Blacktracker is based on Michael Riley’s grandfather Alexander 'Alec' Riley, a legendary tracker of Dubbo, NSW, who worked for the NSW Police Force from 1911 to 1950.

It examines the tracker's life who rose to the rank of sergeant and became one of the best known trackers in the country. He was instrumental in solving at least seven murders and located many people lost in the bush during his time on the force.

Riley is said to have done more to solve major crime, recapture jailbreakers and save lives than any other Aboriginal man in that state [1].

In 1943 tracker Riley was awarded the highest police award, the King’s Medal for Distinguished Service, and this film is a tribute to his achievements.

Blacktracker combines Bernadette Yhi Riley’s research of her grandfather with a dramatised narrative of tracker Riley’s solved murder cases and achievements in finding people lost in the bush. It was shot with the involvement of many family members, starred renowned actors including the late Bill Hunter, and was written and directed while Michael Riley was working with ABC Television’s Aboriginal Programs Unit.

This beautifully made and captivating film is tribute to Riley and told by his family and descendants. His life encompassed a period of great oppression in the history of Aboriginal people, but, tracker Riley's legendary skills and deep humanity lifted him above the ignorance of the times.

Blacktracker went on to inspire Rachel Perkins’s award-winning film One Night The Moon, which starred singer Paul Kelly and Aboriginal singer Ruby Hunter.


Bernadette Yhi Riley - Narrator
Release dates
4 September 1997 - TV release Australia
2004 - Video release Australia
Video/DVD release date
1996 (VHS), 2005 (DVD)
Tudawali Award for Direction in a Documentary

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View article sources (1)

[1]'Blacktracker',, retrieved 29/9/2012

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Blacktracker, <>, retrieved 2 July 2020

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