Nominations for the The 6th AACTA Awards – Indigenous Films well represented

On Thursday 27th October, the nominations for the 6th annual AACTA awards were announced. The AACTA’s are the most prestigious awards ceremony for film and television in Australia. This year numerous Indigenous films were nominated for many different awards. These nominations are an excellent endorsement for the Indigenous film industry, as it illustrates that Indigenous films are worth seeing and being made. 

The AACTA awards (previously the AFI Awards) was launched in 2011 by the Australian Film Institute (AFI). The primary role of AACTA is to “recognise, encourage, promote and celebrate film and television excellence in Australia through the nation’s highest screen accolades”. AACTA is overseen by AACTA President, Geoffrey Rush, and an Honorary Council comprising more than 50 of Australia’s most outstanding film and television practitioners and performers.

While the AFI Awards were previously held in December, the AACTA awards are now held in January. This change was orchestrated so that the awards would be able to sit in the ‘International Film Awards’ calendar and be recognised as an international awards ceremony. Consequently the awards are now slotted between the Golden Globes (early January) and the Academy Awards (February). 

groupCate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Russell Crowe at the 2013 AACTA Awards | Picture Source- Styleicons

Indigenous Nominee’s – 2016 AACTA Awards



Official Poster – Goldstone (2016) | Picture Source – IMDB Goldstone

Ivan Sen’s 2016 film ‘Goldstone‘ leads the nominations, for the most recognised Indigenous film. Goldstone follows the story of Indigenous Detective Jay Swan, who arrives in the frontier town of Goldstone on a missing persons enquiry. What seems like a simple light duties investigation opens a web of crime and corruption. Jay must pull his life together and work with the young local cop Josh, so they can bring justice to Goldstone. 

The following list are the nominations Goldstone received for the 6th AACTA Awards – 

  1. Best Film – Goldstone – Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey
  2. Best Direction – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  3. Best original screenplay – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  4. Best editing – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  5. Best production design – Goldstone – Matt Putland


Alex Russell and Aaron Pederson in ‘Goldstone’ | Picture Source – SBS Ivan Sen’s ‘Goldstone’

TANNA (2015) 


Official Poster – Tanna (2015) | Picture Source – IMDB Tanna

The 2015 film Tanna is the second Indigenous film that has been recognised in the 6th AACTA Awards. The film, an Australia/Vanuatu co-production, is a Romeo and Juliet story set in one of the world’s last tribal societies. It is the first feature film shot entirely in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.  None of the ‘cast’ had ever acted before, but they passionately and naturally re-created this real-life story from recent tribal history. Although this film is based in the Island nations and was not shot on Australian soil, it is still included in my list of Indigenous films, due to the ‘tribal’ and ‘societal’ qualities. 

The following list are the nominations Tanna received for the 6th AACTA Awards – 

  1. Best Film – Tanna – Martin Butler ADG, Bentley Dean ADG, Carolyn Johnson
  2. Best Direction – Tanna – Bentley Dean ADG, Martin Butler ADG
  3. Best cinematography – Tanna – Bentley Dean ADG
  4. Best sound – Tanna – Emma Bortignon, James Ashton, Martin Butler ADG 
  5. Best original music score – Tanna – Antony Partos AGSC


SPEAR (2015) – Honorable Mention


Official Poster – Spear (2015) | Picture Source – IMDB Spear

An honorable mention goes to the 2015 Indigenous film Spear, that received two AACTA nominations. The film received nominations for Best cinematography (Bonnie Elliott) and Best costume design (Jennifer Irwin). Spear tells a contemporary Aboriginal story through movement and dance.Featuring dancers from the highly acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, this is an intimate journey that brings modern day mythology to the screen. 

The AACTA Awards main televised ceremony will be in Sydney on December 7.

Please follow this link to see ALL the nominees for the 2016 AACTA Awards –


Cover Photo Source – AACTA Homepage


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 2 -The Lesson)

Welcome back to Part 2 of my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous films!

