Filming Aboriginal Australia

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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 this project.  The Pigram Brothers, a Broome based Aboriginal band, seemed the perfect choice to accompany many of the film clips featured here. Much of their music encapsulates the connection between country and culture, and evokes the easy going charisma and warmth of so many of the hosts and guides we worked with on this project.  I hope it helps to transport you (albeit virtually) to the warm remote beaches and chilled out communities that we visited on this shoot. Impromptu performances and unexpected occurrences are always a highlight for me when staying in places not influenced by commercialism.  One such experience was whilst out on the Bawaka Homelands where we were serenaded by an impromptu performance of Bayini by Rrawun Maymuru who was accompanied by Djakapura Munyarryun and Aran Burrarwanga. The song was written about this beautiful part of the country.  See more here.  Travelling with Aboriginal guides and hosts on their country always grounds me, and makes me think about what is really important in life. It reminds me of how disconnected I get with the land and how important a sense of community is… I’ve introduced many people to the Aboriginal way of life and I see the same thing from each time, they are transformed by their experience, just like Diane and Mark. It goes so much deeper than just experiencing the ‘attractions’ of a place – Aboriginal guides and hosts ensure a real connection to the place and a new way of seeing. I feel this again, and it is another journey which will add to the depth and breadth of experiences that help me to continue to grow. For this I will be eternally...

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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 at the waves breaking just metres away. A feeling of freedom is evident. Brian guides them through the mystical mangrove forest. The roots of the trees are covered in oysters. Brian gives a machete to Mark, and Diane laughs in fun at him playing the role of the hunter-gatherer. Together, Mark and Brian carve the oysters off the tree and Diane swallows one fresh. Suddenly there is excitement all around. Mark grabs the spear and moments later he holds a giant mud crab up to Diane and her smile is a mile wide. Brian cooks up a rustic but elegant bush meal with fresh Mangrove Jack and mud crabs on a beautiful rock shelf in Hunters Creek. The connection they make with Brian as he cooks is one of equals. They are sinking deeper and deeper into the Aboriginal way of life.” Behind the scenes… I love coming back to the easy going way of life of the ‘Salt Water People’ at Cape Leveque, which calms my soul in spite of the action packed couple of days we had here. We managed to capture the sea kayaking at Lombadina’s beautiful remote beach, as well as the exhilarating action of reeling in fish thick and fast on their charter boat – where we were accompanied by dolphins. We attempted to capture on film the magic of a wine at sundown… looking out over the turquoise ocean whilst the air around us is slowly illuminated in a stunning ochre hue, as the setting sun bounces of the deep red cliffs. Waking up to the beautiful glow of dawn and watching the sun rise over the eastern beach from the deck of the safari tent, I am wondering just how we will edit this footage down to a three minute film. Later in the day we head off to nearby Hunters Creek mud crabbing and eating oysters, catching Mangrove Jack in the creek and swimming in the warm, crystal clear waters filled with fish. We finished the day cooking up the mud crabs and fish on a rock shelf watching the sunset over the water. Our wonderful Bardi guides explained the tidal systems, wildlife, bush food and seasons. As this...

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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 and Mark is shown how to throw a spear by an elder. On the beach, one of the local ladies takes Diane’s hand and beckons her to join them. They teach her the craft of basket weaving. Laughter breaks out as Mark attempts to spear a fish guided by the skilful Uncle Waka. Local kids frolic around them. Moments later one of the kids is wearing Diane’s large, shady hat. She bursts out laughing at the cheeky girl.  Mark sees Diane laughing with the women and he smiles. This has been a truly transformative experience. It’s the end of a perfect day. In the afternoon light, bags are packed, and it is time to go home. Timmy gives them a heartfelt goodbye, ‘you are special in this country now’. He motions around to the land, ‘take this feeling with you’. Diane is moved by the power of Timmy’s words and looks fondly at him. Mark smiles and takes one last look at this country. Behind the scenes… “It’s all about life and a love for the land waking up to the sun. It is a paradise. It’s where we belong”. These words are from the song Bayini written by Rrawun Maymuru for his cousin Gurrumul Yunupingu (sung by Gurrumul on The Voice with Delta Goodrem here). To me the lyrics really bring out the essence of the feeling of being here.   The women cried to the country at dawn and the community danced goodbye to the day at sunset. I just love how the people here are in the moment and how connected they are to this land… “this land is sacred, it can feel you when you walk through it. All living things can feel you”. It was an incredible day, watching Mark spearfishing in this heavenly setting, and seeing Diane learn basket weaving before being massaged on a bed of paperbark using an endemic healing leaf soaked in water.  Later we watched the community say goodbye to the day, standing on the beach as the palms swayed and the sun set.  Warwick and Dylan even found a spare minute to catch a quick fish… and the evening BBQ was sensational! We finished the day sitting around the campfire on the beach chatting with our...

