It’s a WRAP!!!!

After an amazing week back at Robinvale P-12 College we have captured some amazing footage that will now be part of the two films that the Harmony on the Murray  team is creating.

The 9 young people that have been involved were thrown straight back into the project on Monday morning, revising what we had learnt during the first workshop and storyboarding for their films. The films being made are around “Talented people in Robinvale” (an idea pitched by participant Moj) and “Religion & Spirituality in Robinvale” (an idea pitched by participant Ofiu).  Both really big topics with heaps to explore within such a dynamic community like Robinvale.

Shoot with Eric for the ‘Talent’ film. © Pacific Stories 2012

“Talented people in Robinvale”  saw the film makers look into the lives of Chrissy Ale- a 16 year old singer who is working hard to become a professional singer when she leaves school.  With a voice of an angel, Chrissy performs across the region.  Chrissy’s song that she wrote and plays guitar to will definitly be a major feature of the film!!  We also met Eric Peniongo who is a 12 year old drummer with mad skills!!  Eric is a drummer for the Robinvale Brass band- which is headed up by Tongan conductor Siua and has a 20 strong membership- you should hear them play R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  We also meet the newly established Hip-Hop dance crew “MIXTURES” who mix cultures and dances to come up with their own dances.  Congratulations to Jarome, Mary, Sarah and Moj for working as such a great crew on the film.

“Religion & Spirituality in Robinvale” allowed the film makers Lillian, Juanita, Kadeasha, Dua and  Leone to explore religion and spirituality from both the Tongan and Indigenous perspective.  A massive topic, the filmmakers interviewed three prominent community members.  Sissy Petit, who is a cultural advisor and grew up in and around Robinvale was filmed down at “Easter Camp” along the Murray River.  Sissy spoke about cultural connection to country and it’s importance to Indigneous people.  We heard stories from that land and learnt things that we didn’t know about Robinvale’s first people.  Thelma Chilly was also interviewed, she explored Spirituality and Christianity and the role that it has played in her life.  From the Tongan community, Alefosio Ale who is the P-12 Chaplain and Pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.  Ale (who is also Chrissy’s dad) talked about his role as a Pastor and how it informs him as a community and youth worker.

Interview with Sissi Petit at ‘Easter Camp’. © Pacific Stories 2012.

Overall, the community of Robinvale has again been incredibly gracious and generous with sharing their time and stories with the film makers.  We now have heaps of great footage that we are taking back to Melbourne to get edited with assistance from some of the Young Media Makers Project crew.

Participants, Facilitators and Project Supporters on our last day. © Pacific Stories 2012.

The screening has been booked for Tuesday June 26th in Robinvale so mark the date in your calendar and stay tuned for more information  about what is going to be another amazing Pacific Stories event. We have a group of students developing and managing the screening event.

Pacific Stories would like to thanks all who have participated in week 2 of this project.  From the filmmakers and their parents who have supported them to be part of this project, the school staff and all of the community that we have worked with and our project partners, funders and supporters.  A special thanks to Glenn in the music room who has allowed us to use his space and gear.  It takes a community to raise a child – and in Robinvale there is such a supportive community behind these children – we feel very blessed to be a part of it!!

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Stay tuned and follow Pacific Stories on Facebook for more info and photos!


Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray PRESS RELEASE


A group of young people from Robinvale P-12 College are talking about issues important to them by making short documentary films to be screened in Robinvale in June.

Harmony on the Murray project. © Pacific Stories 2012

The group of 9 young people are participants in a community filmmaking project called Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray where they have had the opportunity to learn how to make films with guidance from filmmakers & project facilitators Amie Batalibasi & Lia Pa’apa’a from Melbourne. The group of young people are from Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities in reflection of Robinvale’s Aboriginal & Islander Harmony Committee.

The young people were involved in a week long intensive in March where they learnt everything from storyboarding, to camera operation, sound and editing; and had group discussions about culture, identity and religion to come up with the two film ideas that are being shot around Robinvale this week– Talented Young People in Robinvale and Religion & Spirituality in Robinvale.

“The Harmony on the Murray project allows young people from Robinvale to explore their own identity, the identity of others through the medium of film. I think that the participants have found a lot of strength and beauty within their own communities by exploring the film topics of talent and religion” says Lia Pa’apa’a.

One of the participants, 15-year-old Lillian explains, “I think it’s important to be part of this project because if you have a message to tell people and you don’t have a voice, this project is the perfect opportunity for you get your message out and it’s also a great way to learn the different techniques about filming.”