Before coming to teach the lesson I had four main objectives that I wanted to achieve. These were –

  1. Understand the students knowledge of Indigenous films

  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

  4. Educate the students about Indigenous Films in a fun and friendly way

Upon entering the classroom I was a bit nervous (I have to admit!!). While the students didn’t throw pencils and paper at me, I was a little bit intimidated to talk to a group of students that I had never met before. However once I started to teach, the students were highly respectful and patient! They didn’t even cause a fuss when my YouTube links didn’t open (which was more stressful for me- than them!!).

To begin, I told the students about my campaign and the problems associated with the issue. I then spoke about my solution and prime objective – “to raise awareness/information and promote Indigenous films in Australia.” I also told them about the three media strategies I had used and I showed them each one of the pages (Facebook, Twitter and WordPress). The students were particularly impressed with my WordPress site!

unspecified-9A Slide from my PowerPoint Presentation to Davidson High School | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Questions asked in the Lessons

One of the most interesting parts of the lesson consisted of me asking the students a number of questions. To begin with I asked them, “What Indigenous films have you seen?”. The students responded that they had seen The Sapphires, Bran Nue Dae and Rabbit Proof Fence. All of the students had watched these films in class, under the guidance of Miss Sly.

I then asked the students, ‘Have you ever gone to the movies, to see an Indigenous film?’. Not one student in the class had seen an Indigenous film at the cinema. This fact was highly surprising to me. Even though the students are aged from 12-13, I had presumed that at least some of them would have seen an Indigenous film at the cinema. I had also presumed that some of the students parents would have taken them to see one. Only one boy in the class stated that his mother had watched The Sapphires at home. These facts substantiate my overall argument in this campaign. People are not aware or interested in Indigenous films. All members of the class were more interested in seeing films such as ‘The Hunger Games‘ and ‘Harry Potter‘ and even the film ‘Australia‘.

unspecified-10A Slide from my PowerPoint Presentation to Davidson High School | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Further, none of the students seemed overly interested or passionate about the Indigenous films they had watched in class. Only a few of the girls exclaimed that they liked Jessica Mauboy.

This way of thinking NEED TO CHANGE.

People (from as young as 13) should have an interest in seeing or at least LEARNING about Indigenous films. The parents of teenagers should also take more of an active interest in Indigenous films, so that they can pass their knowledge onto their children. Thankfully, teachers like Miss Sly promote Indigenous films and allow children to watch it at school.

Film Trailers shown in Lesson

Following the questions, I showed the students the Bran Nue Dae trailer and Charlie’s Country trailer. I asked the students to pay close attention to the trailers, as they were going to have to complete a quiz after watching them. The students were respectful and attentive when watching the trailers. I was particularly impressed with the way they handled Charlie’s Country trailer, as most of it is spoken in an Indigenous language!

img_1704img_1706Students watching the Film Trailers | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Please stay tuned for the FINAL part of my Blog, where I will speak about the games I played with students from Davidson High School!


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: Indigenous Television Shows

