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Production   /  Margot Phillipson


Aboriginal and settler descendants come together to confront legacies of violence from Australia’s pastoral frontier.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Malcolm McKinnon & Jared Thomas

  • PRODUCER Margot Phillipson



In September 1852, near Quorn in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, the body of 16-year-old shepherd James Brown was found, mutilated and castrated. The next day, a reprisal party of 15 white men and 2 Aboriginal trackers pursued a flock of stolen sheep west towards Lake Torrens. At Bluff Point they shot Ngarpalta and Pimbalta and a disputed number of other Aboriginal people whose names were not recorded. Almost 150 years later, descendants of James Brown’s family reach out to descendants of the Aboriginal people who may have been involved. They are shocked by what they discover.
Among white people, these events were documented at the time through court records, newspaper articles and personal letters. Amongst Aboriginal people, the story has been passed down through successive generations; one of many stories of violence and trauma in the early decades of European invasion.
Can the scars of past atrocities be reconciled and healed through the act of truth telling?

Support this project

47.24% funded
  • $77,000.00

  • $36,378.28

  • 31st March 2021

  • 72

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Francene Connor $100.00
Anonymous $250.00
Alison Hayes $1,000.00
Benjamin Habib $50.00
Geoff Chennells $50.00
Mary Whiteside $100.00
Anonymous $42.00
Alarna Gray $50.00
Krystyna Pindral $25.00
Cillín Perera $4,661.28
Margaret Allen $500.00
One of the Brown families $8,000.00
Anonymous $100.00
Mandy Paul $2,000.00
Anna Szorenyi $50.00
Barbara Baird $200.00
Adam Brown $500.00
Ingereth Macfarlane $100.00
Heather Matthiesson $200.00
Heather Jarman $50.00
Deane Fergie $1,000.00
Cedar Prest $50.00
Paul Rees $50.00
Garfield and Helen Hayes $200.00
Marie Gould $100.00
Greg Mackie $150.00
Sanjay Shah $100.00
John and Helen Mills $400.00
Natasha Davis $250.00
Joanna Grigg $50.00
Chester Schultz $50.00
Jim and Tui Beggs $200.00
Francene Connor $100.00
Dr Susan Marsden $500.00
Rachel Heaton $50.00
Anonymous $400.00
Anonymous $0.00
Andrew Taylor $50.00
Jane Lomax-Smith $1,000.00
Every Voice Inc $5,000.00
Matthew and Anne Bond $300.00
Elizabeth Weeks $200.00
Mike Brown $1,000.00
Garry Brown $200.00
Jo Shanks $50.00
Scott & Jean Hutchinson $200.00
Rosemary Thwaites $50.00
Anonymous $50.00
John Mills $100.00
Cheryl Wood $100.00
Anonymous $100.00
Mike & Lyn Leane $50.00
Lisa Moseley $50.00
Philip Cox $500.00
Anonymous $100.00
Megan Guster $100.00
Don CHAPMAN $100.00
Pam Simmons $100.00
Edward Butler-Bowdon $100.00
Ria Byass $100.00
Peter Mares $100.00
julie Shiels $100.00
David Donaldson $1,000.00
Prue Coulls $100.00
Lyndall Ryan $100.00
Lorna Hendry $100.00
Lindy Allen $100.00
Anonymous $3,000.00
Lee-Anne Donnolley $250.00
Katrina Sedgwick $100.00
edie Kurzer $50.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

BEYOND SORRY (wt) demonstrates the complex task of remembering and addressing the legacies of traumatic events from the era of early European incursions into Aboriginal country. In doing so, the film is informed by Charlie Perkins’ immortal words: ‘We know we cannot live in the past, but the past lives in us.’ 

The film is a cross-cultural project, seeking to bridge the cultural and political divide that separates Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. It is a practical exercise in ‘truth and reconciliation’, engaging with culturally and politically challenging material in an effort to forge shared understandings. The film reveals diverse understandings of historic events, while seeking to resolve a shared path forward.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Our film demonstrates how the stories of violence and conquest on Australia’s colonial frontier are more than just a historical abstraction. These stories have powerful personal meanings for families and individuals on all sides of the inter-cultural frontier. We seek to create greater awareness of how knowledge and memories of colonial violence still resonate powerfully today, especially within the lives of many Aboriginal people.


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

Short-term outcomes: We recognise the importance of recording and exploring the testimonies of older people with particular knowledge of this story while we can still do so. We also recognise the value of creating and strengthening relationships between different groups and families connected to the events and places that we’re dealing with.

Medium-term outcomes: Our story will attract broad interest through exhibition of our film to national and local audiences (initially via broadcast on ABC TV in Compass program slot and associated iView exhibition), and trigger ongoing discussion of underlying issues.

Long-term outcomes: Our film becomes a valuable resource within a broader, ongoing program to explore the meaning and legacy of frontier violence, contributing to a meaningful process of truth and justice.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Our film will reach a national audience through ABC TV broadcast and on-line exhibition, stimulating and feeding into broader discussion and ongoing work to recognise and address stories of violent conflict in Australia’s colonial history.

At a state and regional level, we are working with the South Australian Museum, the South Australian History Trust, University of Adelaide and Reconciliation South Australia to post-produce film material and related resources for targeted exhibition and distribution. This work will also involve development of an ATOM study guide.


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

Our project has been developed with ongoing critical input from a reference and advisory group involving expert representation from the South Australian Museum, University of Adelaide, the History Trust of South Australia and Reconciliation South Australia.

We are also consulting and collaborating with relevant Aboriginal organisations, including Nukunu Wapma Thura Aboriginal Corporation and the Barngarla Native Title body, and with Aboriginal families that have particular knowledge and interest in our story.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

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

Working with our partners and supporters, we hope that viewers will be motivated to host their own screenings of our film as a prompt for broadening discussion of underlying issues.

We hope that teachers and high school students will use the film as resource for learning and discussion, utilising the associated study guide.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Key measures of success for our project include:
• Viewer ratings for ABC TV broadcast and on-line viewing.
• Number of screenings hosted or initiated by partner organisations and related groups (for example, screenings through Reconciliation South Australia forums).
• Level of use of the film and the related study kit within schools, especially in South Australia.
• Successful adaptation of the film for exhibition at the South Australian Museum.
• The degree to which the film is embraced by relevant Aboriginal groups and other community organisations and utilised as a resource within ongoing their community programs.