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Development   /  Sue Maslin

The Search For The Palace Letters

Jenny Hocking's epic legal battle against the Australian Government and HM Queen Elizabeth to access the Palace Letters.

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Impact areas

HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE

YOUTH & EDUCATION

Crew

  • DIRECTOR Daryl Dellora

  • PRODUCER Sue Maslin

Synopsis

DURATION: 90 MINUTES

This film follows historian Professor Jenny Hocking as she fights a David and Goliath battle against the Australian Government and the British Royal Family in a landmark legal action. At stake is whether letters between former Governor General Sir John Kerr and HM Queen Elizabeth, written at the time of the constitutional crisis of 1975, are deemed private correspondence and therefore remain closed, or official documents that should be accessible to the Australian people. Now running for more than four years, the Palace Letters Case, if successful, will open the secret archives on the Queen's role in the unprecedented dismissal of the Whitlam Government. This feature length documentary follows the personal struggle and immense legal battle faced by Hocking as she goes all the way to the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the land, in her bid to uncover the last piece of the extraordinary jigsaw that is the 1975 dismissal.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

This documentary will provide an opportunity for the Australian public to question their right to access public information and our history in a new way. It invites the people to consider what is being hidden through instruments such as Freedom of Information restrictions and Royal Secrecy.

The 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Government happened decades ago, but the lack of transparency has prohibited historians public access to research exactly how it occurred. Professor Jenny Hocking believes the Australian people deserve to know their own country's political history and this feature aims to celebrate her unprecedented journey in fighting for public access to the secret letters between Governor General Sir John Kerr and HM Queen Elizabeth.

Her battle through the Australian legal system and ultimate success at the High Court reveals that with determination and strength, one individual can overturn inequitable government bureaucracy, leading to accountability and transparency.

Impact

What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The purpose of the film is to invite audiences to consider the importance of public access to historical information and transparency within government organisations. This decades old royal secrecy also shows the lasting impact of the British Monarchy on Australian politics and leads to further debates on our country's future. With a focus on public awareness, this film will educate the audience on unknown issues and hold future governments further accountable.

Outcomes

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

In the short-term, we hope to raise social awareness on Professor Jenny Hocking's legal campaign and recount her journey battling the Australian legal system. It will also help educate those who are unfamiliar with this period of Australian history.
In the medium-term, we aim for Jenny's effort and struggles in tackling the legal system on her own will inspire others to take on similar challenges, and be proactive about government accountability going forward.
In the long-term, we aim to remind our audience the importance of transparency and public access to critical historical information in a democracy, as well as making sure our history is told with accuracy. This will also prompt awareness of the lasting impact the British monarchy has on our current institution and Australian's remnant of colonialism. By putting more public pressure on the government, we will move closer to true accountability and transparency for the people of Australia.

Activities

How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Through a targeted social media campaign we will share facts about the 1975 dismissal to educate those who are unfamiliar and share recent legal campaigns/petitions that need more public awareness so the audience can take action after watching.

Our website will also have a dedicated resource section to direct interested audiences how to take action and guides on how to put in a Freedom of Information request themselves.

Moreover, we will collaborate with local schools, community groups, not for profits and advocates to hold screenings and invite special guest speakers and government officials to be in attendance. By holding community and education screenings, younger students will be able to develop a deeper interest in Australian history and discuss among their peers.

Stakeholders

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

We have been working closely with Professor Jenny Hocking, and will have access to her network of support, including her social media following and campaign supporters. It will be highly likely that those who have financially contributed to her appeal, will be interested in donating further and supporting a film about her journey.

We also plan to reach out to those who previously backed Jenny’s legal campaign to help share this project throughout their networks.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

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

1. Increase political and general awareness, develop an interest in Australian history.

2. Feel inspired to speak out against injustice or support similar legal appeals by signing petitions, community advocacies and/or attending rallies.

3. Share the documentary with their network and actively engage in conversations on politics and social injustice, leading to an increase in Government accountability, prompted by ordinary citizens.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Our indicators for success include national audience size, media attention, invitations to prominent international film festivals, bookings and sales from educational institutions, community screenings, support from political figures and targeted screenings to policy makers and government officials.

We will also collect viewership data from our broadcaster and send out digital feedback forms to our audience following screening events. By keeping track of our social media page and website, we’ll be able to monitor the growth in site visitors and followers or newsletter signups.