Today is the second post dedicated to the ‘Indigenous Series’! While this campaign is focused on promoting Indigenous films,  Indigenous Television plays a big part in the Australian film and entertainment industry.
National Indigenous Television Channel (NITV)
Indigenous television shows came into prominence in 2007, as the National Indigenous Television Channel (NITV) was established. NITV is a channel ‘made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’ While the channel is primarily catered towards Indigenous Australians, it is also directed towards a non-Indigenous audience. NITV mostly commissions or seeks content from the Indigenous production sector. It also hosts the only daily national news program, that covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island stories.
NITV News – On Nightly | For More Information Visit –
How to view NITV
NITV is available to view in 95% of Australians homes. You can view the programs on NITV through free-to-air and a number of additional platforms, such as Foxtel and Austar (Channel 144), TransACT, FreeView and VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television).
Redfern Now 
Redfern Now | Picture SourceABC TV (Redfern Now)
In 2012 the Indigenous television show ‘Redfern Now’ was screened on ABC TV. It was the first drama series written, directed and produced by Indigenous Australians.The series told a number of stories about Indigenous Australians living in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. The first series was directed by Indigenous stars- Rachel Perkins (Mabo, Bran Nue Dae) and Catriona McKenzie (Satellite Boy), and Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Wish You Were Here).
Cleverman | Picture SourceMTN Wiki (Cleverman-English TV Show Series)
In June of this year, Cleverman was screened on ABC TV. The show reimagines several stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. However, there is a twist! The show is set in the near future and focuses on a group of non-humans battling for survival, amongst creatures from ancient mythology. The show stars Hunter Page-Lochard (as KOEN WEST) – one of two Indigenous brothers who are forced together to fight for their survival!
The show has been received very well and has aired on the Sundance Channel in the US. Rotten Tomatoes gave the season a rating of 88% (which is very good!!).
The Warriors
In 2017 a new Indigenous comedy series will screen on ABC! The TV show titled ‘THE WARRIORS’ is set in the world of Australian Rules Football. The show explores the elite world of professional sport, as seen through the eyes of two two new players and two established team members.
The lead member of the cast, 18 year old Gordan Churchill will make his acting debut as Maki. Churchill was found in the remote Indigenous community of Warmun in the Kimberley Region.
This show is a fabulous endorsement for Indigenous Film and Television in Australia! Many of the creatives are some of the countries finest Indigenous talent, including series creator Tony Briggs (The Sapphires) and Catriona McKenzie (The Circuit, Redfern Now).

Australians knowledge of Indigenous Films

Prior to beginning this campaign, our team created a survey on Indigenous films in Australia. Other than the facts and figures provided by organisations such as Screen Australia and the Australia Council for the Arts, we did not know how many people in Australia were aware of Indigenous films. As the point of this campaign is to ‘promote’ Indigenous films, we felt that we should obtain some core data of our own and assess people’s knowledge.

For this reason, the survey sought to measure the amount of people that knew about Australian Indigenous films and other cultural events. 40 people were interviewed, ranging in age from 18-75 years. There was an even amount of male and female participants.

Some of the Key Questions were –

  1. Have you watched/gone to the cinema to see any Australian Indigenous films?

  2. From the list below, please select the Australian Indigenous films you have seen (Over 30 Indigenous films were listed)

  3. Did you know that in 2014, Indigenous actor David Gulpilil won the Un Certain Regard Award for ‘Best Actor’ at the Cannes Film Festival?


Findings from Survey

The findings from the survey were incredibly interesting and our team spent a long time going over the results (I was a bit obsessed with the data… but I love anything to do with facts and figures, so this is probably why ;).

The survey found that individuals in the 45-64 age category, had the greatest amount of knowledge on Aboriginal films. These people had seen the most Indigenous films and were aware of some Indigenous cultural events. These same individuals had seen some of the more obscure Aboriginal films such as Mad Bastards (2011) and Stone Bros. (2009). 

While this demographic had a strong base knowledge of Indigenous films, the survey found that they were not imparting any of their knowledge to the younger generations. Over 50% of participants aged 40- 75 years stated that they would be happy to watch an Indigenous film (Refer to Question 8). However, none of these same participants stated that they had taken their children to see an Indigenous film. It was therefore decided that our campaign would help to raise awareness towards the youth demographic, to compensate for the lack information received from their parents.


Audiences to Target

The target audience for this campaign is men and women aged between 18-35 years, particularly university students and graduate employees. Based on the survey data, these individuals had only seen 1 to 3 Indigenous films. Of the 17 youth interviewed, the most prominent film that had been watched was ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ (Noyce 2002) (Refer to Question 5). Further, individuals in this demographic had never heard about any form of Indigenous award ceremony (Refer to Question 7).

picture4pngpicture2The Survey provided some fascinating details and allowed us to work out our target audiences and target objectives!

Survey Reference – Johnston, A, 2016, ‘Indigenous Films in Australia’, SurveyMonkey, accessed 19th August 2016,

Cover Photo Scott 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