Blacktracker is based on Michael Riley’s grandfather Alexander Riley, a legendary tracker who worked for the NSW Police Force from 1911 to 1950. Tracker Alex Riley of Dubbo, NSW, has 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 penetrating film is tribute to Tracker Riley, one of the greatest of all Aboriginal trackers as 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.


Release dates
1996 - Austraqlia
Tudawali Award for Direction in a Documentary

Find a copy of "Blacktracker"

Explore more Aboriginal movies

Aboriginal movie timeline

Explore movie history with the Aboriginal film timeline.

Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?