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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, Rachel smiles as Christine taps her finger playfully as they sit painting a canvas together. The contrast is striking as a black and a white hand work harmoniously together on a dot painting. Next Ben and Rachel walk along a track next to Uluru accompanied by Sarah, an Anangu guide. Rachel stops and looks out in awe – they are so close to the Rock as it looms majestically over them. A stick carves a design into the dusty ground. Rachel and ben are spellbound as Sarah draws figures and concentric circles in the red sand. It’s a Dreamtime story… She points up to the Rock to complete the story. We cut to a high angle to reveal the full story that has been drawn in the sand. As the sun sets over Uluru, Rachel and Ben are questioning Sarah, trying to learn a few words in her ancient language. There is much laughter as they all try to reach a common understanding and hone their pronunciation. It is a beautiful connection, made that bit more special by the last rays of sun lighting up Uluru in all its stunning glory.” Behind the scenes… It is often the little details that create the greatest memories for me when travelling, particularly interacting with our wonderful guides and hearing stories which really bring the landscape and wildlife to life. As an Australian, I tend to think I know a fair bit about nature, but hearing some of the finer details and nuances gives me the chance to form a much great understanding and connection with nature. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Thorny Devil isn’t thorny or devilish. It was actually quite soft to touch and surprisingly at ease in my hand. It was very easy to fall in love with this little critter, and the crew and I had a great time getting to know our two ‘devils’ who were to feature in the film footage. I did notice that they had a funny gait, and asked my guide why they walked that way. He explained that they mimic the moving grass around them to camouflage themselves. I also learnt that they eat just one particular type of black...

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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 admiring the Pandanus. It is wild and beautiful. Her husband, Mark, is sharing a laugh with James.  WHOOSH! Flames lick up a roll of paperbark that James holds in the darkness. The flames light up a labyrinth of catacombs around them. An evocative place, a mysterious place. Diane is amazed. James gives the paperbark torch to Mark and they walk through the catacomb system – fascinated. Mark and Diane Walk around a corner and stop in awe and wonderment at the panoramic mega-gallery of ancient rock art. ROOOAAR! Mark and Diane tear across the wetlands on a boat. It’s a stunning vista – James points out flocks of whistling ducks as they erupt in front of them. Diane grabs Mark’s shirt as the wind ruffles her hair – she’s invigorated. Crocodiles, jabiru and magpie geese are just metres from the boat. Just before sunset James provides some wine and canapés to enjoy whilst looking out over the breathtaking views of the wetlands. Mark and Diane are mesmerised as they watch the changing colours with the setting of the sun, and James enchants them with ancient stories until streaks of pink and orange criss-cross the sky.”  Behind the scenes… The shoot has now officially kicked off, starting in Mt Borradaile and we now have the full cast and crew of 12. As it’s nearing the end of the dry season, as suspected many of the visually spectacular floodplains had largely dried up. Such is the ever changing beauty of the seasons up here, the drying floodplains allowed us to film in parts of the rainforest, which cannot be accessed until the end of the dry season. So instead of filming the floodplains we borrowed a couple of push bikes (oddly fitted out with buckets as baskets), and captured a leisurely bike riding scene in the forest. We covered all the scenes in a day and part of a morning! And as usual, the staff here could not do enough to help! I always really enjoy hearing the first impressions of the talent and film crew on these trips, as many of them have not experienced destinations like these before. Here’s some of the comments from the crew and talent: “I guess the great thing about the...

