Newslines Radio: Film helps Coota girls to heal
For the former residents of Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home, the opportunity to share their Stolen Generations story on film was a powerful healing tool.
Newslines Radio caught up with Paul Tait, Jeni Kendell and Darmin Cameron of Gaia Films to find out more about their current work-in-progress The Girls.
They said the filmmaking process provided a cathartic experience for the women as they talked about their experiences. And to then see those stories on screen, to be able to share them with their families, added another dimension to the healing journey.
In this program you will hear how the women responded when they saw the film for the first time as a group at a reunion to mark the 100th anniversary of the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home.
The event was one of many supported by the Australian Government to assist Stolen Generations members and their families on their healing journey.
- Nathan Ramsay
- Paul Tait, producer/director, The Girls
Jeni Kendell, producer/director, The Girls
Darmin Cameron, sound recordist, The Girls
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Today we’re looking at how members of the Stolen Generations and their families are progressing on their healing journey.
The Australian Government understands the importance of the healing and reconciliation process and offers a range of counseling, family tracing and reunion services through the Social and Emotional Wellbeing program.
The former residents of the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home recently gathered for a reunion to mark the 100th anniversary of the home. One of the highlights of the healing weekend was the screening of a film, which was also funded through the Social and Emotional Wellbeing program.
Still a work in progress, the film has been titled The Girls, recognising the fact that the former residents still refer to each other as “the Coota girls”.
It was produced at the request of Lola Edwards, a former resident of the home and a strong advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She asked Paul Tait, Jeni Kendell and Darmin Cameron of Gaia Films to create a visual record of the women’s Stolen Generations story.
According to Darmin, the filming process was also one of healing.
CAMERON: The media gets beat up a lot for taking advantage of people and using and abusing people’s lives for their own sake. I believe there’s a way to do this so we can get the stories out, we don’t hurt people, we’re actually involved in a healing process through the use of film and storytelling and I think we’re doing it well.
PRESENTER: Paul and Jeni interviewed a number of the former residents to give them the chance to share their stories. While the content was very traumatic, Paul felt it was important to focus on the brighter moments as well.
TAIT: Through the process of making it we are seeking out the lighter hearted moments and the funnier moments, because they’re the only relief that you really have in this long story, so we got some great responses in that section of it.
To find the humour and have people laugh and respond in the way we felt about it while we were making it, well that’s very gratifying and it’s heart-warming. We feel like we’re doing a good service here.
PRESENTER: Let’s listen to how the Coota girls respond to one of those lighter hearted moments in the film, here one of the girls recalls an incident that was pretty scary at the time, but they can laugh about it now.
EXCERPT 2: There were six at a table, and we had this porridge. And I said to Margaret, “There’s weevils in that porridge, if I was you I wouldn’t eat it”. Head mistress comes around and says, “What’s wrong with that porridge?” and so Margaret said, “There’s weevils in there. I’m not eating that”. And she said, “You’ll eat it or you’ll wear it!” and she tipped it over her head. And we all went (slurping sounds) real fast! (audience laughs)
PRESENTER: Everyone who appeared in the film has received an unedited DVD of their entire interview, which Jeni says the women really appreciated.
KENDELL: Several of them have just said how wonderful it was because so many of them haven’t been able to tell their own children or grandchildren this story. It’s just too painful and they don’t want their children or grandchildren to be hurt, and so they just can’t get it out. And many of them have already said they’ve shown their grandchildren and want another seven copies to show the other ones. I think that’s a terrific result.
It’s exactly what we hoped for because we’ve done this as a healing tool; we haven’t really done this as a film. The film is something they wanted. The Cootamundra women wanted a film to show the world what they’ve been through, but basically it’s also a healing tool for them and their families, we hope.
PRESENTER: Darmin, from Gaia Films, says screening the film publically at the 100 year commemoration of the Girls’ Home added yet another dimension to the healing process.
CAMERON: The first aspect of the healing process is when we do the interviews and the intention behind that is healing. And then it takes us to another step when we show that on the big screen and I think further healing continues because they see this whole audience honouring their story. So they’re sitting there with this big group of people being honoured, being understood, being acknowledged and being recognised so I believe that that takes the healing to another level. So the process keeps going.
It’s a massive, ongoing healing narrative and as Jeni just said with the grandchildren now understanding the stories, so there’s more healing happening. It’s multi-dimensional healing.
PRESENTER: To find out more about how the Australian Government is working to support the healing journey of Stolen Generations members and their families, check out the links on our website, Indigenous.gov.au. And don’t forget to visit us on Facebook.
I’m Nathan Ramsay, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.