Indigenous Mini Lesson – Davidson High School (Part 3 -The Games)

Welcome to the final part of my blog series, where I have recounted my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous films!! In Part 3 of this Blog series I will speak about the Indigenous related ‘games’ I ran with Davidson students. 

To briefly re-cap on Part 2 of this blog series, I had already achieved two out of four of my objectives through the questions I asked and the film trailers I showed the class. The completed objectives were – 

2. Understand whether any of the students had gone to SEE an Indigenous film at the cinema

3. Talk to the students about my campaign and my research

The other two objectives were still to be achieved in my games!

The Quiz

Following the film trailers I showed the class, I told the students that they were going to participate in a quiz. The quiz was based off the two film trailers they had just watched, Bran Nue Dae and Charlie’s Country. All class members had patiently watched the trailers, so I was confident that they would be able to answer most/if all of the questions. 

I asked the students to form groups and choose a ‘group name’ based off an Indigenous film. (Quiz Instructions displayed in picture below)unspecified-12

Quiz- The Questions

As soon as I started asking the questions, the students were engaged. The boys were particularly engaged and were jumping out of their seats in excitement. Some of the questions included –

  • In ‘Charlie’s Country’ trailer, what object is taken from Charlie?

  • In a ‘Bran Nue Dae’, what song do the boys sing in the church?

  • In ‘Charlie’s Country’ what food does Charlie eat, after he throws his spear to catch food?

  • In a ‘Bran Nue Dae’, why don’t Annie and Slippery need a map?

‘The Sapphires’ ended up winning the quiz and securing the ultimate prize… Milky Ways!! The Sapphires team was actually made up of a group of boys, who were all very engaged throughout the whole game. This exercise showed me that games are one of the ways to engage young adolescents. 


Final Game – Hunger Games Activity 

For this activity, students had to pretend that they were Cast Directors of The HUNGER GAMES. However, their cast had to be made up of entirely Indigenous Actors. 
The students were shown slides with pictures of Australian Indigenous Actors on them, for casting purposes!


Students looking at the list of Indigenous Actors they can choose from- to cast in the HUNGER GAMES | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

The following slideshow shows the students working through the worksheet that I gave them. Although most of the students did not know any of the Indigenous actors that they had to cast, they fully engaged in the activity. Many of the students commented that they liked the ‘challenge’ of casting unknown actors, into the iconic Hunger Games roles.

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The students responses were excellent! While the activity was occurring I walked around the classroom and spoke to the students. The students casting choices were insightful and well thought through. All groups cast Jessica Mauboy as Katinss Everdeen, while Gale was cast as Ernie Dingo (from one group) and Luke Carroll (from another)!. 

Final Thoughts

I had SUCH an amazing time engaging and working with Davidson High School. The students were very respectful and eager to learn! I send my sincere thanks to Miss Sly’s Year 7 class for giving me their time! Although the students had not seen many Indigenous films, they were willing to LEARN! If people are willing to learn, then societies problems will change.

Final thanks goes to Miss Sly! I could not have done this lesson without her! Thank you so much for allowing me to come and talk to your wonderful class! Your passion for teaching is so inspiring and your classrooms are filled with such joy. I would also like to thank the Davidson staff for providing me with such a good education, for my six years. A particular thanks goes to my amazing Modern History teacher David Rule. Mr Rule’s passionate love for history and the world was imparted onto me. This will stay with me forever! 


Cover Picture Source | Davidson High School – Amy Johnston (2016)


Indigenous Mini Lesson – Davidson High School (Part 1 -Background and Hubs)

On Monday 17th October, I visited Davidson High School (a hub). As a part of this campaign, we had to engage with ‘external hubs’. A ‘hub’ is an influential organisation or group within a specific industry (Krebs & Holley 2013). For example, within the Indigenous Film Industry a ‘hub’ would be The Australian Council for the Arts or Screen Australia. Both of those organisations are dominant leaders and have a lot of power in the industry. A hub can also be any other organisation that carries influence, such as a school, a blog or an online campaign (Krebs & Holley 2013).

Throughout the campaign I had to find hubs that were willing to become involved with my issue (Krebs & Holley 2013). For this reason, I approached Davidson High School. Davidson is located in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and is a Public High School from Years 7-12. Davidson is particularly known for their ‘Performing Arts’ and ‘English Department’. While the school does not specialise in Indigenous film, many of the English teachers have a very good knowledge about the films.


Warwick Thornton directing a three-minute film for Tourism Australia | Picture Source – Australia’s Indigenous tourism offering (Tourism Australia)

From 2008-2013 I was a student at Davidson High School. The school was a wonderful place to be educated, as I came away with a deep passion for English and History. While I attended Davidson I watched a number of Indigenous films in my English classes. I was fortunate enough to watch Ivan Sen’s ‘Beneath Clouds‘ (2002) during one of these classes. My passion for Indigenous films started from this viewing.


