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Development   /  Dan Walkington

The First Inventors

Uncovering Australia’s ancient past


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Larissa Behrendt

  • PRODUCER Jerry Butterfield



All across Australia, a new group of scientific and cultural investigators are emerging with a mission to excavate the past, reveal what was lost and restore the story of a living culture.

This 4 part series will rediscover the complex cultural repertoire of the First Australians, including the Dreamtime, language and dance; it will explore and explain the most significant rock art estate in the world; the oldest human remains ever found outside of Africa; sophisticated ceremonial rituals; building feats of mega proportions; gigantic pyramidal shell-mound precincts; fire stick farming; the largest prehistoric fish ever seen in Australia and advanced astronomical knowledge and celestial understanding.

It is a story of incredible knowledge, invention and resilience, it is the story of ancient Australia

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

At a time when we have seen 47,000 year-old rock art destroyed, it is important to remind people what treasures there are within our country and why they’re important. They are not just art; they are knowledge.

More universally, The First Inventors speaks to how our knowledge of the past informs our understanding of the future. This is particularly so in relation to issues of climate change and sustainability. Coming through a summer where extreme fires decimated large tracts of land, destroying not just property but entire ecosystems.

We are excited about the impact this series will have on a broad audience but also the potential for the education market. It’s the kind of project that changes conversations about who we are as a country and what is important to us.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The First Inventors will provide a new platform for understanding Australian history by elevating young Indigenous voices in the fields of archaeology, conservation, science, astronomy & culture.

The Inventors combines oral cultural history with modern archaeology to explain human evolution from an Australian perspective.

The series will inspire a sense of pride in Indigenous history, culture and invention in this country.

A brand-new curriculum will be available in universities and schools.


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

Through our partnership with CABAH, we will create assets and frameworks for a new national curriculum.

Elevate a new generation of Indigenous voices – When Tedtalks, Q&A or The Project want someone to talk about archaeology and science – they’ll be calling the cast of The Inventors.

Transform the international reputation of Australian Archaeology. In the future, European or American archaeological students might eschew the lure of Egypt’s Pyramids, and instead will flock to Australia to study the oldest living culture in the world. Imagine what that will do for Australian university funding, Australian tourism, Australian academia and the people that belong to this amazing and ancient Indigenous Culture.

For the broader public – inspire a sense of pride in Indigenous history, culture and invention in this country. And see an uptake in tertiary education relating to Indigenous science and history and thus an increase in funding in these important areas of research.


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

CABAH – The Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage are discussing the development of an impact campaign and will fund an impact producer to create outreach assets.

The Inventors will be made in collaboration with specialists from Flinders University, James Cook University, CABAH and the South Australian Museum. People whose expertise represents the vanguard of ancient knowledge, and who are shedding light on archaeological First Nations discoveries.

The series is being co-produced between Sydney based production company Butter Media and 100 per cent Aboriginal owned and operated business, Moogie Down Productions - a creative agency based in Darwin, NT

We have been given the privileged opportunity to observe this largely unheralded scientific work and show it to the world. And so, every step of the way we are consulting with and listening to experts and communities.

NITV will be our broadcast partner.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

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

We intend to create a paradigm shift in attitudes towards Indigenous Culture from indifference to pride.
Adoption of the stories, research and content developed in the films as curriculum resources for both schools and universities.

Some of our audience will enlist for courses or take part in research, to build the collection of artefacts.

‘Citizen Archaeology’ - bring objects they may have had sitting at the back of a cupboard or out the back of the shed to the South Australian Museum and other partner organisations.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

A new curriculum that reflects First People’s perspective and deep understanding.

International recognition of Australia’s First People as early inventors

Allow Indigenous Communities to preserve their culture in ways they decide.

Securing international sales – these stories are not just pertinent to an Australian audience; they tell the story of humanity. Interest from other markets will confirm the commonality of these stories.

A broader conversation on Indigenous knowledge and invention is held in Australian society

Our featured experts are called upon for their opinions and knowledge.

Our partner universities will see a physical uptake in courses related to Indigenous knowledge and invention.