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Homeland Story

“An extraordinary, and extraordinarily uplifting, story of cross-cultural co-operation, support and love that’s also an important document of Australian history, bureaucracy and policy – and of Donydji (East Arnhem Land) culture. A beautifully made film – it’s gorgeous to look at – and also a fascinating story traversing more than 40 years and three generations that’s confronting in parts but mostly feels like both a joy and a privilege to watch.”

– Fairfax Media, 19 July 2021


Homeland Story is an intimate portrait of Donydji, a small Indigenous community in North East Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia. Homelands are situated on the land of the people who live there. They are of central importance to their identity and culture.

The film charts the Donydji community’s transition from nomadic life to the digital age, from the 1960s to the present day. One family is featured, across three generations, from the traditional Elder, Dhulutarama, who still knew how to make stone tools, to his grand-daughter, Joanne Yindiri Guyula, who teaches at the Donydji school. It is a moving portrait of the family’s struggle to preserve their culture and remain on their Homeland despite the severe obstacles they face: sub-standard education, deplorable service delivery, lack of job opportunities for the youth, inadequate government policy, bureaucratic mismanagement and pressure from mining interests.

The film also tells the remarkable story of cross cultural co-operation over nearly fifty years. In 1974, Dr Neville White, a biological anthropologist, went to Donydji to conduct research for a PhD. In effect he has never left. Spending part of each year on the Homeland, he responded to the community’s request to help them map their clan lands as a way of resisting the threat of mining license claims.

When education, housing and employment opportunities became the community’s major concern, Dr White convinced the Rotary Club of Melbourne to fund a major building project that was undertaken by Vietnam Veterans working with the young men of Donydji. Together they built the first school, new houses and a workshop where the youth could learn trade skills to prepare them for employment. Fifteen years later the partnership between Rotary, the Vets and the young men continues.

Homeland Story is a moving portrait of a resilient and determined community facing the challenges of maintaining their Donydji Homeland and preserving their vibrant culture.

Glenda Hambly has worked extensively in television, writing and editing fifteen television series and serials and directing a children’s series. She has written and directed two award-winning features: Fran (1985) and Waiting at the Royal (2000) both starring Noni Hazlehurst, and produced a third, The Legend Maker,which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2014. She has a PhD in Screen Studies and has lectured in screenwriting at RMIT and Monash Universities.

The trailer is also available for viewing on YouTube: youtu.be/NxaFUOS0xhI

Language: English and Yolngu Matha languages (with English subtitles)

Year: 2019

Classification: M

Runtime: 84 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Glenda Hambly

Produced By: Glenda HamblyDamien GuyulaDavid RapseyKen Sallows, ASE