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New documentary The Last Daughter shines a light on family separation

Rhiannon Clarke -

New film, The Last Daughter, follows the journey of an Aboriginal woman who grew up in a white foster family, before she was suddenly taken away and returned to her birth family.

The documentary shadows Brenda Matthews on her quest to find the foster family she was separated from many years ago. A proud Wiradjuri woman, she dedicated decades to searching for the family whom she had lost all contact with.

Along the way she uncovered long-buried secrets, government lies, and the possibility for deeper connections to family and culture.

Through dramatic recreations of the past and interviews with Ms Matthew and members of her two families, the film unfolds a deeply emotional and healing story about love, loss and re-connection.

As Australia prepares for a referendum on an Indigenous voice to Parliament, this story of reconciliation could not be more profound or timely.

"There were pieces missing, like a puzzle and if I didn't go back and find the answers on both sides of my families, Black and White, I still wouldn't know who I am. I still wouldn't know where I belong," said Ms Matthews.

The Last Daughter will be in cinemas nationally from June 15 and was the winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Adelaide Film Festival, 2022.

The film has been brought to screen through collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cast and crew. At the heart of the collaboration is the Aboriginal cultural framework: the Banaam Framework. All members of the team were educated in and agreed to operate within the framework.

It's a relational-based role and function framework, not a hierarchical one. The knowledge of this framework is held by Kyle Slabb (Executive Producer/Cultural Advisor). A basic understanding of this framework recognises two key roles in any task. Gogaun (literal meaning is 'older brother'); the person designated as the knowledge holder for that task. Banaam (literal meaning is 'strong brother') is the person(s) who supports a Gogaun to be able to achieve the task.

The framework also recognises that the person who brings someone into the project is ultimately responsible for them.

Ms Matthews is a Gogaun for her story (author and owner of her story) and the film-making team has a responsibility to be Banaam to her, doing everything in their strength to support her in telling it.

Ms Matthews was mentored as a director by Professor Larissa Behrendt (After the Apology - 2017). She also participated in the 2022 DOC NYC x VIDEO CONSORTIUM Storytelling Incubator program.

The Last Daughter has been described as a healing journey for Ms Matthew, as an Aboriginal woman navigating her way through two worlds, two families and two cultures. A memoir of the Last Daughter will be published by Text Publishing, from 4 April 2023.

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