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.

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!

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!