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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 movements of the abundant wildlife including birds and turtles and the occasional croc. I really enjoyed sitting with Djawa (Timmy) Burarrwanga from Bawaka (one of the homelands in East Arnhemland). We were perched high up on a sand dune so he could let the guys below know where the fish were. We were watching the mullet skimming across the water and I was totally fascinated at the skill and accuracy of the guys who were using traditional spears to catch the fish that we would later get to eat! Timmy was telling me why they use smoke in welcoming ceremonies. He said that the ceremony is done to cleanse visitors by warding off the spirits that they have bought with them from other places. His people talk to their ancestors, and they take away the other spirits to enable the new spirits of ‘his country’ to know you. He explains that when you open your heart and mind to this country, the spirits welcome you. In his words: “This land is sacred, it can feel you when you walk through it. All living things can feel you. There was a time when the ancestors walked through the land and Aboriginal people still feel the ancestors watching them. The ancestors still exist and walk the land and never die. Every corner that the wind blows tells a story. It’s the breath of the ancestors. We’re breathing in ancestor’s life as they’re in the wind. Billions of ancestors walked the land creating it. There was an ancestor to make hundreds of fish, another to make the rocks and another to make the trees. There are laws for the land and if you break them the ancestors will tell you off big time. Knowledge is given from the ancestors to the Aboriginal people through their DNA and the same DNA still exists with Aboriginal people right across Australia”. This is the story for Timmy’s country. The creation story for his neighbour, Banula’s, country is quite different. When I was last up this way I watched the women ‘crying for country’ and Timmy explained what was going on, he said: “When the women ‘cry to country’ they wake up the ancestors and their ancestors talk back, talk about sacred things, tell...

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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 unfortunately there’s no time for a dip. The water is so pure and we all enjoy a drink of it to cool down as we explore our surrounds. Nitmiluk is where we plan to shoot a dramatic waterfall scene and we have no shortage of potential locations to capture the required footage. Check out Nitmiluk Tours website at: www.nitmiluktours.com.au Next I’m off to Nhulunbuy in east Arnhemland, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!   Brendan helicopter Nitmiluk Kristi & Kirt helicopter Nitmiluk Brendan and Kirt Helicopter Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge Nitmiluk Kristi Nitmiluk Waterhole Brendan drinking water Nitmiluk Nitmiluk Gorge by Helicopter - end of dry season Waterfalls at end of dry season Nitmiluk Cicada Lodge...

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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 nectar because the little bird had taken it all. One day the old man of the tribe told the little bird that he had to stop taking all of the nectar, and that if he continued to do this he would get punished. So the little bird said that he wouldn’t do it again, but the next morning he just couldn’t help himself. However when he went to fly out from the last flower he got stuck, so he thought he’d wait until his family got up to rescue him. He waited and waited and as the skies brightened he could hear his brothers and sisters waking up laughing and talking in the distance. As they got closer they got louder and then they found him. They tried to pull him out but couldn’t and so they waited for the old man to come along to see if he had some magic to get him out. Eventually the old man turned up but he refused to pull the little bird out as he’d told him that if he continued to be greedy he was going to get punished, and that this was his punishment. To be stuck in this flower forever and this is where he is today. And so the moral of the story is not to be greedy, and always save something for others.” Check out Brian’s tour at: www.brianleetagalong.com.au Next I’m hanging out with Brian and Bundy at Cape Leveque, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!...

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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 rolling in. My guide for the morning is Brian, who like Rob, has an infectious laugh and is incredibly relaxed – it’s what this country does to you! Brian takes us along yet another beautiful beach and over sand dunes to the stunning Hunters Creek, an area that is normally off limits to the public so we were lucky enough to have it to ourselves. This place is just magic! During the day we explored the oyster forests where Brian chopped down ‘oyster kebabs’ and we searched for mud crabs. By the afternoon the tide was surging in, and with the huge tides up here, the creek quickly filled before our eyes, so we decided to try our luck at fishing. The water is crystal clear so you can actually see all the fish swimming in the water making it that bit more exciting. Last time I was here, some of the kids from the local communities joined us. I’d invited a young girl who was staying in the campground to come along and she had a ball rolling down the sand dunes and diving into the water with the local kids. Her parents said it was the best day of their holiday! On that same day, another Aboriginal guide named Bundy asked one of the local kids to give me a fish he’d just speared so I could throw it in the air to attract a nearby sea eagle. I threw the fish up and it landed on the ground just near me, allowing me to enjoy a special moment with this majestic bird. After being strongly encouraged to taste a fish eye (yuk) we cooked up the fish and crabs that the kids had speared on a fire at the creek as we watched the sun set… Beautiful. The following afternoon Bundy took us to look at the bush foods that are in season and explained how some of the plants are used for medicinal purposes and others are used to catch fish. He talked about the spiritual aspect of his country and once again I found myself viewing this amazing landscape from a whole new perspective. We squeezed in a boat trip to a nearby island and jumped in for a swim...

