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New Netflix doco sheds light on art's healing power for Indigenous prisoners

Rhiannon Clarke -

See through the eyes of Indigenous prisoners as they explore how art and culture can empower them as they transcend their unjust cycles of imprisonment.

The Art of Incarceration, a feature documentary which covers perspectives from current and past inmates at Victoria's Fulham Correctional Centre will get a global release on Netflix on July 3.

Narrated by Elder uncle Jack Charles, the documentary analyses and humanises the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in prison.

PwC's 2017 report Indigenous incarceration: Unlock the facts revealed Indigenous Australians made up fewer than 3 per cent of the population, but accounted for 27 per cent of the adult prison population, with Indigenous youth making up 55 per cent of young people in detention.

Art work by Robby Wirramanda

The documentary reveals how inmates use art as a form of spiritual healing to stay connected to their cultural identity as they wait for life on the outside.

From inside Victoria's Fulham Correctional Centre, the artists complete their works whilst painting the audience a contemporary insight into the deeply ingrained incarceration epidemic of Australia's First People.

Alex Siddons, a Melbourne based filmmaker met Indigenous artists and former prisoners Wergaia man Robby Wirramanda and Gunditjmara-Keeray Woorroon man Christopher Austin, and quickly formed a close friendship.

After learning about the program in prison, Siddons, Wirramanda and Austin, began a journey to document and tell the story of art in incarceration.

Filmmaker Alex Siddons

"I'm grateful to everyone who contributed and supported us in completing the film," Siddons said.

"It is my hope that the film brings attention to the mass incarceration of Indigenous Australians in our criminal justice system, and affects urgent change."

Today, Wirramanda and Austin consider Siddons as part of their family and this mutual love and respect is reflected in the film's journey.

The Art of Incarceration premiered at the Gold Coast Film Festival, and also screened at The Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival and Hawai'i International Film Festival.

The film is directed by Siddons, written by Austin, Wirramanda and Siddons, and produced by Kylie Pascoe and Siddons. The original score was created by Theo McMahon, Bundjalung.

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