The Australian Film Commission
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Letter from the Chair
Governance Statement
Commissioner Profiles
Chief Executive - Kim Dalton
Executive Overview
Organisational, Output and Outcome Framework
Operations Reports
Film Development
ScreenSound Australia
Indigenous Unit
Industry and Cultural Development
Policy, Research and Information
Corporate Services
Official Co-production Program
Statutory Reports
Appendix 1 - Enabling Legislations
Appendix 2 - Awards Won by AFC-funded Films
Appendix 3 - International Screenings of AFC-funded Films
Appendix 4 - Publications
Appendix 5 - Access and Equity
Appendix 6 - The Archive
Appendix 7 - Applications Statistics
Appendix 8 - Assessors and Consultants
Appendix 9 - Industry Assistance
Financial Statements
Independent Audit Report
Statement by Commissioners
Statement of Financial Performance
Statement of Financial Position
Statement of Cash Flows
Schedule of Commitments
Schedule of Contingencies
Notes to and Forming Part of the Financial Statements
Indigenous Unit

Dramatically Black
Writing for Series Television Workshop - Third Stage
Funded Projects
National Indigenous Documentary Fund
Professional Development
Screen Culture
Workshops Funded
Canadian Producers
Film Festival and Lecture Tour in Japan
Message Sticks

International Access

National Indigenous Film and Television Training Strategy
Indigenous Television Working Party
Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA)
All Roads Film Project
Research and Ethics Conference, NZ
Highlights 2003/04
Bird Runningwater
Screen Production Development Association (SPADA), NZ
Sydney Film Festival 2003
Festival Screenings

The documentary Wirriya: Small Boy received AFC Indigenous Unit production investment funding. It was written and directed by Beck Cole and produced by Beck Cole and Citt Williams.


To facilitate and resource the participation of Indigenous Australians in the Australian film, television and digital interactive media production industries.

The Indigenous Unit offers professional development to Indigenous filmmakers by providing both development and production investment funding for drama, documentary, animation and interactive digital media projects. These projects may be in the short film, short feature or feature film format.

The unit provides production investment in collaboration with broadcasters or other funding entities through specific initiatives. By capitalising on its relationships with other film funding agencies and broadcasters, the unit is able to make the best use of its funds to provide a greater number of production opportunities for Indigenous filmmakers.

The unit also provides travel grants to filmmakers who have a film screening in an international film festival, funding for filmmakers to be attached to feature films or feature documentaries and grants for workshops to progress the development of projects, for example casting or development workshops.

The unit works with the Indigenous filmmaking community in developing strategies for enhancing the employment and training opportunities for Indigenous filmmakers.


Funded Projects

One feature project received development funding:

  • The Outer Limits (w/d: Ivan Sen).

Short films receiving development funding were:

  • The Plains Empty (w/d: Beck Cole)
  • Green Bush (w/d: Warwick Thornton)
  • The Djarn Djarns (w/d: Wayne Blair, p: Kylie du Fresne)
  • Crocodile Dreaming (w/d: Darlene Johnson, with David Gulpilil)
  • Gone Primitive (w/d: Catriona Mckenzie, p: Aline Jacques)
  • Sa Black Thing (w/d: Rima Tamou, p: Pauline Clague)
  • True Colours (w/d: Samantha Saunders) and
  • Wives Tale (w/d: Erica Glynn).

One animation received development funding:

  • Amy - Search for Kudanew (w/d: Denise Groves, p: Jennifer Gerhardi).

Television series receiving development funding were:

  • Token Kooris (writer/originator: Anita Heiss, p: Prue Adams)
  • On the Edge (w/p: Dot West)
  • Wilson Creek (w/p: Sam Conway)
  • Camp Jungi (w/p: Kimba Thompson)
  • Becoming Kirrili Jones (w: Jane Harrison), Nevermind (w: Paula Mailing)
  • Uniapon (w: Gina Rings)
  • Imprint (w/d: Mark Olive) and
  • My Time (w/d: Rima Tamou, w/p: Pauline Clague).

One interactive digital media project received development funding:

  • Slut Hut/Close to the Bone (w/d: Idis Art, p: Suzanne Ryan).

The Indigenous Unit committed production investment towards the inaugural ScreenWest Indigenex Initiative for Indigenous filmmakers. One short drama will be funded into production.