Me at Davidson (I’m the one on the far left…) | Picture Source- Amy Johnston

Once I had decided that my campaign was going to be about Indigenous films, I approached my old teacher Eleana Sly (or Miss Sly too me… :p). I asked her whether I would be able to come to the school and teach a ‘mini-lesson’ on Indigenous films. The lesson would educate students about Indigenous films and culture. Miss Sly was incredibly helpful and said that she was happy for me to run a lesson with her Year 7 class! 

Before coming I taught the lesson at the school, Miss Sly showed her Year 7 students the films, ‘The Sapphires’ (2012), ‘Bran Nue Dae’ (2009) and ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ (2002). Consequently, most students had a good base knowledge on Indigenous films, making it easier for me to guide them through my presentation. The students had also undertaken a research task on an Australian Indigenous actor and a Australian Indigenous director. Miss Sly went above and beyond to help me and prepare the students for my presentation. I am beyond grateful to her! 


Bran Nue Dae (2009) Poster | Picture Source- Roger Ebert (Bran Nue Dae Review)

I must say, when I was preparing my slides last weekend I was quite nervous! I hadn’t been back to my High School for three years and I was teaching a Year 7 class!! Aren’t Year 7 meant to be a full on year?? However, once I worked out what I was going to talk to the students about, all my worries disappeared and I was excited! 

PLEASE continue to read Part 2 and Part 3 of my Blog, about my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous Films!


Cover Picture Source | Davidson High School – Amy Johnston (2016)

Indigenous Series: Director, Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds)

Today is our first post dedicated to the ‘Indigenous Series’! This series will explore Indigenous directors, actors, films and TV Shows. The goal for this series is to promote Indigenous films and show how the Aboriginal film industry has interesting stories to tell and unique films to see. 

The first person explored in our Indigenous Series, is the Indigenous director Ivan Sen. His 2002 film ‘Beneath Clouds’ will also be explored in detail. Sen  is one of Australia’s most prolific filmmakers. Internationally renown, his films have been shown around the world at Festivals such as – 

  • Cannes Film Festival
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Toronto International Film Festival
  • Berlin International Film Festival
  • London Film Festival
  • Sydney Film Festival
  • Melbourne International Film Festival

Sen is one of Australia’s auteur filmmakers. His films are breathtakingly beautiful, as they are able to capture the magic and spirit of modern-day Indigenous people. 

Sen’s Background


Sen on the set of his film Dreamland in the Nevada desert (2011)  – Picture Source: Peter Robb, The Monthly, ‘Dreamland- A Journey through north-western NSW with Ivan Sen’

Sen grew up in Coledale, Tamworth, a town in regional New South Wales. Coledale was one of the first public housing areas in Tamworth, and many Indigenous people lived there. Sen stated that Coledale was ‘kind of segregated from the rest of the town back then’, thus making him feel isolated and alone. Sen also dealt with high crime and drugs rates when he was growing up. While this may sound shocking to us, Sen said that he had ‘been faced by all these things all my life…’ He stresses that he no longer feels sadness about these issues, but instead wants to address these things in his films. 

One of Sen’s positive experiences of living in Coledale was going to the cinema. Sen commented that ‘The local cinema was a long walk from here, but every few weeks we had the money and we would go through the other side of town across the railway tracks…’ The first film he saw was Peter Weir’s magnificent film ‘Gallipoli’ (1981). As an eight-year old boy Sen was moved to tears and was emotionally effected by it. 

A Selection of Sen’s Films

Beneath Clouds (2002) 


Beneath Clouds (2002) Poster – Picture Source: IMP Awards – Beneath Clouds Poster

Beneath Clouds was Sen’s first feature film and was critically acclaimed both nationally and internationally. The films two actors had never acted before and were discovered by Sen. Dannielle Hall (Lena) was found in a video clip made by students at Tamworth TAFE and her co-star Damian Pitt (Vaughn) signed up after Sen spotted him on a street in Moree. 

Beneath Clouds tells the story of two disenfranchised teenagers who are looking to escape their worlds. Lena (Dannielle Hall) rejects her Indigenous family and longs for her Irish father, while Vaughn (Damian Pitt) has been aged by the prison system and is angry at the white world. These two complex characters come together and hitchhike to Sydney to find identity and freedom. 


Vaughn (Damian Pitt) and Lena (Dannielle Hall) in Beneath Clouds – Picture Source: Beneath Clouds Picture

The film went on to win numerous awards and be screened at numerous film festivals including – 

  • Berlin International Film Festival (WON – Beneath Clouds – Piper Heidsieck New Talent Award – Dannielle Hall – International Competition)
  • Berlin International Film Festival (WON – Beneath Clouds – Premiere First Movie Award – Ivan Sen – International Competition)
  • Sundance Film Festival (SCREENED – Native Forum – Beneath Clouds)
  • International Film Festival Rotterdam (SCREENED – Tracking Time – Beneath Clouds

Sen also won ‘Best Direction’ at the 2002 Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards. 

Sen’s Films continued…

Sen has continued to make films that promote and shed light on Indigenous issues in Australia! Some of these films include – Yellow Fella (2005), Toomelah (2011), Mystery Road (2013) and his latest film Goldstone (2016). 


Cover Photo Source – Toomelah Official Website