Connection to Country follows a group of Indigenous people from the Pilbara as they battle to preserve Australia's unique cultural heritage from the ravages of a booming mining industry.
In the heart of Western Australia, the Burrup Peninsula hosts the largest concentration of rock art in the world; a dramatic, ancient landscape so sacred that it shouldn't be looked upon at all except by its Traditional Owners. In recent times this site of incalculable aesthetic and historical value is being threatened by industrialisation and development. The Burrup has become home to salt mines, iron ore port facilities and one of Australia’s largest gas plants. But the people of the Pilbara are fighting back on behalf of this most sacred of places and other important sites on their country - documenting the rock art, recording their thalu (increase) sites and battling to get their unique cultural heritage recognised and celebrated.
Moreover Connection to Country is a one-hour documentary about the unbroken connection to country that is still surviving today as much as it was 70,000 years ago when in the words of the old people 'the world was soft'. The Galharra or skin system that governs culture and heritage is right at the heart of it too.
The story explores how the WA State Government weakened the Aboriginal Heritage Ac (1972) without due process in order to make new mining projects easier to get started.
Ultimately however, the main concern of Connection to Country is to explain the relationship that exists between Indigenous people and their land. People on their country interact with the land today like they have always done continuously and unbroken in time. As the old people always say, ‘we belong to the land, the land don’t belong to us’.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
In the Pilbara the Burrup Peninsula, or Murujuga as the traditional owners call it, is a sacred place that is home to the largest outdoor gallery of petroglyphs in the world. More importantly it’s the only place in the world where the creators of the rock art have a direct connection with the Aboriginal people of today.
Even once Indigenous people had Native Title in the early 2000’s the State Government of WA extinguished Native Title over the Burrup area and forced all the groups with an interest in the place into an agreement called the Burrup and Maitland Industrial Estate Agreement. The BIMEA was forced onto the people and we were told we had to live with it.
The state has continuously broken this agreement by allowing development on Murujuga even though the agreement included a huge industrial site south of the Burrup called the Maitland Industrial Estate. Woodside’s former CEO was given the go ahead by the state to develop their Pluto Gas plant on the Burrup in clear breach of the BMIA.
Aboriginal Corporations are expected to be responsible and accountable in return for the small amount of funding they receive while the miners are given a free go by the State Government to do whatever they like. The Burrup is a glaring example of this contradiction.
Indigenous heritage and culture has been destroyed at will, without respect and or any heartfelt consideration for a culture of people and spirit of the land that’s older than time. On a worldwide scale Indigenous Australia’s continuous connection to the land out trumps many of the more well-known and revered civilizations that ever existed.
Saving and protecting Indigenous culture and heritage is an issue for all of Australia. Trying to protect what Indigenous Australians know as their places of significance goes hand in hand with their very existence. The rest of Australia needs to learn, respect and having a connection with the land too. Any philanthropic foundation that has these aims and values will resonate with this project.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
• The film will air on NITV and SBS in the second half of 2017 and we aim to achieve a broad audience reach and positive social media engagement, highlighting the significance of the Burrup. This will be measured by ratings, social media metrics and an increase in support for the Friends of Australian Rock Art’s campaign.
• Promote the beauty, complexity and significance of the Burrup, educating and engaging the broader community to take action to protect it.
• Use the film as a way to engage with academia and research institutes to further the understanding of the rock art and people associated with it.
• Screen the film to policy makers and politicians to engage them in a conversation on how to evaluate best possible outcomes for the protection of the rock art and the empowerment of the communities.
• Use the film to engage with industry about mutually beneficial ways to mitigate impacts on the exceptional heritage.
• Achieve World Heritage listing status by UNESCO as a means to further protect, preserve and promote this rock art for future generations to enjoy
What is your education and outreach strategy?
We have engaged impact producer Teri Calder to work with us to develop a comprehensive impact, education and outreach strategy to roll out from the broadcast in the second half of the year and beyond.