Dramatically Black

The short drama The Djarn Djarns received AFC Indigenous Unit development and production investment funding as part of the 'Dramatically Black' initiative. It was written and directed by Wayne Blair and produced by Kylie du Fresne.

'Dramatically Black', the current drama initiative of the Indigenous Unit, has finished its development phase with two projects completing production in this financial year. The aim is to support Indigenous filmmakers with at least one short fiction film credit to consolidate their work in the longer format.

The initiative has been established in association with SBSi, who is offering a presale and investment in each project. The FTO and South Australian Film Corporation are also providing production investment in projects selected or shooting in their states.

A six-day cinematic storytelling workshop was held in the first week of October for the eight shortlisted writer/directors.

A mini-studio was set up in the St Scholastica's School in Glebe with four sets of video camera equipment and three video editing suites. Four cinematographers joined the workshop for the week (Martin McGrath, Kim Batterham, Ellery Ryan and Nino Martinetti) along with three editors (Tania Nehme, Mark Perry and Karen Johnson) to shoot and edit for the filmmakers.

Specialists were called on as required. Garry McDonald worked with one of the filmmakers on creating comedy, Rowan Woods worked with two filmmakers on creating suspense and tension on-screen, Shawn Seet (MDA) worked on directing and editing, and Mike Bullen (Cold Feet) worked on writing romantic comedy. The filmmakers were all able to workshop their scripts with actors and to shoot and edit at least two key scenes.

Actors included numerous well-known Indigenous performers such as Aaron Pedersen, Lisa Flanagan, Luke Carroll and David Gulpilil (who is the co-creator of one of the films) and other actors such as Victoria Longley, Tina Bursill, Tony Bonner and Zoe Carides. Don McAlpine gave a keynote address on cinematography and Rowan Woods gave a masterclass on his experiences in creating work, using The Boys as an example.

The five projects selected for production are:

  • Sa Black Thing (w/d: Rima Tamou, p: Pauline Clague)
  • Crocodile Dreaming (w/d: Darlene Johnson, p: Sue Milliken)
  • Green Bush (w/d: Warwick Thornton, p: Kath Shelper)
  • The Plains Empty (w/d: Beck Cole, p: Kath Shelper)
  • The Djarn Djarns (w/d: Wayne Blair, p: Kylie du Fresne).

Writing for Series Television Workshop - Third Stage

The unit conducted the Writing for Series Television Workshop for Indigenous writers and producers during 2003. The aim of the program is to equip Indigenous writers and producers with the skills required in the area of television drama, as well as to forge connections with television producers and networks in the Australian industry.

Filmmakers attending the workshop were supported by their state funding agencies: Film Victoria, Pacific Film and Television Commission, ScreenWest, and the South Australian Film Corporation. The agencies have provided grants towards travel and accommodation and/or attachment costs for the workshop.

Starting in March, a five-day introductory week was held in the AFC theatrette for 14 participants. Kelly Lefever, the workshop facilitator, took the participants through a block of Home and Away. The aim was to give them the skills to enable them to be 'writers for hire' on existing shows. Jimmy McGovern and Mac Gudgeon attended the workshop for two sessions to talk about their experiences.

The second stage involved each participant undertaking an attachment with a series television production. Producing and writing attachments were completed on All Saints, Blue Heelers, Kath and Kim, Home and Away, Neighbours and The Secret Life of Us. Each production was asked to request a speculative script submission from the writers.

The final six-day residential week focused on developing participants' own ideas for television series. Highly experienced script producer Kelly Lefever once again oversaw the week. The UK's Cold Feet creator and writer Mike Bullen and local script editor/writer Jon Stephens attended the second half of the week to conduct one-on-one feedback sessions with each participant about their series idea. Mike gave a keynote address about the creation and writing of Cold Feet. He also gave a sneak preview of his new series Life Begins.

As an extra incentive for further development of their ideas, the Indigenous Unit offered seed development grants of $5,000 for each participant to take their idea to the next stage of development.


Funded Projects

Documentary projects receiving development funding were:

  • Case 442 (w/d: Mitch Torres, p: Citt Williams - CAAMA Productions)
  • Find Me in the Blue Tarp (w/d: Darin Ballangarry)
  • It's Not the Money, it's the Land (w/d: Mitch Torres, p: Tom Zubrycki)
  • First Australians (w/d/p: Rachel Perkins, p: Darren Dale) and
  • Shameleon (w: JC Renshaw, Brett Bailey).

