‘Power To Country’ documentary highlights important issues

‘Power To Country’ documentary highlights important issues
Image: Supplied by Carriageworks

Power to Country, playing now in a special exhibition at Carriageworks until July 21, tells the story of Shirley Simon, a Garrwa woman displaced from her family’s beautiful island homeland due to climate change and a lack of stable power. In Borroloola, the town where she found refuge, another energy crisis follows her. 

However, she hopes to keep her descendants connected to their country and culture, and the short documentary explores how community-owned solar power might be the solution. 

Power to Country was produced by First Nations storytelling agency GARUWA with support from Original Power, and explores a number of huge issues facing remote communities in Australia, such as climate change, energy crises and the displacement of First Nations people as a result of those. 

Filmmaker, GARUWA co-founder and Worimi woman Genevive Grieves spoke to CityHub about the importance of telling Shirley’s story, which is indicative of the struggles faced by many Indigenous people in remote communities. 

“Less than 0.1% of First Nations people in social housing have access to solar power, and the issue is in these communities that if you don’t have money to pay for power, you can lose access very quickly,” Genevieve says. “And this is a matter of life and death for people, because with climate change and rising temperatures, you can’t survive without access to power, which often means no access to water.

“Shirley’s story really shines a light on what people in remote communities are facing right now and the significant issue of energy security. We’re really trying to build awareness and support for projects like ones Original Power are developing.” 

Continued collaboration

GARUWA have been working with Original Power for some time to document the work they do in remote communities, and it was the film’s director Josef Jakamarra Egger who initially met Shirley in Borroloola and was touched by her story. 

When an opportunity from Doc Society and ABC came for an Environment and Climate Solutions short documentary, GARUWA applied to tell Shirley’s story.

“The money didn’t actually extend very far, because we’re filming out in remote communities and there’s a lot of travel and weather issues involved,” Genevieve explains. “We were only on the ground for three days, but the team managed to get incredible material, and we edited it into this 10 minute film. 

“Since then, we’ve gotten further funding from Doc Society, and we’ve been able to build a whole campaign around the film and really bring awareness to these issues.”

“It’s a really beautiful, intimate story of one woman’s deep yearning for her homelands and wanting to return there. It’s a very moving portrait of Aunty Shirley that discusses big issues that need our attention and we need to be learning more about.”

The Power to Country exhibition

The film is currently playing at Carriageworks for free as part of a special exhibition, which also features two works from Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Warumungu and Warlmanpa designer, Oumoula McKenzie. 

“Oumala’s an incredible creative, and we’re really excited to bring his creative vision to the project. At GARUWA, we’re visual storytellers and we think it’s important to use different formats to share these stories. His illustrations add another layer of expression, and draws more people in so they want to get involved and help support this.” 

On Saturday July 6, Genevieve will be in conversation with Ngardara Cooperative’s director Scott McDinny to discuss renewable energy solutions in a free public talk. “Scott is a really inspiring person,” Genevieve says, “and I’m really looking forward to learning from him and speaking with him about the film, this project, the issues and potential solutions.” 

Furthermore, GARUWA, Original Power and Ngardara Cooperative are working together to bring Shirley home. If you’d like to support this initiative, visit https://powertocountry.com 

Power to Country
Until July 21, free entry at Carriageworks

Free public talk with Genevieve Grieves and Scott McDinny
July 6, 12pm

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