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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 that! Not only is Warwick a gifted film director but he is one amazing cook! Brendan picked some mangos from the tree at Lombadina, which Warwick included in a tossed salad along with some fish sauce the chef at Kooljaman kindly gave us… it is so nice to feel a part of this beautiful community and eat the way the locals do. Warwick cooked up the fish on the BBQ and we ate it on the balcony of his safari tent at Kooljaman enjoying the sounds of the ocean. For more information, check out the following websites: www.lombadina.com and www.kooljaman.com.au Next I’m off to Kooljaman at Cape Leveque and Hunters Creek, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi! Warwick and Kristi with fish Lombadina Towing fishing boat Jeep Lombadina Robert on Lombadina's fishing boat Whale Photo of whale taken from our boat - that's how close they came! Whale Whale whales coming closer whales coming closer whales moving on Fishing Rods Lombadina Kristi on fishing boat Picking Mangos Rob & Brendan scaling fish Bardi Store...

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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 meets the vivid and clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean… it even comes with its own open sided beach shelter from which to enjoy the view. In the evening Rob cooked up a pile of giant mud crabs that they’d caught during the day with his own special chilli sauce. Yummmmmm. A group of the community kids joined us for our crab feast and I watched Rob’s daughter pull off a crab leg, which was almost the size of her head! Of course my phone camera’s memory turned out to be full… after I thought I had recorded it – doh! I found myself reminiscing on the last time I went mud crabbing with Rob when I got stuck waist deep in mud as we were walking through the mangroves.  We were told later that when Rob was trying to leverage me out of the mud, our laughter could be heard for miles.  Who needs to visit a day spa for a mud wrap when you can get a full body mud bath for free in the wild…  My skin never felt better! It was during that trip that Rob took us out on a boat to explore the Buccaneer Archipelago… that was an unforgettable trip. A friend of Rob’s knew the reef system well and guided us up to his houseboat, where we slept on the roof in swags. At night the falling stars were like fireworks and I could hear constant splashing and jumping (of goodness knows what) in the water around us. During the day we climbed up rocky outcrops to bathe in fresh water pools, tried our hand at fishing and cooled off in an old water tank on a deserted island that had been roughly converted into a pool bar overlooking the bay below. We then took the boat through the Horizontal Waterfall (created by massive tidal movements) which left me awestruck at the power of nature and the rawness of this remote land and sea scape. As someone who has never had the slightest inclination to go fishing, I am surprised at how much fun I have had when getting out on the water in Arnhemland and the Kimberley. After some expert...

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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 their library which describes it as containing “some of the most stunning rock art, not just in Australia but in the whole world”1. The rock art documents Aboriginal life and beliefs spanning many thousands of years. It’s also home to the Leichhardt grasshopper, which is the coolest bright orange and blue grasshopper I’ve ever seen (I only took about 50 pictures of it)! We travelled in old land rovers with their roofs replaced by shade cloth and windows removed, or by small flat-hulled boats so we could really soak in the surrounding landscape. With the blessing of the traditional owners, Max Davidson has set up a safari lodge here and he is assisted by a great crew of people that make us feel very at home. I’ve been to Mt Borradaile a few times and now it’s like returning to see family. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, even the bar is run on an honesty system. Our guides are great interpreters of the area’s history and environment which really brings it to life for me. On our first day we went to see the large and fearsome Rainbow Serpent rock art. I was later back in the library and was fascinated to learn that “the Rainbow Serpent is recognised as the world’s oldest surviving religious theme. They are associated with the procreative and regenerative forces of nature and are central to major fertility and initiatory ceremonies. In western Arnhemland mythology, Serpents are commonly agents of retribution and destruction. People were alerted to the approach of Rainbow Serpents by the crashing and cracking of trees, and by the howling wind, roaring like the combined voices of many bees…”1 We travelled by boat on the stunning floodplains and there were flocks of birds everywhere I looked including magpie geese, sea eagles, whistling kites and herons. There were darters and Jabirus catching fish, and jacanas running across the lily pads. Crocodiles, both fresh and saltwater, blocked our way, and we had no choice but to sit patiently behind a croc as we watched it swim in the clear water right at the front of our boat until it veered off to the right. We finished the day enjoying watching the orange and red hues of the sun as...

