Film Shines a Light on a Dark Part of Australia’s History

Melbourne based Australian Solomon Islander filmmaker Amie Batalibasi (co-producer of Pacific Stories) has embarked on a journey to tell a story that has so often been left out of mainstream Australian history dialogue.  
The Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) are the descendants of some estimated 55,000 to 62,500 Pacific Islanders who were brought to Australia between 1863 and 1904 to work on the sugar cane fields of Queensland and Northern NSW.  
People came from more than 80 Pacific Islands, including Vanuatu (then called the ‘New Hebrides’) and the Solomon Islands, and to a lesser extent, from New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and Tuvalu, making this a regional story of great importance not only to Australia but also to the Pacific.

The short period drama film Blackbird sheds a light on some of the experiences faced by ASSI people during this time through the emotive and poignant story of Rosa and Kiko, two young Solomon Islanders who were taken from their Island home in the 1870s to work under slave-like conditions in Mackay’s Pioneer Valley.

Blackbird is not just a film but also a collaborative project that works closely with the ASSI community of QLD in all areas of the development and delivery of this film. 

This methodology is in line with the director’s overall creative practice that centers around community, cultural diversity, social justice and human rights. 
It is intended that by exploring the story and experiences of one South Sea Islander woman and her brother, the audience can begin to understand the journey of these characters and the film can address this part of Australia’s history at large.
AAPS Presentation in Cairns by filmmaker Amie Batalibasi. Image: Jacintha Bezgovsek

AAPS Presentation in Cairns by filmmaker Amie Batalibasi. Image: Jacintha Bezgovsek

Filmmaker Amie Batalibasi has just presented the background to the Blackbird film project to a group of academics at The Cairns Institute at James Cook University for the Australian Association for Pacific Studies AGM.

Batalibasi says: “In terms of the story, there are connections to my own heritage. I wanted to concentrate on siblings – and so the main characters, Rosa and Kiko came to be. In the film, they’re from the Malaita, Solomon Islands where my own family live and where three of my own ancestors were taken from. In excess of 9000 Malaitans were taken during the Blackbirding era. So this is my homage to them, and a statement that we haven’t forgotten”.

The short film Blackbird is part of the filmmaker’s Masters of Film and TV at the Victorian College of the Arts and is being filmed over eight days in July in Mackay and will be utilising both professional and non-actors to tell this story.

The premiere screening will be held at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image in Melbourne as part of the VCA graduate screenings.

A crowdfunding project to help fund the Blackbird Film Project has been launched where supporters have the opportunity to be a part helping to get this film made and score some great rewards.

Australian South Sea Islanders planting sugar cane on a plantation at Bingera Queensland ca. 1897 from State Library of Queensland.

Australian South Sea Islanders planting sugar cane on a plantation at Bingera Queensland ca. 1897 from State Library of Queensland.

Australian South Sea Islanders 150 Commemoration & Festival

In August 2013, the Australian South Sea Islanders Secretariat ( is presenting Australian South Sea Islanders 150 Commemoration & Festival in Brisbane. There are a number of events happening and you could jump on board at the March to Remember tomorrow (SAT 17 August) starting at Raddacliffe Place in Brisbane city from 10am – all welcome. “August 2013 will mark 150 years since the ship, the Don Juan arrived with 67 Pacific Islanders on board to work as indentured labourers in Qld. Many more ships came with many more South Sea Islanders over the next 40 years. This March is to REMEMBER those who were brought here, to ACKNOWLEDGE their contributions and CELEBRATE the survival of South Sea Islanders here in Australia despite the many hardships faced over the last 150 years.” (ASSIS Facebook Event).

Here’s the overall program:

ASSIS 150 Program

Pacific Stories Co-facilitator and documentary filmmaker Amie Batalibasi has been working with the Australian South Sea Islanders Secretariat to run some community film screenings and a digital story workshop on 23rd August at Brisbane Square library. Please find the flyer and program below. Here is the Facebook Event: ASSI Community Film Screenings Day 2. 

ASSI Community Film Screenings Day 2

The showcase of ASSI Community Film Screenings involves Short Films and Workshops at Brisbane Square Library!! Please join us -FREE EVENT!!

