Independent documentary filmmakers are used to making something out of nothing. When I first embarked on my project about Aboriginal stockman Banjo Morton it wasn’t a project that had any funding or resources attached to it. Just an intrigued filmmaker who read Banjo’s story in “The Age” and who saw something much more. An opportunity to create a story that highlighted an important part of Australian history.
Soon after I read the article, I emailed Banjo’s nephew Richard Downs, telling him about my work on my Tibet documentary and why I was interested in Banjo’s story. A couple of hours later, Richard called. We spoke for over an hour. “You should come out and meet Banjo and the others” said Richard. Two weeks later I made my first trip to a remote community 350km from Alice Springs in the middle of Australia. From that trip, a new journey began. I had no idea how I was going to do it, all I knew was I was going to do it.
What I saw in Banjo’s story were many things: unknown history; acknowledging the contribution of Banjo and other Aboriginal stockmen; a story of people trying to create change; celebrating culture; understanding some of the issues faced by remote Indigenous Australians. But most of all I saw, in this humble man, the ability to help bridge the divide between remote Indigenous Australians and urban Australians.
Someone told me recently this statistic: 9 our of 10 Australians have never had any contact with an Indigenous Australian. To me, that’s something that needs to be remedied and my project about Banjo and the people of Ampilatwatja is one way I hope to do this.
So like my documentary about Tibet which started with just a dream, so too has my documentary on Banjo Morton and the people of Ampilatwatja. Like many documentary filmmakers – I live lean, I put everything I have into my passion and I constantly have to find ways of raising money. I’ve been able to find some wonderful supporters – both product sponsors and people who have contributed financially – that have allowed me to get to where I am with this project.
The project is now at a major intersection and will be an interactive, multi-layered media project that I want to become part of the Australian curriculum. I want every child in Australia to meet Banjo, to meet the people of Ampilatwatja and through interacting with their stories online, to discover, to question, to learn, to understand and most of all to connect.
More information about Meet Banjo at www.meetbanjo.com
Photo: With Australian icon Dick Smith who has supported some of my work on this project.