This week, now that the stories for the two documentaries are confirmed, the students are behind the camera, filming around Robinvale, interviewing their peers and other respected community members.

“It’s been fantastic to see the young people working together as a film crew and figuring out group dynamics. Filmmaking is not an easy process. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing but we certainly are working together to learn and grow as a team throughout this process. Lia and I really expect a lot from them – and we are using professional filming equipment – so they have really done well and stepped up to the challenge,” says filmmaker Amie Batalibasi.

© Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray 2012.

Facilitators Amie and Lia are both filmmaker/ artists based in Melbourne and the Harmony on the Murray project is a continuation from Pacific Stories, a short film project run in Melbourne in 2011 where eight people from Pacific Islander backgrounds produced stories around culture and identity. “Pacific Stories was the start of what has become a great working relationship between Amie and I but also a vehicle for us to engage other communities across Australia. It has showed us that there is a need to empower community through film in order for them tell their stories to broader communities,” says Lia Pa’apa’a

Amie adds, “It is such a pleasure and a privilege to be here in Robinvale working with these young people and the community. The idea isn’t for us to come in and make a film about the community, but to share filmmaking skills with the participants so that they can tell their own stories in their own way. The young people are so creative and have come up with great ideas. I can’t wait to come back in June for the World Premiere Screening.”

Harmony on the Murray is funded by Regional Arts Victoria and Swan Hill Rural City Council. It is further supported by Robinvale P-12 College and Robinvale Network House.

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For further information please contact Pacific Stories on

Harmony on the Murray- Pre Production WEEK 1

Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray has had a great first week in Robinvale working with our 9 new film makers from Robinvale P-12 College.  The community welcomed us on the first evening with a BBQ and after showing the parents some of Pacific Stories and My Story, My Place- Through the lens the parents wanted to know when there would be workshops for the adults!!

We ran an intensive film making workshop with the students.  The group is made up of 9 students from Tongan and Aboriginal backgrounds.  We wanted to give students from these two backgrounds an oportunity to explore their identity and relationship to each other through the film making process.

Pacific Stories - Harmony on the Murray group. © Pacific Stories 2012

We started by exploring film, culture and identity, with students learning about film genres, the film making process as well as some Indigenous Australian history and exploring their own cultures and identities, both as cultural groups and then individuals.

Students also learnt the technical aspects of film including composition, framing and interview techniques – which they all got to put into practice during a vox pop session at lunchtime, where the filmmakers interviewed their peers about different isues. And at the special assembly to welcome the school’s Japanese visitors.

Vox Pop in action: Sarah, Mary & Lillian ask fellow students about what culture means to them. © Pacific Stories 2012

Students then went on to learn about STORY – something that we always come back to as filmmakers!!!  Students studied script and storyboards, developing their own in small groups of a 6-shot film that the students then went out and filmed in the school yard.

By the end of the week it came down to the business end of the workshops, with students having to develop their own individual film concept. They developed a sysnopsis and  plot and pitched it to the group. All 9 students came up with really interesting ideas but after the pitches only 2 could be chosen and there was a unanimous vote for two films.  The films that Harmony on the Murray project group is making are about- “Religion in Robinvale” and “Talented People in Robinvale”.  We are really excited to get back up to Robinvale for the first week of May to start making these films.

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On friday, after a very long intensive week, we asked the students about the Pacific Stories experience to date and this is what they had to say:

” The thing I enjoyed the most is filming all the angles because it helps me when I’m filming something.” Jeremyaar.

“I think it’s important to be part of this project because if you have a message to tell people and you don’t have a voice, this project is the perfect opportunity for you get your message out and it’s also a great way to learn the different techniques about filming.’ Lillian

The part I enjoyed most was storyboarding and filming it and watching the varieties of documentaries they have previously filmed. I deeply love Pacific Stories! You learn, use skills and most of all have FUN!” Mary

” I have enjoyed interviewing people’s thoughts on this school because we got to have a go with using the camera and learning different techniques.” Ofiu

“I have enjoyed using the video recorders, and being able to film many things. Like: interviewing people, making a story board and producing it. I am enjoying how we interact as with each other, and how we co-operate together, to improve our team work skills.” Moj

” I think that it’s important to be part of this project because the community will hear what the youth have to share and we could also get a lot of skills out of this” Ebony

” Its important to be in this project because you learn how to film and learn about filming and how to use a camera and all about the different types of angles, shots and about production and directors and producers.  You learn heaps that you never learnt of heard before and it is an opportunity to learn more about filming.” Sarah

