Filming Aboriginal Australia

Looking back and taking a measure of my own personal transformation

Looking back and taking a measure of my own personal transformation

Here I am sitting at the Perth Airport, waiting for my soul to catch up… it’s still floating around in the Kimberley somewhere. The First Assistant Director, Richard McGrath, played me a heartbreakingly, beautiful song by Frank Yamma called, “She Cried” and I drifted out of the airport all the way back to a much more soulful place, as I listened to the words, “life is precious, down we go, growing old…” Music has played a significant role in...

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Shooting at Kooljaman and Lombadina at Cape Leveque

Shooting at Kooljaman and Lombadina at Cape Leveque

Featuring: Diane, Mark and our awesome Aboriginal guides – Bundy, Brian and Robert  The story as it unfolded “Dawn. The sun rises over a beautiful bay. Mark enjoys the view from the balcony of the safari tent. He turns to Diane who is still in bed, her eyes open gently. ‘So… what do you want to do today?’ A 4WD cruises along the pristine beach. The camera rises up to reveal they are the only people for miles. They look out the car window...

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Shooting at Bawaka Homelands in East Arnhem Land

Shooting at Bawaka Homelands in East Arnhem Land

Featuring: Diane Young, Mark Hodge and our wonderful Yolngu hosts The story as it unfolded: ‘It’s all about life and a love for the land’…The music kicks in. Feet stomp on sandy ground. We tilt up to see a powerful traditional Aboriginal dance. It’s the Lirrwi mob in East Arnhem Land. Mark and Diane get painted up too. Timmy greets them warmly, ‘now you are welcome in our country’. They pull up to the stunning Lonely Island...

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Shooting at Uluru

Shooting at Uluru

Featuring: Rachel and Ben. Their guides are Sammy and Sarah and the artist is Christine. The story as it unfolded: “A young couple look out at the majestic Uluru, discussing which spot on the horizon they will see the sunrise. Their Anangu guide points out to the distance… and as if by magic, the sun explodes with warm light at that exact spot. It illuminates Rachel’s face and she smiles as if seeing the world in a new way.   Later,...

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And Action! The film shoot starts in Mt Borradaile

And Action! The film shoot starts in Mt Borradaile

Featuring: Diane Young, Mark Hodge and their guide, James Tipungwuti. The story as it unfolded: “The small plane lands on the remote airstrip. The couple pull their bags from the plane. He’s visibly excited, she’s a little anxious having not travelled remotely before. A bush Toyota arrives… and James, the Aboriginal guide, beams at them with a charming smile which instantly puts them at ease. They drive down a track in the 4WD. Diana looks out...

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Breath of the Ancestors…

Breath of the Ancestors…

Visiting the Aboriginal homelands in East Arnhemland for me, is all about gaining a new perspective on life, by connecting with people who provide a deeply rewarding cultural exchange. The scenery framing this cultural exchange is equally as inspiring and brings about a special sense of connectedness. There is such a feeling of serenity when gazing out over the endless white sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water and tuning into the natural...

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Refreshing outback waterfalls, swimming holes and a luxury lodge

Refreshing outback waterfalls, swimming holes and a luxury lodge

I’m staying at the new Cicada Lodge, a beautiful base from which to explore Nitmiluk National Park. It’s the very end of the dry season so most of the Park’s massive waterfalls have dried up and the water levels are at their lowest. That said, the gorges and waterholes are still beautiful as we explore them with Kirt, our helicopter pilot. He takes us through the gorge to a stunning waterhole with its own plunge pool and small waterfall but...

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Getting bogged…

Getting bogged…

No four wheel drive expedition would be complete without managing to get bogged… and we managed it more than once! Fortunately it didn’t take us long to get unstuck, especially in Cape Leveque where a helpful group of Tasmanian’s thankfully gave us a push.

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Ripping birds heads off!

Ripping birds heads off!

Brian from Kooljaman told me that today, amongst other things, we were going to rip a birds head off. He was laughing as he said it, so I presumed he wasn’t been literal. Fortunately what he was referring to was a story about how a greedy bird came to be the flower of a bush. The Dreamtime story went: “A little bird used to wake up early in the morning and drink all the nectar of the flowers. By the time his family got up there wasn’t any...

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A dreamscape of clear turquoise waters and endless white beaches…

A dreamscape of clear turquoise waters and endless white beaches…

We took a 20 minute drive from Lombadina up to Kooljaman, a beautiful wilderness camp on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, jointly owned by the Djarindjin and One Arm Point Aboriginal communities. We stayed in a very comfortable safari tent with its own bathroom, kitchen and balcony overlooking the glistening turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the white sandy beach and red cliffs. It’s like a dreamscape and all I can hear are the waves...

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Eyeballing whales, fishing and cooking our catch

Eyeballing whales, fishing and cooking our catch

Yesterday we went out fishing with Rob on Lombadina’s new boat and were blown away when a pod of Humpback Whales came right up to our boat and then swam under it. Warwick got a picture of one of the Whales eyes – they were that close! We watched them breach and tail slap as they disappeared into the distance – AMAZING!!! Afterwards Warwick and Brendan caught some lovely fish for dinner which we cooked up that night – it doesn’t get fresher than...

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Bardi style mud masks and giant crabs

Bardi style mud masks and giant crabs

I’m staying at the wonderfully friendly community of Lombadina, an untouched coastal paradise just north of Broome in Western Australia. It’s the perfect place to lose track of the time. I love being here and immersing myself in the easy going way of life of the ‘Salt Water People’. During the afternoon we took a stroll down to the beach, which looks like it should be the setting for the next Corona ad, with its stark white sandy beach that...

