First Australians is a landmark documentary series that tells a very different story of Australia. It has been described as “one of the most significant documentary series in the history of Australian television”.
For the first time, the story of Aboriginal Australia has been condensed into a coherent narrative that begins with the mythological birth of humanity on this continent - the Dreaming - and ends in the aftermath of Eddie Mabo’s landmark native title victory.
In seven episodes First Australians explores what happens when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire.
The documentary of the decade.—Sydney Morning Herald
First Australians trailer
Episode 1: They Have Come To Stay
The story begins in 1788 in Sydney, with the friendship between an Englishmen (Governor Phillip) and a warrior (Bennelong). The first Australians and the powerful British Empire come face to face. Friendships quickly form despite immense differences, but within three years both sides are locked in a battle for land and survival.
Episode 2: Her Will to Survive
It is a myth that the first Australians were eradicated in Tasmania. It should be their resilience, in spite of the overwhelming impact of white settlement, which is embodied in myth. When the land grab moves south to Tasmania, in an effort to protect the real estate prices, it is decided to remove the Tasmanian Aboriginal people from the island. The Government enlists an Englishmen for the job, who is helped by a young Aboriginal woman Truganini.
Episode 3: Freedom for our Lifetime
The threat of extinction hovers over the first Australians of Victoria at the time Wurundjeri clan leader Simon Wonga seeks land from the authorities. He soon gives up and leads his people to the banks of the Yarra River, claiming a parcel of land, Coranderrk. With the help of a Scottish preacher, and inspired by the farming practices of the settlers, the community prospers - until the authorities step in and resist self determination.
Episode 4: There is No Other Law
Throughout the history of white settlement, individual white men, good and bad, have significantly affected the first Australians. Supported by pastoralists keen to make their fortune, the homicidal police officer Constable Willshire, brings mayhem to the Arrernte nation in Central Australia. With the authorities turning a blind eye, the telegraph operator Frank Gillen stops him. Gillen’s other legacy is comprehensive records of the Arrernte people’s way of life.
Episode 5: An Unhealthy Government Experiment
Jandamurra is born on a cattle station in the Kimberley in the 1870s. His hybrid life takes a bloody turn when he trades in his status as a police tracker for his own people. Gladys Gilligan is one of more than 50,000 half-caste children plucked from her family and sent to a mission. The Chief Protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville, institutionalises her first son, orders her to be arrested, and denies her the right to marry three times, but she remains resolutely independent.
Episode 6: A Fair Deal for a Black Race
A mass political movement helped win constitutional rights in 1967, but it was built on successive, strategic campaigns conducted by the first Australians from the 1930s. Yorta Yorta man William Cooper forms the Australian Aborigines League in 1933 to continue his life-long campaign for equality. His nephew also becomes a political animal; Doug Nichols is a Church of Christ pastor who becomes a champion for those affected by the Maralinga nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s.
Episode 7: We Are No Longer Shadows
This episode of First Australians investigates land rights and Eddie Mabo.
Some of these stories have never been told on television before.—Rachel Perkins, director
This history is so shameful that most Australians could not admit that this is the origin of their state and their nation.—Indigenous historian Marcia Langton 
- Release dates
- 12 October 2008 - Australia (SBS television)
- Video/DVD release date
- 3 December 2008
- PG - Parental guidance
Note: Some images and voices may upset Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers.
Don’t miss the accompanying book First Australians published by Melbourne University Publishing.
Six years of research and preparation led to the making of First Australians.
- features 80 interviews of historians and ancestors,
- has seven hours of unseen content online at http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians,
- required permission of between 200 and 300 people for rights of stories, photographs and other material,
- involved unearthing and cataloguing of 7,000 images with 1,500 images used in the final cut,
- sourced 260 hours of interviews from archives.
Other films by Rachel Perkins & Darren Dale
- 1928 Trooper O’Brien
- 1936 Uncivilised
- 1950 Bitter Springs
- 1955 Jedda
- 1958 Dust in the Sun
- 1960 Shadow of the Boomerang
- 1962 Wambidgee
- 1962 Alcheringa
- 1964 A Changing Race
- 1967 Journey out of Darkness
- 1967-1985 Walkabout With Malcolm Douglas
- 1971 Walkabout
- 1972 Ningla A-Na (Hungry For Our Land)
- 1972 Black Fire (Blackfire)
- 1973 Lurugu
- 1973 Come Out Fighting
- 1973 Basically Black
- 1974 Mourning For Mangatopi
- 1974 A Time to Dream
- 1974 The Unlucky Australians
- 1975 Sister, If You Only Knew
- 1975 Protected: The Truth About Palm Island
- 1975 Sons of Namatjira
- 1975 Malbangka Country
- 1976 Storm Boy
- 1976 Tjintu Pakani: Sunrise Awakening
- 1977 Backroads
- 1977 The Last Wave
- 1977 Journey Among Women
- 1978 The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
- 1978 My Survival As An Aboriginal
- 1978 The Last Tasmanian
- 1978 The Cake Man
- 1979 Takeover
- 1980 Manganinnie
- 1980 The House Opening
- 1980 Waiting For Harry
- 1981 Wrong Side of the Road
- 1981 Two Laws
- 1981 Backs To The Blast
- 1981 It’s A Long Road Back
- 1982 Three Horsemen
- 1982 We Fight (Guniwaya Ngigu)
- 1983 Lousy Little Sixpence
- 1983 Spear In The Stone
- 1983 Cass - No Saucepan Diver
- 1983 Welcome to Wee Waa
- 1984 Where The Green Ants Dream (Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen)
- 1984 Triumph of the Nomads
- 1984 Six Australians
- 1986 Babakiueria (“Barbecue Area”)
- 1986 The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight Back
- 1986 Backlash
- 1986 Short Changed
- 1986 My Spirit is Black
- 1987 How The West Was Lost
- 1987 The Fringe Dwellers
- 1987 Tudawali
- 1987 Link-Up Diary
- 1987 - current Nganampa Anwernekenhe
- 1988 Dreaming Of Lords
- 1988 Black Magic
- 1988 One People Sing Freedom
- 1988 Australia Daze
- 1988 Make It Right!
- 1988 Kadaicha (Stones of Death)
- 1988 The Dreaming
- 1988 88.9 Radio Redfern
- 1988 Eelemarni: The Story of Leo and Leva
- 1988 A Waltz Through the Hills
- 1989 Always Was Always Will Be
- 1989 Black Santa
- 1989 Land Bilong Islanders
- 1990 Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy
- 1990 No Fixed Address On Tour
- 1990 The Min-Min
- 1990 Quigley Down Under
- 1991 Bran Nue Dae (musical)
- 1991 Satellite Dreaming
- 1992 Deadly
- 1992 Jindalee Lady
- 1992 Black Man’s Houses
- 1993 Benny and the Dreamers
- 1993 Blackfellas (Day of the Dog)
- 1993 The Naked Country
- 1993 Bedevil (beDevil)
- 1993 Freedom Ride
- 1993 My Life As I Live It
- 1993 Mr Electric
- 1994 Beyond The Dreamtime
- 1994 Milli Milli
- 1994 Harold
- 1995 The Life of Harry Dare
- 1995 Fly Peewee Fly
- 1996 Coolbaroo Club
- 1996 No Way to Forget
- 1996 Pay Back
- 1996 Blacktracker
- 1996 Marn Grook
- 1996 From Sand to Celluloid
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