In 2014 stockman Ray Finn wanted to honour the forgotten Aboriginal men of the Australian Light Horse Regiments of World War One. He packed a Light Horse uniform and headed to Alice Springs for ANZAC day. He couldn’t know the far-reaching effects of that simple gesture.
When daylight came at the dawn service, the sight of an Aboriginal man in historic uniform caused quite a stir – and led to a bold proposal - to form a Centralian Light Horse Regiment of young Aboriginal riders to take part in future ANZAC commemorations.
Ray soon found a school willing to accept the challenge. 125km west of Alice Springs, students of the Ntaria School decided to ride their wild bush horses all the way to Alice for the 2015 ANZAC day parade. They named it The Aranda Ride for Pride. That year 20 kids took on the 6-day journey. In the parade, marching or riding in full Light Horse uniform, the students made history - and they started to realise they were part of the story instead of observers watching from the shadows. In 2016, more than 30 students rode to town, and took their pride of place in the commemorations.
2017 is the centenary of the famous Charge of Beersheba. It was the last great cavalry charge in history, and it turned the tide of the war in Palestine. In October, some of those shy Ntaria kids – to whom English is still a second language – will travel from the centre of Australia to the centre of Israel for the horseback recreation of the charge, as well as other commemorations to specifically honour the Aboriginal servicemen who suffered and sacrificed for their country – and who were forgotten, until now.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
For many young Aboriginal people in central Australia, pride is a scarce commodity.
They often feel like outsiders in their own land – watching the world from a distance rather than being participants in it. The Aranda Ride for Pride has put the young people of Ntaria centre stage for the first time. For any participant, the centenary of the Charge of Beersheba is a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment.
For the young Aboriginal riders, who have barely before ventured outside of Alice Springs, travelling across the world for the commemoration in October will be a life-changing event - for them, and their community. They will attract worldwide media attention for their involvement, and will shine a light for the men who went a hundred years before them.
This project, From the Bush to Beersheba, is an opportunity to explore the history of the forgotten Aboriginal servicemen of the Australian Light Horse Regiments, as seen through the eyes of young Aboriginal men and women today. Not simply an academic exercise, but a document of these young Australians learning history and making history, being at the centre of the stage, for themselves and all of the people who will follow them.
The film has the potential to become a significant historical and educational document – one that is relevant and engaging to the people who need to see it and learn the most – the leaders of future generations, young Australians.
NITV originally gave a small grant to follow the story of stockman Raymond Finn, as he travelled to Alice Springs for ANZAC day 2014. The first steps towards a Centralian Light Horse Regiment, that would become The Aranda Ride for Pride, were recorded and became a short documentary, The Stockman and the Horsemen, which was broadcast on NITV in April 2015. The rides undertaken by the students of Ntaria School for the ANZAC day commemorations in 2015 and 2016 have been recorded, as will the 2017 ride in April. The Australian Light Horse Association has been active in generating funding for the young riders and their carers who will travel to Israel in October. The Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed significantly to the budget for the riders.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
It is one thing to participate in a significant event – it is another thing entirely to see the significance of your participation afterwards. For a community used to being voiceless watchers from a distance, a film celebrating your work, your fun, your challenges and your achievements, can change your consciousness. Building pride and self-belief is what From the Bush to Beersheba
aims to do.
The film aims to be an engaging and moving document of the personal journeys of several young Aboriginal people travelling from their outback homes to the wider world stage. It aims to honour the men who volunteered to serve and defend a community that did not recognise and respect them – before or after their service. It aims to build pride and change perspectives, a small step on a long and challenging journey for all Australians.
Travelling from the centre of Australia to the centre of Israel will be a very significant time in the lives of these young riders and their community. A document of the process will hopefully become a centrepiece of pride in the consciousness of viewers within the community and across the nation. It will be an enduring record of the power of individuals, however humble their circumstances, to achieve great things.
The production has been endorsed and encouraged by the Ntaria community, the Ntaria School, and by the Northern Territory Department of Education in it’s recording of the 2015 and 2016 rides, and will be for the 2017 ANZAC ride in April. Special screenings of ride highlights have been enthusiastically – uproariously might be more accurate - received by the community. The final version of From the Bush to Beersheba aims to keep that feeling in Ntaria for a long time to come.
The ultimate objective is for the film to be seen by all Australians, and internationally as well. An ideal first step would be a national broadcast that achieves a significant viewership. International distribution for broadcast will also be a major focus. Beyond that the intention is for it be distributed physically in DVD or file format where required, and online for streaming or download to schools, universities, libraries and personally via iTunes or similar.50% of profits generated by the film will be shared with Ntaria School to support the riding program that is the foundation of the annual Aranda Ride for Pride.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
The education and outreach strategy for From the Bush to Beersheba will build on relationships already established with the Northern Territory Department of Education, and Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that proper distribution of the film will be assured into the future. Spring boarding off those initial distribution channels we hope to begin conversations with other departments of education across the country.
The production will pursue sales opportunities with broadcasters here and internationally, and will enter the film in festivals across the world. Beyond the life of the film in those settings, the strategy is to pursue wide distribution and viewership wherever possible. Depending on the setting, distribution of physical copies, or downloadable or streaming versions will be available to educational, not-for-profit, or other appropriate institutions. The film will be made available to the general public to purchase or rent via the usual online commercial entities, such as the iTunes Store.
From the Bush to Beersheba came into being via the short film, The Stockman and the Horsemen, which was commissioned by NITV and broadcast nationally. Subsequent to the broadcast, the filmmaker Nigel Traill, and co-director and principal participant, Ray Finn, personally screened the film for audiences in different settings; community centres, RSL clubs and elsewhere across the country. In each location, introductory talks and post-screening question-and-answer sessions spread the word in a more personal and emotional way.
It is hoped that a similar ‘road-show’ national tour will be undertaken, ideally with the participation of some or all of the young riders who are the centrepiece of the film. This would involve extra funding, and is relatively labour-intensive, but it has several benefits. It’s an invaluable opportunity for the participants to see the effect of their journey on other Australians, and for them to hone their social skills in new, but relatively intimate settings. It is also a powerful way to ‘cement’ the message in the consciousness of viewers, which can then lead to very effective word-of-mouth spreading of both the message of the film, and the film itself.
A website for the film is being prepared that will act as a valuable resource for interested viewers to access study materials, to learn more about the participants, their journey, their community, and the history of Aboriginal servicemen in all the places and conflicts they have served. There will be extra material, such as behind-the-scenes and bonus footage from the Arrernte Ride for Pride journeys. Social media sites will open up the conversation between the local and wider communities, continuing the important process of people getting to know one another better.