SESSION ONE : ASSI SHORT FILMS (Brisbane Square Library Theatrette, Ground Level)
10:30AM – 12:00PM
Screening of a series of short films exploring ASSI stories of family, history, identity and culture.
Followed by an open discussion.

SESSION TWO : WORKSHOPS (Brisbane Square Library – “The End Room” Level 2.
1PM – 3:30PM
• Seminar – Beginning Family History Research by Queensland Family History Society (20mins)
• Digital Storytelling Workshop –
Technical Tips and tricks to tell your story through film & photography (2 hours).
Faciliated by filmmaker Amie Batalibasi –
Limited spaces for this workshop – RSVP: email: or phone Jacintha Batalbasi Ph:0435 007 069.

ADDRESS: Brisbane Square Library, 266 George St, Brisbane.
DIRECTIONS: Enter on the ground level, go past Cafe and Information Desk to find the THEATRETTE (for Session ONE). For Session TWO Workshops take the lift or escalators (near the information desk) up to Level 2 – exit left to “The End Room”.

Pacific Stories NITV Screening Postponed

Dear Pacific Stories supporters,

Due to circumstances outside of our control the screening tonight has been postponed- we are working with NITV to find another date and will keep you all posted- thank you all for your ongoing support with these films and watch this space!! Please see statement below from NITV- “Unfortunately owing to technical difficulties with the master material for the series Pacific Stories, NITV is unable to screen the scheduled program tonight. We are seeking replacement material and hope to get the series scheduled on NITV as soon as possible. Sometimes, owing to the very heavy workloads in the technical areas of SBS these kinds of issues cannot be identified until very late and the only solution is to pull the program and reschedule it. NITV hopes to have this series back in our schedules as soon as practicable and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused. We will notify you as soon as we can of the future screening dates for Pacific Stories.” NITV Programming manager

Thanks so much for your support so far and we look forward to watching the films on the tellie with you, your families and the rest of Australia soon.


Amie and Lia.

Pacific Stories to Premiere on Australian Television

Pacific Stories Australian Television Premiere

The producers of Pacific Stories are pleased to announce the national television broadcast premiere of the Pacific Stories 2011 films on NITV:
10:15 pm on Monday the 13th of May, 2013
Pacific Stories is a collection of 8 short films that were created by Australian based Pacific Islanders as part of a project that took place in Melbourne in 2011.  The Pacific Stories project was auspiced by Multicultural Arts Victoria and funded by the Australian Council for the Arts. The eight short films reflect on issues living in urban Australia as a Pacific diaspora and the issues of identity and culture.

Eight Australian Pacific Islanders share their stories about the challenges of negotiating Islander culture, language and identity in an Australian context. With cultural backgrounds from across the pacific (and the Torres Strait), these filmmakers explore the struggle to keep family connections strong, stories from the spiritual world, celebrate Oceanic art, and contemplate the meaning of age old traditional practices in our contemporary world.

Australian/ Solomon Islander documentary filmmaker Amie Batalibasi and Samoan/ Native American Community Arts practitioner Lia Pa’apa’a facilitated the project over 7 month period and produced all eight short films.

Representatives from the islands of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the Torres Strait Islands participated in the project and were involved in discussions around issues facing Australian Pacific Islanders and also filmmaking workshops – to create scripts for their own short films. The series of films that were created are of an extremely high caliber.

One film, entitled “Kome Kalana – My Bubu ” is about Warrie Kome, a young Papua New Guinean man who grew up in a small village on the central coast of PNG. It is a very personal portrayal of his Bubu’s story and how it’s connected to his story. Kome Kalana is an honest and raw narrative about his grandmother and how her unique culture shaped him and allowed him the freedom to discover and to be the man that his is today – now creating his own culture and identity living in Australia. Paia Juste-Constant (Motu Kekeni/Papua New Guinean/ Australian) wrote and directed the film called Reva Reva. She says, “Reva Reva” speaks of my connection to my grandmothers and their full body tattoos. This beautiful canvas is far greater than a staining of the skin, more than a pattern of ink”. Other films written and directed by Ranu James, Leilani Gibson, John Harvey, Pauline Vetuna, Lisa Hilli & Venina Kaloumaira are also a part of the series.

