Award-winning documentary series Voices Of The River is telling powerful stories of the Traditional Owners of the Martuwarra/Fitzroy River in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
The web series was released on Wednesday, featuring the inspiring and powerful words of Traditional Owners of the Martuwarra area who are fighting to protect the river from large-scale water extraction.
The National Heritage-listed Martuwarra/Fitzroy River stretches over 700km in WA’s Kimberley region and is of great cultural and environmental significance. The series makers say these values are now under threat from Murray-Darling style proposals to pump more than 375 billion litres of water from the river.
The release of the series follows great success on the international film festival circuit, showing the global importance of river protection and the support for protecting one of the world’s last wild and healthy rivers.
Bunuba-Walmajarri Custodian Natalie Davey features in Episode 3 of Voices Of The River and shares her connection to her Country and the Martuwarra.
“It was amazing to sit by the river during filming, near where my grandmother was born,” she said.
“To be part of that environment and share those connections to the river, and why it’s so important to us … We’re always telling stories.
“Aboriginal culture is passed down through oral tradition, so being able to share films is a great way to continue that and bring it into today’s online media.”
Bunuba woman and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO has described the series as “incredibly powerful”.
“As First Peoples we have a right to speak our languages, to be on Country, to be in control of our knowledges and resources, and to be free to practise our Law and culture. The protection of the Bandaral Ngarri (Martuwarra Fitzroy River) is critical to upholding these rights,” she said.
“We must stand together to protect our River Country — the collective power of our voices can transform society for the better and leave a legacy that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be proud to inherit.”
Filming on Voices of the River began in 2019 after documentary filmmaker Stephanie King and cinematographer John Chisholm were approached by Environs Kimberley to help amplify the voices of Traditional Owners along the Martuwarra.
Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said the videos were powerful and highlighted the wishes of the Traditional Owners along the Martuwarra.
“Traditional Owners have lived along the Martuwarra Fitzroy River for tens of thousands of years, Native Title has been determined along the entire length of the river and it’s National Heritage-listed for its cultural values, but this has not been enough to stop plans to extract water,” he said.
“Traditional Owners on the Martuwarra do not want and have never consented to water extraction on the Fitzroy River and it’s time their wishes were considered. Hopefully, these videos share those concerns and drive support to protect the Martuwarra.”
Voices of the River carries the voices of Traditional Owners from five language groups and encourages audiences to engage with the conversation about development along one of Australia’s last in-tact river systems.
The series premiered at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and was awarded Silver Award for Best Web Series at Los Angeles-based Independent Shorts Awards. It was also selected for Documentary Australia Foundation’s competitive Environmental Incubator program, which supports high potential projects to drive meaningful change.
The web series is now live on Facebook and Instagram TV and will run for 10 weeks in total. It was produced in partnership with Environs Kimberley, the Kimberley Land Council and The Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else alliance.
By Giovanni Torre