23 January 2023

NFSA invites everyone to watch, listen and then have their say this Australia Day

| Sally Hopman
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Man with painting

Richard Bell is a First Nations artist, activist and founder of proppaNOW, a Brisbane-based Aboriginal art collective. Photo: National Film and Sound Archives.

Delving into the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), since she became its senior manager for Indigenous programs, has been an emotional journey for Gillian Moody.

The proud Wodi Wodi woman, whose country is around Wreck Bay, NSW, is part of the Ardler bloodline.

Growing up in Sydney, she comes from a background in film and television more than an archival one, “but it’s a background I certainly understand and respect”, so it was a natural fit to take on the NFSA role six months ago.

It has been emotional because of the range of stories in the collection, stories that celebrate our best and worst days when it comes to First Nations people.

Ms Moody said she saw her job as helping to tell such stories using the wealth of footage and sounds that made up the NFSA collection.

As we approach one of the most contentious days on the nation’s calendar, Australia Day on 26 January, Ms Moody said it was the perfect time for all Australians to face our “hard history”.

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“Through the NFSA collection , we want to acknowledge 26 January as the focus of a national conversation, a conversation by different members of the community,” she said.

“We want people to contribute to this national conversation. Through the NFSA, we want to provide a space for our audience to come together for robust conversations.”

It’s this spirit of respect, and passion, that has led Ms Moody to host an event next Wednesday 25 January, the day before the nation marks Australia Day – also a day many choose not to celebrate because it marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia.

For First Nations Australians, the day commemorates loss rather than celebration: loss of sovereign rights to land, loss of family and loss of rights to protect culture.

“What we have is a hard history, but it’s a history that needs to surface. If you delve into it, you come across a remarkable collection of personal anecdotes in the archives that present great insight into our country.”


Senior manager of Indigenous programs at the National Film and Sound Archives, Gillian Moody. Photo: NFSA

To that end, on Wednesday 25 January, the NFSA will preview, ahead of its cinematic release, You Can Go Now, a summary of 50 years of First Nations activism in Australia, through the remarkable lens of artist Richard Bell.

Bell’s work has been lauded nationally and internationally with the documentary of his work directed by author, filmmaker, broadcaster and academic, Professor Larissa Behrendt. Through her creative lens, Behrendt documents Bell’s extraordinary career trajectory and explores his resolve to increase Indigenous emancipation and self-determination.

Behrendt and Bell will join Ms Moody for a Q&A session discussing the film.

Protesters at Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

You Can Go Now, which will be screened at the NFSA’s Arc Theatre, traces the history of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Old Parliament House. Photo: NFSA.

On Australia Day itself, 26 January, the NFSA will host a free screening of Ningla A-na, a film documenting the establishment of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra.

The tent embassy was the start of a movement that led to the establishment of the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the National Black Theatre. It garnered a tide of support from around Australia which finally led to the granting of native title land rights.

Both films are in the NFSA’s collection.

The NFSA’s public engagement manager Karina Libbey, said both events were timely as the nation geared up to mark Australia Day 2023.

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“With the developing debate surrounding the Voice to Parliament, these are important and timely events to mark 26 January,” she said.

“This NFSA program of thought-provoking and insightful content is designed to inspire conversation and reflection.”

You Can Go Now will screen at the NFSA’s Arc Cinema on Wednesday 25 January at 6 pm. $12/$10.

Ningla A-na will screen on Thursday 26 January in the Arc Cinema at 2 pm. Free admission.

More information is available from the NFSA website.

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First fleet was 18th of January.
Paye the rent is spelled wrong.
Rent, money ownership and maps didn’t exist in 1787, in the land now know as Australia.

26 of January is only bad for some because its good for others. If we changed the date, we would be told that the new date is offensive because we are celebrating the same thing.

Australia isn’t a race, Australia day can’t be racist.

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