“I cannot say what I have most enjoyed about the filming process because I have enjoyed everything because I am learning all different kinds of things about filmmaking and each other.” Kadeasha

” I think that it is important to be in this project because I want to learn more about things and get to know more about the people that we work with.” Juanita

Back L-R: Amie (Facilitator), Ebony, Mary, Lillian, Sarah, Ofiu, Moj, Jerammyaar. Front L-R: Nita, Kadeasha, Lia (Faciltiator). © Pacific Stories 2012

So, it was a hugly productive and inspiring week working on Harmony on the Murray – a film project that is not only going to have some great outcomes with the the creation of 2 short films that will be screening in June, but also with the development of these 9 exciting new film makers.

Thanks for following us on this journey!

Film Fun Begins in Robinvale!

Pacific Stories – Harmony on the Murray has kicked off with style. We now have eight new filmmakers who are busy developing their films and learning the ins and outs of the filmmaking business. After two days they have already been behind the camera filming and working as a film crew. Look out for workshop photos to come.

Also, we have been welcomed by the community and had the chance to meet the parents and families of participants at a BBQ on our first night here – it was just like a family BBQ! Check out the photo.

Last night we were fortunate to attend the Robinvale Harmony Committee meeting to hear about community activities and projects happening within Robinvale such as programs for young people and Harmony Day. We are very thankful to everyone who has made us so welcome including the Principal, staff and students at Rovinvale P-12 College as well as everyone at Rovinvale Network House. And our project wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Swan Hill Rural City Council and Rural Arts Victoria.

Robinvale Community Consultations begin!!

After much organising, 2012 of Pacific Stories has kicked off with a trip to the beautiful town of Robinvale, located about 5 1/2 hours north on the Murray River.  Amie & I were welcomed by The Robinvale Network House who are supporting & auspicing our project. We spent 3 days getting to know the community, talking to locals and finding out about the amazing diversity of Robinvale.

With a population of approx.. 3000 and over 42 nationalities represented- Robinvale is a dynamic community, learning to live together under some difficult circumstances.  Agriculture and fruit picking work has brought many Pacific Islanders (& other communities) to Robinvale which is traditionally Tati Tati land.  The project is going to take place at Robinvale College with a group of 8 students from both Pacific and Indigenous backgrounds and will be exploring issues of identity and community that the students face.  Amie and I are so excited (as you can see by the photo) to be privileged enough to work in Robinvale and will keep you posted with our filming adventures!!  Also keep in touch with what is happening on our FaceBook page.

Robinvale or Bust © Pacific Stories 2012

We are looking forward to an exciting 2012 that is bringing Pacific Stories 2011 national, and possibly international with our films hopefully being screened in Amie’s island home of the Solomon Islands at the Pacific Arts Festival!!

Lia Pa’apa’a

Only the beginning…

It’s been about a month since our Premiere screening and there’s so much more to come. Lia and I are planning and starting to write funding submissions to get this show on the road. We have done a NZ radio interview and a Fijian magazine interview. We will hopefully have the DVD available online in the next few weeks and we will let you know when it’s up. We heard a story about a four year old girl from Pacific Islander background who came to the screening and has been watching the DVD on repeat – this is what we like to hear! For those in Melbourne we plan to have a second screening as promised for those who missed out. If you are outside of Melbourne and would like to have your own screening please contact us directly via email:

But while you’re waiting to purchase your copy of the Pacific Stories DVD, here are some more photos of the screening night to enjoy (thanks to Desmond Connellan for taking these photos). Cheers, Amie Batalibasi

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Pacific Stories Screening: A Night of Nights!

On 25 June 2011, the Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) came alive with Pasifika sights, sounds and stories. After seven months, this was the night for Pacific Stories participants, friends, family and the community to come together to celebrate the completion of the Pacific Stories project and to premiere the eight short films produced by eight dedicated and talented filmmakers: Leilani Gibson, John Harvey, Lisa Hilli, Ranu James, Paia Juste-Constant, Venina Kaloumaira, Warrie Kome and Pauline Vetuna.

Participants and performers arrived early to start decorating and getting organised. (Thanks to Venina, co-facilitator Lia and others, for making beautiful decorations for the evening including flowers, a giant ukulele and giant coconuts!! See pictures). Emeretta and the FCAC crew were also there making preparations as the clock ticked away. Meanwhile, I was busy doing a final run through of the films – making sure there were no glitches.