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Lily laden floodplains teeming with wildlife and rock art heaven!

Lily laden floodplains teeming with wildlife and rock art heaven!

Mt Borradaile is 700 square kilometres of pure heaven! We arrived by light plane and were sharing the place with only two other guests. It’s a paradise filled with lily laden floodplains, water that reflects like glass, and is teeming with birds, crocodiles and Barramundi (well most of the time). The floodplains are framed by rocky outcrops with incredible vistas, which are home to some amazing rock art. I was reading a fascinating book in...

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Behind the scenes update with Warwick and Brendan

Behind the scenes update with Warwick and Brendan

It’s been great fun travelling with Warwick and Brendan who have squeezed as much as they possibly can into every hour of daylight as I suggest places and activities for them to include in our upcoming filming! So far the film ‘recce’ (abbreviated industry jargon for ‘reconnaissance’) has included: Sydney (The Rocks and Botanical Gardens) Queensland (Cooya Beach, Mossman Gorge, Daintree River, the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, Mission...

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Palya, welcome to Uluru

Palya, welcome to Uluru

No matter how many times I visit Uluru I’m always in awe of it! It really feels like I’m at the heart and centre of this vast continent, and many Aboriginal Songlines intersect here. Uluru is a massive sandstone monolith, 348 metres in height which bears the physical evidence of the feats performed during the creation period by the ancestral beings of Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It doesn’t get any cooler...

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Outback mountain ranges, gorges, wildlife and great food

Outback mountain ranges, gorges, wildlife and great food

I lived in Alice Springs for a year and just love it here! The Western MacDonnell Ranges are filled with chasms, waterholes, gorges, white ghost gums and rocky outcrops. In addition to the plethora of stunning vistas, there is the 223km long Larapinta Trail, offering one of Australia’s most spectacular bushwalking and trekking experiences. Bike riding to Simpsons Gap is like travelling through the Serengeti Plains – but without the predators!...

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Kayaking on a secluded tropical river

Kayaking on a secluded tropical river

I’m staying at Castaways at Mission Beach, which has the most glorious views of the palm fringed beach. I just love Mission Beach, which is a very small and laid back coastal town. It is from here that I get to do one of my favourite things… that is kayaking on the pristine, palm fringed waters of the secluded Bulgan River with the fabulously fun crew from Ingan Tours; Sonya, Doug and sweet Caroline. Whenever I come to Tully it seems to be...

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The Daintree River and a lodge right out of the movie Avatar!

The Daintree River and a lodge right out of the movie Avatar!

I had a great morning exploring the Daintree River with Dan Irby (Mangrove Adventures) and Juan Walker our Kuku Yalanji guide, who is the owner of Walkabout Cultural Adventures. The Daintree is just magic especially in the afternoon light.  Within an hour of getting on the water we had seen crocodiles, sea eagles, quite a few king fishers and a python. The river is so relaxing and listening to Juan talking about how he fishes out here under a...

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In search of mud crabs, turtles and mangrove jack

In search of mud crabs, turtles and mangrove jack

Now I’m totally in Queensland mode. I’m at Cooya Beach just north of Port Douglas and am catching up with the very cruisey and fun Linc Walker from Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours. I kick off my thongs and after a leisurely stroll along the beach head into the mangroves with Linc who is showing me how to look for mud crabs. This involves looking for a hole in the base of a tree then ramming a spear into it in the hope of hearing...

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Exploring the lush rainforest at Mossman Gorge

Exploring the lush rainforest at Mossman Gorge

After the adrenalin rush of quad biking on massive stark white sand dunes, I now find myself standing in awe at a totally different kind of scenery – and that is the lush green tropical rainforest, listening to the gentle sounds of Mossman Gorge. Yep, I’m starting to feel very zen as I walk through the oldest, continuously surviving rainforest on earth, which is home to the Kuku Yalanji people. And better still, my guide Rodney from the Mossman...

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Quad biking on sand dunes with ocean views

Quad biking on sand dunes with ocean views

Quad biking is so much fun – it is pure exhilaration, and the guys at Sand Dune Adventures took great care of us. We were surrounded by massive, breathtaking white sand dunes, framed by a perfect blue sky and the beautiful ocean. It was like being in the Sahara, yet Sydney is just two hours down the road. I got to the top of this huge dune, with a steep drop off, and for a second my fear of heights kicked in. But with some gentle encouragement...

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Sydney: its Aboriginal story 

Sydney: its Aboriginal story 

Sydney is a fantastic place to learn about Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal people have always lived here and our inspirational guide for the morning is Margret Campbell, a Dunghutti – Jerrinjah woman. Margret has been educating people on Aboriginal culture for many years. During our walk through the historic Rocks area Margret tells us about the traditional owners of Sydney – the Gadigal people, and I was interested to find out that there...

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The team and Stephen Page from Bangarra Dance Theatre

The team and Stephen Page from Bangarra Dance Theatre

We’ve started the film recce after months of planning and kicked it off with a bang by catching up with the fabulous Stephen Page, Artistic Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. We thoroughly enjoyed getting an insight into the cultural context of their dances whilst he regaled us with wonderful stories about being on country. Bangarra produce unforgettable and powerfully engaging contemporary Indigenous theatre performances. Check out their...

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Behind The Scenes

KristiThis blog captures the behind the scenes action for the Filming Aboriginal Australia location scouting and shoot. As the Indigenous Experiences Project Manager for Tourism Australia, I have visited many of these amazing spots before, yet am still awed by the deep connectedness I feel when out here ‘on country’ with our wonderful Aboriginal hosts. Thanks for joining me on this journey, Kristi.

For more info about
the project, click here.
For more detail on my
background, click here.

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