First Australians

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First Australians
First Australians Logo.png
First Australians Intro title
GenreHistorical documentary
Created byRachel Perkins
Country of originAustralia
No. of episodes7
Executive producer(s)Darren Dale
Producer(s)Rachel Perkins
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Blackfella Films
Original networkSBS
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
First shown inAustralia
Original release12 October –
2 November 2008
External links
Production website

First Australians is an Australian historical documentary series produced by Blackfella Films over the course of six years, and first aired on SBS TV in October 2008. The documentary is part of a greater project that further consists of a book, a community outreach program and a substantial website featuring over 200 mini-documentaries.


The series chronicles the history of contemporary Australia, from the perspective of its first people, Aboriginal Australians. The series is essentially a synthesis of well-documented historical information. It relies heavily on archival documents and interpretations from historians and members of both the Aboriginal and European community and leaders. The story begins in 1788 in Sydney, with the arrival of the First Fleet and ends in 1993 with Koiki Mabo's legal challenge to the foundation of Australia.[citation needed]

The series comprises seven episodes in which it explores what unfolded when the oldest living culture in the world was confronted by the British Empire.[1] It explores the lives of particular individuals and uses their stories as a vehicle to explain the larger situations of the time. It explains violent aspects of European settlement of Australia, such as killings, battles, wars, as well as acts of friendship and decency between the early European settlers and Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal Australian history has until recently been clouded by the "great Australian silence", referring to ignorance of the real history of Australia seen as a way for non-Aboriginal Australians to hide shame for their own history.[2]


The series was first transmitted in Australia from 12 October to 2 November 2008. A total of seven episodes were filmed, no further episodes have been announced.

# Title Air date Synopsis
1 They Have Come to Stay New South Wales (1788–1824) 12 October 2008 The arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney in 1788. Curious of each other, friendships form, but relations between the two races soon sour as settlers spread out across the land. Focuses on the relationship between Bennelong and Governor Arthur Phillip, as well as the lives of Pemulwuy, William Dawes and Patyegarang, and Windradyne.
2 Her Will to Survive Tasmania (1803–1880) 14 October 2008 The land grab moves south to Tasmania. In an effort to protect real estate prices, Tasmanian Aboriginal people are removed from the island. The Government enlists an Englishman for the job, who is helped by a young Aboriginal woman Truganini.
3 Freedom For Our Lifetime Victoria (1860–1890) 19 October 2008 The threat of extinction hovers over the first Australians of Victoria after the city of Melbourne is founded. Follows the establishment of mission stations in Victoria such as Coranderrk. Explores the lives of Wurundjeri clan leaders Simon Wonga and William Barak.
4 There Is No Other Law Central Australia (1878-1897) 21 October 2008 Explores the history of white settlement in Central Australia and the stories of homicidal police officer Constable Willshire, as he brings mayhem to the Arrernte nation. Authorities turn a blind eye before the telegraph operator Frank Gillen stops him.
5 Unhealthy Government Experiment Western Australia (1897–1937) 26 October 2008 European settlement spreads to Western Australia and is met with much conflict as explored through the stories of Jandamarra. The Stolen Generations is explored through the stories of Chief Protector of Aborigines A. O. Neville and many children including Gladys Gilligan and many others.
6 A Fair Deal For A Dark Race South-east Australia (1937–1967) 28 October 2008 Chronicles the beginnings of the Aboriginal rights movement, as explored through Yorta Yorta man, William Cooper and his foundation of the Australian Aborigines League in 1933. Also explores the Maralinga nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and the life of AFL footballer Douglas Nicholls.
7 We Are No Longer Shadows Queensland & Torres Strait Islands (1967–1992) 2 November 2008 Explores the story of Eddie Koiki Mabo and Aboriginal land rights in the late 20th century, and the high court overturn of the legal fiction of terra nullius which characterised Australian law with regards to land and title.


The series was made by Film Australia and the Film Finance Corporation in conjunction with SBS Independent and the New South Wales Film and Television Office. It was written, produced and directed by Rachel Perkins, daughter of outspoken Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins.[1]

Created and narrated by Perkins, and co-written by Perkins and Louis Nowra, it featured writer Bruce Pascoe and historians Marcia Langton and Janet McCalman.[3][4][5]

Community consultation[edit]

A significant part of the production of the series involved consultation with the descendants of the individuals portrayed in the documentary. According to the First Australians Documentary website, this involved; checking the content of scripts, usually face to face, seeking permission to film in particular locations, showing the rough cut of the film for comment and showing the film at fine cut. The series was made in accordance with Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) rights, to ensure the cultural content and the rights of Indigenous people.

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b Unearthing our first voices, The Canberra Times, 14 October 2008
  2. ^ Stanner, W.E.H. (1968). The Boyer Lectures 1968: After the Dreaming, p. 27. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney.
  3. ^ "Bruce Pascoe". Austlit. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  4. ^ "First Australians – Episode 1, They Have Come to Stay (2008) [Principal credits]". Australian Screen. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  5. ^ "First Australians – Episode 1, They Have Come toStay (2008) [videoclip + text]". Australian Screen. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  6. ^ "The Australian Film Institute | Ceremony Winners". Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.

External links[edit]