When I emerged into the foyer, crowds of people had already arrived and the room was abuzz with excitement. I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough room for everyone in the hall, but with the kids down the front sitting on mats, everyone found a place to view the Pacific Stories films for the first time.

Lia Pa’apa’a (what a woman!) was our gracious host for the evening – and what a wonderful job she did. When I got up on the stage I had to take a photo of our awesome crowd – over 200 plus smiling faces! When it was time to play the films, I was so happy to stand at the back of the room with Lia and watch the eight films screen in front of an audience. I had watched the films 100s of times in the edit room, but as I stood there that night, I felt like I was watching them for the first time. The feeling in the room was indescribable – I could hear a few sniffles in the crowd and there were a few tears from me too!!

The Pacific Stories Crew. Photo by Anne Harkin from MAV.

For those of you who couldn’t make it along it’s about time you met the filmmakers – the people that have made this project so great by generously sharing their stories through film (in order of screening program):

This is My Culture
by Ranu James (Motu Kekeni/Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
This film was adapted from a poem I wrote in response to a statement that I often hear from teachers which is: “We treat everyone the same.” I wanted to explain that culture is something intrinsically linked to who we are, it cannot be separated from someone and to treat everyone the same is to deny our uniqueness.

by Leilani Gibson
(Tonga/ Palangi)
This film speaks of the spiritual world and discusses the traditional story of a beautiful Tongan woman, Fehuluni, as told through the eyes of artist and curator Loketi Niua Latu. It explores the intersection of traditional cultural stories and contemporary art.

Kome Kalana – My Bubu
by Wari Kome (Papua New Guinean)
Warrie is a young Papua New Guinean man who grew up in a small village on the central coast of PNG. This 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.

Upi Mop Le – The Last Fish
by John Harvey (Torres Strait Islander – Saibai Island & English descent)
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi talks about how his new turtle shell mask is an expression of himself. This film explores how Ricardo, as a Torres Strait Islander artist living so far away from his homeland of Murray Island, maintains a sense of connection with ‘home’ through his artwork.

by Pauline Vetuna (Papua New Guinean)
A young woman talks to her Papua New Guinean mother about her parents’ decision to raise her without their indigenous language or culture.

Reva Reva
by Paia Juste-Constant (Motu Kekeni/Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
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.

Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle
by Lisa Hilli (Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
Love, laughter, excitement and a passion for tradition and contemporary Pacific weaving. It’s a document of what happens when Pacific Islander women get together to weave.

From One to Another
by Venina Kaloumaira (Fijian/ Hungarian)
This film is an exploration of the continuation of cultural connection and belonging to Fiji, through the passing down of knowledge from father to son whilst living in Australia. It unearths a sweet and unexpected tale of not only their relationship with one another, but a revelation of the strength of their identity as first and second generation Fijians, living in Australia.

Credit and congratulations to the filmmakers – the reaction after the films screened was overwhelming. The filmmakers did a short Q&A with members of the audience sharing their thoughts. It was obvious that these films were successful in creating thought and discussion about issues effecting Pacific Islander people & communities but it was also interesting to hear the opinions of some young Aboriginal men who said that they also identified with these issues – as well as other people from migrant backgrounds who said to me that they identified with the films’ themes of connection to homelands, culture and identity here in Australia.

The night was topped off with DELICIOUS food from the West Papuan Community and performances from Drum Drum Pikanini (PNG), Iviiti Girls: Esther & Angelique Iviiti
(the Kingdom of Tonga) Fijian Serenade (Fiji) & Josephine Inia, Brown Roots Collective (we send a huge amount of gratitude and respect to these people because the night would not have been so wonderful without this beautiful display of PI culture).

To read more about what happened that night and what people thought, check out these blogs: Pearson’s Space by Pearson Vetuna and Just the Messenger by Pauline Vetuna.

As co-facilitator of Pacific Stories I feel privileged to have worked side-by-side with co-facilitator Lia Pa’apa’a and the wonderful participants – I can’t say enough how fantastic they are!! BUT this is by no means the end of Pacific Stories – the DVD will be available soon; there has been interstate and international requests for screenings; and Lia and I are investigating how to broadcast these stories to Australia and the World! Stay tuned and contact us with ideas, feedback etc.

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A HUGE thanks to our project supporters: Australia Council for the Arts, Multicultural Arts Victoria, Victoria University Moondalli Bullak Indigenous Unit & our screening supporters: Footscray Community Arts Centre and Yarraville Community Centre.

Cheers, Amie Batalibasi.

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