One documentary project received production funding:

  • Rosalie's Story (w/d: Debbie Gittens, p: Brian Beaton).

National Indigenous Documentary Fund

The National Indigenous Documentary Fund (NIDF) is a fundamental cornerstone in the Indigenous film and television industry. It provides production opportunities for new and emerging Indigenous documentary filmmakers and gives support to a strong documentary impulse in Indigenous filmmaking.

The Indigenous Unit assumed a management role on Series 5 and is continuing this role for Series 6 in association with Indigenous Screen Australia (ISA). The FFC has committed funding to the NIDF for the first time on Series 6. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the state agencies provided development and production funding, and SBS is the broadcaster.

Projects selected for development and production are:

  • Skin Sisters (w: Peter Bartlett, w/d: Beck Cole, p: CAAMA Productions)
  • Till Death Us Do Part (w/d: Adrian Wills, p: Sienna Brown)
  • Endangered (w/d: Tracey Rigney, p: Carmel McAloon)
  • Dream of Love (w/d: Lawrence Johnston, p: Peter George, Lawrence Johnston)
  • Manum (w: Tom E Lewis, d: Ivan Sen, p: CAAMA Productions).

Professional Development

There continues to be a high demand for travel grants from Indigenous practitioners to attend international festivals and conferences. The Indigenous Unit provided 16 grants totalling just over $50,000 for attendance at festivals conferences and events.

The unit also funded three attachments, and co-ordinated the attachments for the Writing for Series Television Workshop.

Screen Culture

The short feature Queen of Hearts received AFC Indigenous Unit development and production investment funding. Part of the 'Fifty/Fifty' initiative, it was written and directed by Danielle Maclean and produced by Charlotte Seymour. It screened at the Chicago International Television Competition (Mar 2004) and won the Certificate of Merit, Feature Length Telefilm - Drama section.

Workshops Funded

Workshops receiving funding were:

  • Yirrkala Video Production Workshop (Murray Lui, Denise Haslem, Trevor Graham) and
  • Cold Turkey Casting Workshop (w/d: Steven McGregor, p: Priscilla Collins).

Canadian Producers

The Indigenous Unit hosted a delegation of 10 Canadian Aboriginal producers during their visit to Australia. The delegation was visiting Australia and New Zealand, seeking out co-production opportunities between Maori, Indigenous and Canadian producers.

Film Festival and Lecture Tour in Japan

Erica Glynn (Project Manager) attended the Australian Film Focus in Tokyo and participated in a lecture tour to universities and schools in Japan on Indigenous filmmaking in Australia. The lecture tour was organised by the Australian Embassy and the Japan/Australia Foundation. The films Mimi, Shit Skin and One Night the Moon were subtitled and screened as part of the lecture series.

Message Sticks

The unit funded the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival held at the Sydney Opera House. Film screened included the Australian premiere of Wirriya: Small Boy and Mr Patterns as well as Indigenous films from Canada, the US and New Zealand.

International Access

The unit provided film prints to the Sami (Norway), Arizona and Jurlique LA (US), Solothurner Filmtage (Switzerland), New Zealand, Dreamtime (Berlin) and First Short (South Africa) film festivals.


The unit contributes to AFC policy development issues relevant to its area and assesses projects with Indigenous content that are submitted to the Film Development Branch. It provides an industry focus for uniting screen organisations across Australia to promote Indigenous filmmakers and screen culture, and acts as a conduit for the Indigenous industry to have a voice in the wider film industry. The unit also plays a key role in Indigenous film policy development, as well as providing significant input to the AFC's work in developing industry policy in Australia.

Manager Indigenous Unit, Sally Riley, participates in the Archive Indigenous Unit working party, which is investigating setting up a unit within the Archive to concentrate on the significant collection of Indigenous audiovisual materials.

She also attends Indigenous Screen Australia meetings to maintain contact with industry members and to co-develop policy initiatives.

National Indigenous Film and Television Training Strategy

An Indigenous Film and Television Training Strategy is being jointly developed by the Indigenous Unit, Indigenous Screen Australia (ISA) and AFTRS.