The films as a series of works allows the viewers to get a better understanding of the complexity of Pacific urban identity and what it means growing up in Australia.  Pacific Stories takes the viewer on a journey through the Pacific through the eyes of it’s children, who growing up in the urban metropolis of Melbourne, Australia have to negotiate their identity and culture away from their homelands

The films will premiere on NITV at 10:15pm on 13 May 2013.

For more information please go to or you can contact the Pacific Stories Producers at

Below is a preview:

Pacific Stories NEWS

Hi Pacific Stories supporters!

We hope that 2012 has been a good year for you all. The highlights for Pacific Stories were no doubt the Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray project in Robinvale, Victoria working with Indigenous and Pacific Islander young people to make films, as well as the Pacific Island Premiere of the 2011 Pacific Stories 8 short films in Honiara, Solomon Islands at the Festival of Pacific Arts in July.

Recently we were happy to have a Pacific Stories DVD giveaway on our Facebook page. The lucky winner was Tania Doula McLoughlin up in the Northern Territory – congratulations! Stay tuned because we may have another giveaway in store! This is the link to our Facebook page: click here.

It’s been an exciting year for film and Australian Pacific Islanders… The Wantok Stori project also premiered at the Festival of the Pacific Arts. To see the short film made: click here. The Tep Tok project initiated by Sunameke Productions and involving Ranu & Paia (from Pacific Stories 2011) is going strong. It’s a film project following “two women of Papua New Guinea and Australian descent as they explore the traditions of tattooing on a journey which takes them from Australia to PNG, New Zealand, Samoa and back”. More information on this one: click here.

Many wonderful initiatives have begun. For example, George Siosi Samuels is beginning a Pozible campaign to complete a short animation film Tales from Nanumea – Episode 4. George says: “I’m an independent animator, and the creator of the Tales From Nanumea series, which is an animation project to help preserve the stories of Tuvalu. Nanumea is one of eight atolls that make up Tuvalu, a small Polynesian nation at risk of sinking due to rising ocean levels (global warming).” His short films work towards raising awareness about Nanumea and climate change. For more information and to support this project: click here.

William Head, who volunteered and curated the Film and Photography program at the Festival of Pacific Arts has started an initiative to get a Solomon Islander filmmaker to the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) DocWeek in Adelaide in 2013. This is such an important step to help build a film industry where there isn’t one and support budding Pacific Islander filmmakers. For more information: click here.

And 2013 has got so much in store! We have some exciting news to announce soon and for those young Pacific Islanders in Melbourne we have a wonderful film initiative starting up called Story Weavers. Story Weavers is produced and facilitated by filmmakers Lisa Hilli, Amie Batalibasi and Robbie McEwan with support from Youthworx Media, Pacific Stories, Pacific Womens Weaving Circle and Signal.

Story Weavers Flier

Pacific Islanders have been telling awesome, unique stories for as long as anyone can remember. Now we wanna take more of our stories to the screen. Story Weavers is a hands- on filmmaking project for young Melbourne Pacific Islanders exploring PI identity in urban Australia. We’ll work with professional PI filmmakers and other PI young people to develop, shoot and screen a short film for the 2013 Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival. There’s lots of ways to get involved and learn new skills in performing, using cameras, writing, directing, sound design, sound recording and editing. Workshops will run at Signal in February and March 2013. If you’re 13-25 from Pacific background please APPLY ONLINE: CLICK HERE 

To learn more from the Story Weavers crew contact us at:
Email: OR

So that’s all for Pacific Stories news for now. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Years. You’ll be hearing more from us in 2013.

An International Event – FOPA

In July 2012, the Solomon Islands hosted the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in the capital, Honiara. This event happens every four years – it’s a bit like the Olympics for Pacific Arts & Culture with 27 Pacific Countries in attendance.

Aotearoa Delegation, Opening Ceremony, Festival of Pacific Arts, Honiara, Solomon Islands. ©

Pacific Stories co-facilitator, Amie Batalibasi, and Pacific Stories 2011 filmmaker, Lisa Hilli, attended the festival and participated in several aspects of the FOPA Film Festival program.