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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 Beach and Tully) Alice Springs (Mt Sonder, Glen Helen, Alice Springs Desert Park, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Papunya Tula Artists) Uluru (Maruku Arts and time with guides from Uluru Aboriginal Tours exploring the base of Uluru) We have managed to get the car bogged and have spotted beautiful green tree pythons, crocodiles, cassowaries, dingos, eagles, kangaroos and even seen a beautiful stalk nesting. Not to mention some pretty stunning sunrises and sunsets – the magic hour for stills photography and film shooting. Next we are off to Mt Borradaile in Arnhemland, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi! Here’s some behind the scenes images of the team at work.  ...

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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 than sitting at the base of Uluru with Traditional owner, Reggie Uluru. He oozes wisdom and fun and I am mesmerised as I listen to him speak in language interspersed with laughter. He’s got a great, cheeky grin and I’d give anything to know what he’s saying. Today our Anangu guide, Valerie, is giving us a small insight into the complex creation stories that form part of the Tjukurpa, the all-encompassing law which binds all Anangu to their land. As English is not our guide’s first language, she is accompanied by an interpreter who is also an accredited guide. She tells us the story of the blue tongued lizard man, Lungkata, and points out the marks he left on Uluru including his footprints and broken body, pointing out the petrified body immortalised where it fell. At Maruku Arts I have a laugh with Christine, who I later watch dot painting in the township’s square. She is showing visitors how to paint as part of an outdoor class that Maruku Arts runs. It reminds me of the time when the Black Tank ladies showed me how to dot paint in Alice Springs. On viewing my attempt at art (I’d painted a bookmark) they threw themselves back in their seats in fits of raucous laughter. I always knew I lacked talent as an artist and this certainly confirmed it. It was however an hilarious experience. The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular here and although I’m not a morning person, this is one place where I’ll get up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise, and hone my camera skills. Warwick, Brendan and I shot Uluru from every angle and in every light, and still felt like we didn’t capture all of its nuances. For more information, check out the following websites: www.facebook.com and www.maruku.com.au This winds up the first leg of the recce.  Find out what goes on behind the scenes whilst we’re taking a break for a few days before we head to Mt Borradaile in Arnhemland… Kristi!   Brendan and Warwick Uluru Brendan Back Lit Uluru Brendan photo of Kristi Uluru Brendan taking Warwick portrait Uluru Christine & Kristi Uluru Dingo Uluru Gangster Warwick Kata Tjuta from Bore Rd Sunrise Uluru Uluru Uluru...

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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! For the Arrernte people, the traditional custodians of this country, this is where ancestral creation beings such as caterpillars and wild dogs travelled the land, naming and shaping prominent elements, including the MacDonnell Ranges. Bob Taylor from RT Tours Australia took us to some amazing spots off the beaten track. He is a wonderful guide, great company and a fabulous chef! Being back here reminded me of the last time I was here sitting back in my camp chair in a magnificent bush setting watching the red and purple hues of sunset while dining on kangaroo fillets and yam fritters with stir fry veg, followed by white chocolate, apricot and wattle steamed pudding, then snacking on bush bananas, oranges and quandongs. Bob’s father is Peter Taylor, who is a renowned Aboriginal artist who was inspired by the works of the famous Aboriginal water colour artist, Albert Namatjira. Bob took us to view Mt Sonder, the highest peak in the MacDonnell Ranges and the subject of one of Namatjira’s signature paintings. The mountain is significant to the Arrernte, appearing like the profile of a pregnant woman lying on her back. It was really special to see it and hear about its significance to the local Aboriginal people. We also visited the Alice Springs Desert Park which showcases the habitats and wildlife of the region in a stunning setting. We got to see first-hand the great work they do in conserving endemic animals including the endangered and rare miniature kangaroo known as the Mala, which is central to the Uluru creation story. We finished the day visiting local art galleries including Papunya Tula, an Aboriginal artists’ cooperative. They are credited with bringing Aboriginal art to the world’s attention. We also visited Tjanpi (meaning grass) Desert Weavers, that sell beautiful intricate coloured jewellery,woven baskets and animals, that are crafted by more than 300 Aboriginal artists from 28 remote communities. For more info, check out the following websites: www.rttoursaustralia.com.au, www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au, www.papunyatula.com.au and www.tjanpi.com.au Next I’m off to Uluru, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!   Bob Hero Mt Sonder Bob and Brendan Mt Sonder Bob Taylor 2 Mile Creek Bob Taylor Desert Park Brendan and Bob Glen Helen Brendan Glen Helen Brendan Glen Helen Dingo Mt Sonder - lady on her side Sturt Desert Pea Tjanpi Weavers Warwick with fish Wedge Tail Eagle Wildflowers NT...

