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Post-production   /  Grant Saunders

JustUS: Hip-Hop and The Block

Hip-hop gives voice to the voiceless. One of these voices talks about the impact of colonialism on The Block, Redfern.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Grant Leigh Saunders

  • PRODUCER Dr Grant Leigh Saunders



JustUS is about the social justice issues facing Indigenous communities in Australia imagined through the lens of Indigenous hip-hop. The film follows the journey of Sonboy, a young Indigenous rapper from The Block in Redfern, once the black political and cultural heart of Sydney. Through a rich historical archive of Redfern and the lyrics of one of its children, this hybrid of essay and observational documentary film invites the audience into a place once feared and loathed by outsiders but loved and now mourned by generations of Indigenous families originally drawn from communities all around Australia with an old dream to make it in the big city. The Block was purchased to socially house poor and working-class Indigenous families through a grant by the Whitlam Government in 1973 to the Aboriginal Housing Company. It became the home of the Aboriginal community-controlled sector with the establishment of the first Aboriginal Medical Service, Legal Service, Black Theatre, Radio Redfern, Aboriginal Dance Theatre and it was the epicentre of black activism, where many protests took place including the infamous Redfern Uprising in 2004. Under decades of public pressure from police harassment, a powerful lobby group of middle-class white landlords with an appetite for better property prices on top of covertly planned obsolescence, The Block finally crumbled, eaten up by private developers for the development of student housing, a new business district and “affordable housing” for successful Indigenous family applicants. In the rubble of his disintegrating Hood, Sonboy produces his first Hip-Hop EP at the local community centre, simply titled 'Kid from The Block'. This film is about what this recording has to say about Australian colonialism and its last frontier, the “black heart of Sydney” or Sydney’s “black ghetto”, The Block Redfern.

Support this project

35.28% funded
  • $50,000.00

  • $17,639.00

  • 71

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Lynette Smith $50.00
Redfern Oral History $100.00
Janina Harding $100.00
Lynette Webb $30.00
Bec Perkins $100.00
Susan Pinckham $50.00
Jai Cooper $50.00
Caroilna Sorensen $100.00
Gillian Leahy $100.00
Di Rodger $150.00
Angie Abdilla $1,000.00
Sandra Kwa $50.00
Ali Newman $300.00
Anonymous $9,999.00
Anonymous $50.00
Timothy Laurie $200.00
Grahame Jamieson $50.00
Michelle Brown Obrien $50.00
Anonymous $20.00
Pene Henderson $50.00
Ewan Martin $100.00
Sudiipta Dowsett $100.00
Lara Dodd $30.00
Donna Ballard $50.00
Michaeli Gwilliam $150.00
Kate Tribe $200.00
Jennifer NEWMAN $250.00
Phil Beck $100.00
Kyle Lester $100.00
Sandra Kwa $50.00
Mark Gutterson $20.00
Helen Kvelde $100.00
Helen Polemis $100.00
Andre Hemmerle $100.00
Leah Stevens $100.00
Ashari Hudson $100.00
Aspen Charlesworth $100.00
Tamara Saunders $500.00
Simone Saunders $50.00
Brett Sedgwick $100.00
Laura Polson $20.00
Anne Marie Powell $50.00
Rosie Smith $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Dennis Donovan $100.00
Peter-John Layton $100.00
Rowena Crowe $50.00
Simone East $100.00
Mandy Heaslip $50.00
Kyrn Stevens $100.00
Brenda Madden $100.00
Lyn Connors $100.00
Andy Nehl $100.00
Meegan Williams $50.00
Belinda Christensen $50.00
Molly Maggs $30.00
Anne-Marie Powell $20.00
Toni Bishop $100.00
Ulrika Sandberg $50.00
Craig Kocinski $100.00
Carol Brown $100.00
Liz Skelton $100.00
Jaime Kachel $20.00
Jennifer Newman $100.00
james marshall $100.00
Jenni Saunders $500.00
Cara Cross $50.00
Nathan Codner $50.00
Jeff and Nettie Miller $100.00
Monica Muxlow $50.00
Shelley McClure $50.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Rates of policing and over-incarceration of Indigenous people is at an unacceptable, all-time high, with over 400 deaths since the recommendations were handed down from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 and still no one made accountable. There is a desperate need to change certain provisions within criminal justice laws that allow police and corrective services to carry out their duties with complete or partial immunity from criminal prosecution (see Stephen Gray's "You Can't Charge Me I'm a Cop"2018