We were fortunate to be able to hold the International Premiere of the Pacific Stories 2011 short films during the festival. Amie and Lisa were on hand to present the films to an absolutely packed house – it was hot, steamy and tropical in that big auditorium but that didn’t stop the show! The reaction from the crowd was wonderful and it was the perfect platform to tell stories through the film about Australia’s Pacific Islander diaspora. We sold quite a few DVDs to festival attendees and locals, so we know that those stories are now being spread around the world! We missed having co-facilitator Lia Pa’ap’a by our side – and the other filmmakers… Here’s a little reminder of the films and the 8 wonderful writer/directors: This is My Culture by Ranu James, Fehuluni by Leilani Gibson, Kome Kalana – My Bubu by Wari Kome, Upi Mop Le – The Last Fish by John Harvey, Coconut by Pauline Vetuna, Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle by Lisa Hilli, Reva Reva by Paia Juste-Constant, From One to Another by Venina Kaloumaira. (Click here to watch the Pacific Stories Preview).

The success of the Pacific Stories screening and in fact, the entire film program, demonstrated a shift to a more contemporary side of the Festival of Pacific Arts and highlighted the medium of film as an important way to share stories and create dialogue about issues affecting people and communities in the Pacific. (We hope that the future FOPAs embrace a film program too – the next one’s in Guam. Click here for the website). In addition, Amie was a part of the “Filmmaking in the Pacific” panel with Penny Smallacombe (AUS), Monica Guzman (GUAM), Adilah Dolaiano (SOL) and hosted by Joost Den Hartog from the Australia International Documentary Conference. As a result of this forum a Facebook group called FOPAfilm has been formed to continue discussions about filmmaking in the Pacific – for more details please see –

Pacific Stories International Premiere Screening at FOPA 2012. © Pacific Stories 2012.

The Pacific Stories films screened alongside the World Premiere of the Wantok Stori project short film Wea Noa Mi? (Where Am I?) – written, directed and acted by young first-time filmmakers in Honiara. It was an exciting event with the young people taking centre stage and introducing the film. We have been following the progress of that project here, and it gives us great pleasure to share the full length film with you all. Please enjoy- click here to watch (10mins). Also, look out for an educational resource kit – coming soon.

Filmmaking in the Pacific panelists: Joost Den Hartog, Amie Batalibasi, Penny Smallacombe, Monica Guzman, Adilah Dolaiano. © Pacific Stories 2012.

Well, that’s all from Pacific Stories for now… We hope you are well and happy! Don’t forget the Pacific Stories DVD is available online and makes a lovely gift!

Pacific Stories Films On SHOW

After the success of the Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray screening in Robinvale we are pleased to announce July screenings of the Pacific Stories 2011 films in Melbourne and the Solomon Islands! It is so fantastic to continue to share these 8 short films with the public one year after the project has finished.

Four films from Pacific Stories 2011 have been selected to screen at Multicultural Arts Victoria Inc.‘s EMERGE FILM FESTIVAL as part of the “Diverse Voices in Film” Program on July 3 at 7:25PM, Treasury Theatre.

‘Upi Mop Le’ by John Harvey, ‘This is My Culture’ by Ranu James, ‘Reva Reva’ by Paia Juste-Constant and ‘My Bubu’ by Warrie Kome will screen with other short films made by diverse communities in Melbourne. Please see this Facebook Event for more details! Pacific Stories DVDs will be on sale on the night:

For the full program for the EMERGE Film Festival – CLICK HERE

Here’s the Pacific Stories DVD preview:

We are very happy to announce that the Pacific Stories films will also be screening at the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara, Solomon Islands. This will be the first international screening of the films and also the Pacific Islands Premiere. It will be a wonderful opportunity to screen the films on an international stage.

Pacific Stories will screen at FOPA with the short film called “Wea Nao Mi? (Where Am I?)”. This is the short film that has been produced as part of the Wantok Stori – Culture in Harmony with Nature project that Pacific Stories filmmakers Amie Batalibasi and Lisa Hilli have been involved in.

Festival of Pacific Arts Screening Details for Pacific Stories & Wantok Stori:
DATE: Thursday, July 5, 2012
TIME: 3:00PM (Honiara Time)
WHERE: FOPA Auditorium, Honiara (near the Museum)

Still from “Wea Nau Mi?” Wantok Stori short film screening with Pacific Stories at the Festival of Pacific Arts, 2012. © Wantok Stori