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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 raining but that’s not surprising as Tully is the wettest town in Australia. But the temperature is balmy warm and the rain means great rapids – and I am a rapid junkie. Any novice can navigate these rapids as the very professional guides at Ingan Tours coach even the most nervous of guests how to navigate down the river. On a sunny day, the water is calm and so crystal clear that you can see the fish. Sonya attracts the fish to the surface by enticing them with her delicious damper (they now snub the usual pellets as her damper is so good). It was stunning to see the birds skim across the water and the butterflies dancing through the ferns. Sometimes I just stopped paddling to reflect and let the current take me down the river, and at other times I enjoyed the fun of the rapids and having a laugh with my guides. These waters are so rejuvenating and I felt so invigorated at the end of my kayak. I learnt so much from these guys – as this is their back yard. We got to eat the native fruit along the way, hear stories about the animals and I even learnt that the Jirrabal language is gender specific. Things are either feminine, masculine, neutral or edible and the gender assigned to the feature determines whether women or men may access the site. For example, water is feminine so waterfalls are normally women’s places, which means only women are allowed there – how cool is that for me! I found out how the Cassowary is a keystone species, which means that without it, the rainforest wouldn’t survive as it’s a seed disperser. I met these two really cool Cassowary Crusaders at Mission Beach who, along with others, are trying to make sure the Cassowary’s environment is protected. Anyone can become a Cassowary Crusader by checking out their website at:www.missionbeachcassowaries.com. Another cool thing you can do here is take a two hour relaxing walk along a creek bed to the stunning Echo Creek Falls. Again this place is very secluded and if you’re into walking, it is a must do! Check out Ingan Tours website...

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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 full moon painted a beautiful picture. I just love being out on tour with Juan as he is extremely knowledgeable and professional, yet has a really warm and engaging personality – with a good dose of humour always thrown in.  As this is his tribal lands he was able to take us where other people don’t get to go…and each time I come here, I see new and amazing places and get to learn something new.  Today he was telling us that his totem is the crocodile – so he looks after the crocodile and the crocodile looks after him – that is good to know … especially around here! Afterwards Juan took us to Daintree Eco Lodge which looked like it could have been a film set for the movie ‘Avatar’!  It has the coolest looking cabins up on stilts nestled amongst the rainforest canopy surrounded by 30 acres of ancient rainforest. We walked through the surrounding rainforest and spotted some beautiful green lizards, butterflies and I took the chance to sample the rainforest bush fruits. I then walked on to look at a beautiful waterfall, which Juan had told me was a woman’s place. Back at the lodge we enjoyed a nice cold Binju Tea, which included one of my  favourite bush fruits, the Davidson’s plum – yum! For more info, check out the following websites: www.walkaboutadventures.com.au and www.daintree-ecolodge.com.au Boyd Forest Dragon Brendan and Dan Daintree River Crocodile Daintree River Daintree Eco Lodge Juan at Daintree Eco Lodge Juan Ochre Daintree Eco Lodge Juan Walker Daintree River Snake Daintree...