The objective of a national training strategy is to ensure that training opportunities match training needs. In determining this, the strategy will identify existing career paths, levels of training and accreditation, as well as those technical and creative roles which do not have active Indigenous participation and then make recommendations for how training might address these deficiencies.

The strategy will also identify active existing policies that encourage self-representation and determine the best base for a coordinator to implement the resulting strategy.

The initiative was launched in November 2003 by the Hon Daryl Williams, then Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

Indigenous Television Working Party

Sally Riley has been participating in the working party on Indigenous television which has been meeting during the year.

Before 1 January 2005, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts is required by the Broadcasting Services Act to conduct nine separate reviews into various aspects of the digital television conversion scheme for commercial and national television.

One of the reviews is looking at:

the viability of creating an Indigenous television broadcasting service and the regulatory arrangements that should apply to the digital transmission of such a service using spectrum in the broadcasting services bands.

With this review in mind, ISA and the Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA) have formed the Indigenous Television Working Party.

Members are: Rachel Perkins (ISA), Wayne Wharton (Acting GM AICA), Owen Cole (CAAMA), Sally Riley (AFC), Rod Bishop (industry representative), Jan Forrester (industry representative), Russell Bomford (IRCA), John Corker (Director, Australian National Pro Bono Resource Centre), Jason Ramp (independent filmmaker), Cilla Collins (AICA Chair), Bess Price (IMPARJA TV) and Peter Johnson (SEIMA).

The working party's aim is to provide a submission to DCITA that is an 'all of industry' supported position on the model for a National Indigenous Television Service, incorporating feedback from the Indigenous industry.

Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA)

Sally Riley attended the AICA annual general meeting and conference, 24-26 May, in Sydney. Delegates working in Indigenous broadcasting and media came from around Australia with representatives from radio, film and TV, print and online. This was the inaugural AGM for the newly incorporated association.

All Roads Film Project

Sally Riley was appointed to the board of the All Roads Film Project created by National Geographic. The program was created to provide a broader platform for Indigenous minority-culture storytellers who work in film and video. To be held in October 2004, the All Roads Film Project has as its centrepiece a film festival designed to showcase Indigenous filmmakers' work from around the world. The project will support international talent with grants, access to National Geographic's own media outlets, masterclasses, and networking opportunities with power brokers from the world of independent film and the mainstream of the entertainment industry.

Other Australians appointed to the board include Leah Purcell and Bain Stewart. International appointees include Bird Runningwater (Sundance Institute), actors Kiefer Sutherland and Stockard Channing, David Beal (President, Palm Pictures) and Alicia B Adams (Vice President, Dance and International Programming, John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts).

Research and Ethics Conference, NZ

Sally Riley attended the Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Centre for Research Excellence for the Maori Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, as a keynote speaker. The conference theme was research ethics, tikanga Maori/Indigenous and protocols for working with communities.

Highlights 2003/04

Bird Runningwater

The Indigenous Unit hosted a visit by Bird Runningwater, programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, in June 2004. Bird was special guest at the Message Sticks Festival at the Sydney Opera House and presented a selection of Native American films that had screened in the Sundance Native Forum. He also visited the set of Green Bush and the cutting room of The Djarn Djarns, met with local Indigenous filmmakers and spoke at open forums in Sydney and Melbourne.

Screen Production Development Association (SPADA), NZ

Sally Riley attended the SPADA conference and spoke on a panel entitled Culturally Specific, Internationally Successful.

Sydney Film Festival 2003

Sally Riley spoke on the Indigenous Perspectives panel at the Sydney Film Festival. Other panellists were Frances Peters-Little, Tom Eccles, Erica Glynn and Terri Janke.

Festival Screenings

The following Indigenous Unit-funded films screened at international festivals. See Appendix 3 for details of screenings.

  • Black Talk (w/d: Wayne Blair, p: Kylie du Fresne)
  • Shit Skin (w/d: Nicholas Boseley, p: Kimba Thompson)
  • Turn Around (w/d: Samantha Saunders, p: Jenny Day)
  • Flat (w/d: Beck Cole; p: Rachel Perkins, Darren Dale)
  • Mimi (w/d: Warwick Thornton; p: Rachel Perkins, Darren Dale).


Cold Turkey was nominated for two AFI awards: Best Script and Best Actor (Open Craft award) for John Moore.


Modified on 1 November 2004
© Australian Film Commission