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

This film's purpose is to engender empathy for Indigenous Australians, advocating for their human rights protection. Through the ubiquitous culture of Hip-hop and its mass appeal to young people globally, this film has a real opportunity to reach a large audience, using the lens of Hip-hop to engage them in discussions around social justice. This film speaks to the impact of colonialism on Australia's First peoples, to have Indigenous sovereignty recognised and the right to access an urban life.


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

We want the film to contribute to a national conversation on criminal justice reforms, supporting the work of justice advocacy groups, eg National Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter movement, National Justice Project and Aboriginal Legal Service .

We want to contemporise our educational resources, providing a medium that speaks to and empowers Indigenous young people, honouring their cultural capital and retaining them to year 12 and beyond.

We wish all students to be more engaged in matters of social justice, Aboriginal politics, society and history.

We want governments and the general public to understand the importance of the right to an urban life for all and demand this right for the generational Indigenous families of The Block Redfern.

Another important outcome for the participants, is that the market for these artists expands, making Indigenous Hip-hop a viable commercial product, allowing them and other aspiring artists to make a living from their art.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Through interviews with Hip-hoppers as well as other experts and through visually contextualizing the powerful lyrics of Australian Socially Conscious Hip-hop, a wider audience will gain another opportunity to understand social justice issues adversely affecting Indigenous people, particularly our youth. The film features Indigenous and ethnic minority Hip-hop artists' and their music videos, helping to promote Indigenous Hip-hop.
As part of its distribution campaign, event-based cinema screenings will incorporate Q&A sessions with educationalists, sociologists and criminologists discussing the themes presented in the film. These screenings will also hope to incorporate performances from artists featured in the film.


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

I have connections to Indigenous Social Justice advocacy groups, whose activism continues to inform and inspire my own activism, writing and filmmaking. For this project these partnerships will help to keep my film contemporary and relevant, ensuring the most pertinent and authorised information is relayed in the film's final cut. I also have connections with legal academics and through their connections hope to establish further partnerships with criminal justice advocacy groups. In the education space, I have been involved in Indigenous education directly and indirectly since the early 1990's and over that time I have developed strong and lasting relationships with those operating at the coal face and those helping to shape policy. I hope to strengthen these relationships and bring key stakeholders together to test the benefits of Hip-hop based education (HHBE) in primary, secondary and tertiary education spaces through an evidence based HHBE research project.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

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

We want audiences to identify the problems with our criminal justice system, and join us in advocating for Australian Law reform that specifically addresses the accountability of our police and corrective services.

There are a number of petitions and issues papers already created that speak to these matters that event-based screenings will help to point audiences to. It is hoped that audiences will then engage with the issues, sign these petitions, contribute submissions to the Australian Law Reform Commission and join in the fight for our human rights.

It is hoped that teachers will utilise the film as a teaching resource within history, social studies, English and Aboriginal studies classes to engage students in social justice issues in Australia.

Additionally, it is hoped that audiences will support local Indigenous artists by purchasing CD's, downloads, and hire their entertainment.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Some indicators of success may include but not be limited to the following:

- the film reaches a large global audience through film festivals, theatrical release, event based screenings, Cinema on Demand, broadcast and online
- the film comprehensively reaches the education market in Australia.
- the film contributes to the national debate around criminal justice reform via programs like ABC's Q&A
- the online forums continue to attract subscribers, likes, shares, views and podcast downloads ensuring that the conversation continues beyond the film's screenings