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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 a clinking sound, which indicates we are in luck for catching some lunch. I forget about time as I’m consumed by finding a mud crab and know that if I catch one I’ll do my usual freak out as I worry about losing a finger… only joking! It’s all very safe under the care of my extremely knowledgeable guide. As I was searching for mud crabs Linc told me about the ‘Cookie Cutter Shark’, which for a second makes me think about the sweet smell of warm cookies until I learnt it got its name because it takes cookie shaped bites out of its victims. Yep, I’ll never look at Mum’s cookie cutter the same way again. And so it begins, I start to learn about all things to do with the sea and how to live off this abundant environment. It’s a far cry from the hectic pace of inner Sydney. Afterwards, Linc normally takes guests back to his Mum’s house for a fabulous feed on their deck that overlooks the beach. Their Chilli crab is to die for! Check out their website at: www.kycht.com.au or The Bama Way – Aboriginal Journeys (Adventure North) website at: www.bamaway.com.au Next I’m off to cruise the waterways of the Daintree River, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi! Linc mudcrabbing Warwick Cooya Mudcrabbing Cooya Beach Warwick...

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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 Gorge Centre is bringing it all to life for me. After welcoming us with a traditional smoking ceremony that cleanses and wards off the bad spirits, Rodney explains how in the Dreamtime most of the animals in Australia were once people who broke tribal law and were subsequently banished. For example, the spectacular Boyd Forest Dragon was once a man that enjoyed flashing people so the ancestors turned him into a lizard. The Cassowary was once a beautiful woman who refused to get married to a young man so the Elders cursed her and made her a bird – though it all worked out for her in the end as she now has up to five husbands. We then walked down to the gorge where I was mesmerised by the soothing sound of the water and the intense clarity of its depths. And what do I do next? What any strung out person should do… and that’s go and sit on a boulder, shut my eyes and drift off… Check out Mossman Gorge Centre’s website at:  www.mossmangorge.com.au. Next I’m off to go mud crabbing, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!   Kristi chilling on a rock at Mossman Gorge Cassowary Mossman Lizard Rodney Mossman Gorge Ochre Rodney Mossman Gorge Wood Oven Stove Mossman Gorge Mossman Gorge...

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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 my guide told me to keep my wheels straight and add some revs if I felt the bike sliding, and off I went screaming “seize the day”! Wahoo, that was the best adrenaline rush I’ve had in ages. After that, our Worimi guides showed us ancient middens, where to find fresh water and then told us a cool Dreamtime story about the turtle (captured in the video below). When the ride ended I just wanted to go back for more. Check out Sand Dune Adventures website at:  www.sandduneadventures.com. Next I’m off to Cairns to explore the rainforest, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi! See the full gallery...

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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 are around 29 clan groups in the Sydney metro area who are referred to collectively as the Eora Nation. After an acknowledgement of Earth Mother using Margret’s traditional ochre (paint), we learnt how the Aboriginal Dreaming is still very much alive in the modern Sydney landscape, and about the significance of a person’s birthplace to Aboriginal people. Margret explained that Aboriginal people are connected to their country, and that no matter where they go, their ‘country’ calls them back, with a feeling like homesickness (see the video below where this is captured in her own words). We then headed to the Art Gallery of NSW, which features Indigenous art from right across Australia. One of the most memorable displays for me were fruit bats decorated in Aboriginal art hanging from a clothesline complete with ‘droppings’ underneath. Check it out if you get the chance! During the afternoon we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney for an Aboriginal heritage tour of the gardens.  Our wonderful guide, Henrietta, showed us native plants; their fruits, medicinal uses and how they were used to create tools… all with the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour! She gave me a taste of the deliciously sour Davidson’s Plum which has 100 times the vitamin C content of an orange as well as lutein, magnesium, zinc, calcium potassium and manganese… a secret superfood if ever there was one! All the guides have unique and special stories to tell, another of their guides actually helped us with our casting by chatting with our potential talent to share culture and see how they interacted. He kept us all enthralled with a huge number of special and fascinating stories and topics, and had a great sense of humour. Last time I was here their chef cooked up some incredibly delicious bush food inspired canapés at the picturesque Botanic Gardens Restaurant, which offers beautiful open-air dining overlooking the Garden’s. I was thinking the wisteria-draped verandah would make a great closing shot for the short film we are producing. For more info, check out the following websites: www.therocks.com/dreaming, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au, www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au Next I’m going quad biking at Pt Stephens, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi! Margret, Warwick & Brendan Margret Margret Rocks Dreaming Sydney Art Gallery of NSW Bats Henrietta guiding us through the Botanical...

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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 touring schedule at: www.bangarra.com.au. Next I’m heading out to gain an Aboriginal perspective of Sydney, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!...

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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, 4195479186.
For more detail on my
background, click here.

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