed by a week on the island of Espirito Santo. The first two weeks was spent volunteering with a small NGO called Further Arts who do some great work with local young people in a range of artistic endeavours including filmmaking, photography and sound. Their tagline is “using arts and culture for social transformation”. My role was filmmaker trainer working with a group of Further Arts young people to make a short documentary on Blackbirding (the coercion of many Pacific Islanders into forced labour).

It was an incredible opportunity to forge some great friendships with some wonderful people and to meet some other locals, including the amazing Alice who you see in the photo. Alice is a grandmother, mother and wife. She helps look after her 8 grandchildren in a tiny dirt floored house with no running water, she works part time at the abattoirs, her back is constantly in pain but she never complained. Her infectious smile was a testament to a courageous woman. With very little she was incredibly happy.

I got a message back from Alice just last week telling me she and her family were ok after the hideous devastation in Vanuatu. She told me she has even less than before, well nothing really except the clothes on their backs, but she was optimistic for the future ! All the Ni Vanuatu I met while there seemed to have this most amazing, unshakeable spirit. It’s evident in their faces, their smiles and the wonderful way it was so easy to connect.

If only just a little of Alice’s determination, fortitude and happiness could rub off on the rest of the world, I think we’d be a much better place.

Native Title Determination for the Ngadju People of Western Australia

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In November, 2014 I was fortunate to spend some time in Norseman, Western Australia filming the Native Title Determination event for the Ngadju people. The original claim was filed about 18 years ago in the federal court and the event recognised the handing down of Native Title claim covering approximately 45,000sq km of land declared exclusive possession, the highest form of native title. Part of the title includes the very amazing Great Western Woodlands – around 40 million acres of relatively intact bushland.

A makeshift Australian Federal Court was erected on the oval in Norseman for the determination with the Honourable Justice Shane Marshall overseeing proceedings. It was the final Native Title determination Justice Marshall oversaw before announcing his retirement that day.

“Native title describes the recognition by the Australian legal system of rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs. Native Title was first recognised in the Australian legal system in 1992 by the High Court in the historic Mabo decision. Native title may include rights of possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of traditional country.” Source: Federal Court of Australia website.

Australian Aboriginal Languages. What can we do to protect them ?

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(Daisy from Ampilatwatja (350km North East of Alice Springs) holds “Aper” or bush medicine.)

Did you know that Vimeo provides an option to choose the language for your uploaded video? Their list of over 160 different languages includes 4 different types of English, 6 types of Chinese, 4 types of French, 3 types of Spanish and 2 types of German. Not one in their extensive list is an Australian Aboriginal language. Read More

Why is there such a divide between remote Indigenous Australians and the rest of us ?

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My first trip to a remote Aboriginal community in Australia was in February 2010. Since that time, I’ve visited quite a few more across South Australia and the Top End and have been working away slowly on an independent documentary project that centres on a character called Banjo Morton from Ampilatwatja in central Australia, about 350 km North East of Alice Springs, off the Sandover Highway. Read More

Citizens Juries. Impact on Film.

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I was fortunate to spend four days in February filming the Citizen’s Jury for People with Disability Australia (PWDA) held in Sydney and facilitated by Max Hardy Consulting. This Citizens Jury was held to deliberate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Probably one of the most memorable legacies of the Gillard Government.  Working with me as second camera unit and photographer was Claudio Raschella and as sound location engineer, Sasha Zastankovic. Read More

How can a Think Films production help you?

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As a global society we are besieged by disadvantage, inequity, conflict, hunger, environmental degradation and poverty. The numbers are staggering and it’s easy for those of us living in the so-called “developed world” to turn a blind eye. Even in wealthy Australia we see over 12% of our children living in poverty. Then there is homelessness, disability, exclusion in many forms, to name just a few of the challenges. Read More