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Production   /  Tom Zubrycki


Tiriki Onus sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding a 70-year-old silent movie made by his Indigenous grandfather.


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Tiriki Onus and Alec Morgan

  • PRODUCER Tom Zubrycki



The astonishing true story of the first Indigenous filmmaker. In this feature documentary, Opera singer Tiriki Onus sets out to solve the mystery surrounding a 70-year-old silent film recently discovered inside a vault believed to be made by his charismatic Aboriginal grandfather William ‘Bill’ Onus - a film which recorded the birth of the Aboriginal civil rights movement in 1946. A Yorta Yorta/ Wiradjuri man from Victoria, Bill Onus is a truly heroic cultural and political figure who revived his people’s culture in the 1940s and 1950s and ignited a civil rights movement. His enormous talents as entertainer, business entrepreneur, theatre impresario, the first Indigenous filmmaker and television host were all used in service of winning social justice. 'Ablaze' also traces the yet untold story of how a handful of passionate activists stood against government racial policies intent on destroying First Nations languages, cultures and communities, and how they changed the course of history

Support this project

21.70% funded
  • $60,000.00

  • $13,020.00

  • 38

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Sean McElvogue $200.00
David Donaldson $5,000.00
David Donaldson $1,000.00
Ros Bradley $500.00
Naomi Parry $100.00
Change Focus Media $50.00
Louise Holmes $20.00
University of Newcastle $50.00
Julie Kimber $100.00
Neil Evers $500.00
Anonymous $30.00
Geoff & Judy Lambert $30.00
Mika Nishimura $100.00
Evan Maloney $50.00
Karen Pearlman $50.00
Helen Mountford $50.00
Carole Johnson $200.00
Anonymous $50.00
Lisa Matthews $50.00
Anna Cater $50.00
David Cooper $100.00
suzanne rockett $40.00
Ben Beed $40.00
Bruno Starrs $40.00
Andrew Pike $100.00
Alex Kelly $50.00
Amanda Harris $100.00
Georgine Clarsen $50.00
Julie-Anne Long $100.00
Geoff Gordon $50.00
Nick Thieberger $100.00
Linda Barwick $500.00
Ros Bradley $500.00
Anonymous $40.00
David Donaldson $500.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Ablaze proudly celebrates the ingenuity, strategies and successes of a handful of dedicated Aboriginal activists who, against enormous odds and whilst under constant surveillance by internal security agents, prevented the Australian government’s plan to annihilate their culture, language and communities. This important film will have a universal appeal to both young and older viewers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. It brings to light a yet untold, extraordinary story of Aboriginal resilience and resistance that will create an awareness for future generations of how the freedoms and cultural practices they enjoy were fought for and won by Aboriginal people and their supporters.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

This documentary seeks to create positive social change in Australia and a more reconciled society. To further the place of Indigenous Australians in our national consciousness by celebrating Indigenous contributions to our culture and social equality. It will strengthen cultural pride amongst Aboriginal people by connecting them to their history, stories and culture in a way that is both invigorating and empowering.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Our aim in making this film is to engage all Australians in a national conversation about social inclusion and identity. We want to provoke vital discussion and debate around the importance of history told from an Indigenous perspective, the necessity of maintaining cultural practices and community self-determination. This film will bring to light, for the first time, aspects of the relationship between black and white Australia in its more recent past. This new knowledge will help the nation to advance its national dialogue towards a more reconciled and tolerant society. Ablaze will foster reconciliation through its wide viewer access via cinema, television, international film festivals, a website and an extensive educational distribution. The film is also targets young Australians. We seek to inform and inspire a new generation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural and social justice leaders.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We have developed partnerships with Macquarie University Aboriginal Cultural Training, the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development and the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. Members of two of these organisations are part of the creative production team. Consultations with Indigenous representatives about historical content, appropriate use of image and sound and following the correct cultural protocols in the making of the documentary have informed the project's development during all stages of production and will continue throughout post-production.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

We hope that viewers will actively support and celebrate Indigenous contributions to our culture and social equality. We hope it will strengthen cultural pride amongst Aboriginal people by connecting them to their history, stories and culture in a way that is both invigorating and empowering. To inspire a new generation of Indigenous and non-indigenous activists and leaders for equality and social justice. We hope viewers will become active guardians of the rights of the world’s most ancient culture and communities.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We will measure the impact of Ablaze through screenings, followed by forums, in film festivals, cinemas and Indigenous communities, especially those represented in the documentary, as well as Indigenous cultural, media training and educational organisations throughout Australia. We will measure a wider audience reach through cinema and television broadcast consolidated ratings and media coverage. We will also measure the impact of the documentary through feed-back responses and forums on the website and other social media.