When Yorta Yorta artist, opera singer and academic Tiriki Onus was alerted to the existence of a fragment of a documentary shot by his grandfather William ‘Bill’ Onus in the National Film and Sound Archive, it sparked an incredible journey of discovery.
Born in 1906 at Cummeragunja Station, Bill was a staunch figure in Melbourne’s artistic and political activism scenes during the 1940s. Thought to be Australia’s first Aboriginal filmmaker, the proud union man also founded a thriving theatre company that championed First Nations performers. But his marriage to Communist Party of Australia member and Scotswoman Mary McLintock ensured he was hounded by the fledgling Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
This heart-soaring doco from his grandson, working alongside historian and co-director Alec Morgan, writes Bill’s mighty contribution to Country back into the records. With the new Labor government committing to honouring the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the film’s timing is perfect.