Screen Australia invests $2.3m in seven documentaries

09 June, 2011 by Brendan Swift

Screen Australia will invest $2.3 million in seven documentaries through its National Documentary Program (NDP).

This round of the NDP will fund two SBS programs, two ABC programs, two online projects, and a series of 10 five-minute interstitials which will be shown on The History Channel, which are expected to trigger production of about $5.4 million in total.


The NDP invests about $7 million in 20-30 hours of nationally and culturally significant broadcast television a year.

The SBS projects are Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, which tells the story of the Vietnamese community in Sydney and Black Panther Woman, which explores the Australian Black Panther Movement of the 1970s.

The History Department is an interactive website which includes interviews with historical writers and scholars, while Utopia Girls Online will look at the history of Australian women’s activism.

A partnership between the State Library of New South Wales and the History Channel will produce Lost and Found, a series of 10 five-minute interstitials looking at how some of the most valuable artefacts in Australia were discovered.

The Outlaw Michael Howe tells the epic story of the young English convict Michael Howe who pushed Australia to the brink of civil war.

Screen Australia’s chief executive Ruth Harley said: “After six years of remarkable storytelling, The Outlaw Michael Howe and Utopia Girls Online are the final projects to be funded under the National Documentary Program’s Making History Initiative. The making of quality Australian history documentaries is set to continue through the NDP with such projects as Black Panther Woman and Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta.”

The final investment is Croker Island Exodus, which follows the journey of 95 Aboriginal children and their missionary carers who in 1942 evacuated Croker Island after the Japanese bombing of Darwin.

The full details of the projects are:

Blackfella Films
Producer: Darren Dale
Writers: Rachel Perkins, Marlene Cummins
Director: Rachel Perkins
Broadcaster: SBS TV
Sales: SBS Content Sales
Synopsis: Marlene Cummins takes us back to Brisbane 1971 and behind the scenes of the Australian Black Panther Movement through, at times both euphoric and bitter, firsthand experience.

Tamarind Tree Pictures
Producers: Anna Grieve, Danielle MacLean
Writers: Danielle MacLean, Steven McGregor
Director: Steven McGregor
Broadcaster: ABC
Sales: ABC Commercial
Synopsis: 1942, Croker Island, Arafura Sea – as the Japanese bomb the Australian north, 95 Aboriginal children and their missionary carers make a remarkable journey to safety across the continent.

Renegade Films
Producer: Alex West
Line Producer: Kate Pappas
Writer: Alex West
Director: TBC
Synopsis: An interactive website that curates interviews with leading historical writers and scholars, alongside a live and interactive webcast in which they debate and discuss a wide range of historical subjects.

Executive Producer: Daryl Talbot
Producer: Ben Ulm
Writer/Director: Sean Cousins
Broadcaster: History Channel
Synopsis: From journals to eclectic objects, a medieval manuscript or a message in a bottle – Warren Brown dives headlong into the NSW State Library to investigate how some of the most valuable artefacts in Australia were discovered in 10 x five-minute interstitials.

Once Upon a Time Productions Pty Ltd
Executive Producers: Sue Clothier, Craig Graham
Producer: Mike Bluett
Director: Bernadine Lim
Broadcaster: SBS
Sales: SBS Sales
Synopsis: Spanning 35 years, Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta is the epic story of the Vietnamese community in Sydney.

Outlawed Films
Executive Producers: Nial Fulton, Rosemary Blight
Producer: Nial Fulton
Writer: Nial Fulton
Director: Michael James Rowland
Broadcaster: ABC TV
Synopsis: In 1815 a young English convict leads a wretched guerilla army of outlaws, deserters and bushmen in open rebellion against the morally corrupt government on the notorious prison settlement of Van Diemen’s Land. As their numbers grow by the day, Michael Howe’s gang threaten to overrun the colony. An epic story of love and betrayal, The Outlaw Michael Howe will chronicle the astonishing true story of the man who pushed Australia to the brink of civil war.

ISH Media
Executive Producer: Debra Allanson
Producer: Kylie Robertson
Writer: ISH Media/Dr Clare Wright
Synopsis: Utopia Girls Online looks broadly at the history of Australian women’s activism through the development of a distributed content brand that engages multiple audiences through a central website, viral campaign and social strategy.