Monday, April 2, 2012


First 10 minutes from my Groote documentary. See the entire video on my Web site: - go to the 1968 line.
Script and direction: Stefan Sargent. Camera: Keith Gow. Sound Rosemary Barton, Producer: Richard Mason.

1968 for The Commonwealth Film Unit (now Film Australia).

A look at the influence of the manganese industry on the lives of the Aboriginal people of Groote Eylandt.

This award-winning film was designed to show how the Aboriginal people of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria adjusted to the new life brought about by the discovery of manganese on their land. The director and writer of the film described it as a fragmented collage of images and sounds, intended to produce a direct emotional response. The result is a flood of images, some of them flicking past almost too quickly to be grasped, others repeated over and over again to induce special effects.

The Change at Groote is 'experimental' in its editing techniques and its 'very 60s' camera operation, montage and sound design. It delivers a critical argument about development, questioning the real value for Aboriginal people affected by mining for manganese at Groote Eylandt. It does this by the juxtaposition of startling, metaphorical images, fragments of interviews, and savage sound cuts, without an explicit narration advocating an argument.

In the words of its first catalogue entry, The Change at Groote was designed to show how the Aboriginal people of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria are adjusting to the new life brought about by the discovery of manganese on Groote Eylandt, but the film is also revealing of white attitudes and responses to the Aboriginal way of life. Stefan Sargent, the director and writer of the film, described it as a study of a complete cultural revolution in less than a generation.

The Change at Groote was begun in 1967, the year of the Aboriginal Referendum which, by a great majority, changed the Australian constitution to include Aboriginals in the Census, and enabled the Commonwealth government to legislate with regard to Aboriginal people.

The film was awarded the 1968 Australian Film Institute Gold Award for both the adventurous filmmaking strategies and for the sentiments it evoked. Stefan Sargent also won The Australian Film Editor's Guild award for Best Editing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Koongarra 2010 and 2012

Koongarra 2012 (4min single channel excerpt)

theweathergroup_U and Jeffrey Lee

2-channel video installation
16:23 and 16:02
David Mackenzie – cinematography, edit
Susan Norrie and Sumugan Sivanesan – edit

theweathergroup_U are an experimental documentary collective that formed in 2008 for the Biennale of Sydney.

In 2010 theweathergroup_U worked in collaboration with Jeffrey Lee to produce 'Koongarra', commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney for the exhibition 'In the Balance: Art for a Changing World". As the last member of the Djok clan, Lee is the sole senior custodian of Koongarra, a projected mining lease surrounded by Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia.

For many years Lee has has resisted extremely lucrative offers from the French energy giant, Areva, eager to extract 14,000 tonnes of uranium worth over five billion dollars from the projected mine site. Fearing the same kinds of leaks, spills and license breaches that have allegedly befell the nearby Ranger uranium mine, Lee continues to fight to ensure his country remains unharmed for future generations. In June 2011 Jeffrey Lee travelled to Paris to meet with UNESCO officials. After more than 30 years of dispute and despite vigorous opposition from Areva, Koongarra was finally added to the World Heritage List.

theweathergroup_U returned to Kakadu National Park in 2012 to continue their work with Jeffrey Lee. This exhibition includes both the 2010 Koongarra project alongside the current Koongarra 2012 project. With ongoing Meetings between the Federal Government the Northern Land Council and the Mining company Jeffrey Lee is pushing to see the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park changed to include the Koongarra area. Until this decision is finalised, Jeffrey Lee's fight to protect Koongarra continues.

theweathergroup_U would like to thank
Jeffrey Lee
Gabrielle O'Loughlin
Fabienne Balsamo
Kim Pettigrew
Kakadu National Park
Jeremy Walker
Bryce Anbinis-King
Danielle Green
Will Tinapple
The MCA (Sydney)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Koongarra Future

He could have become one of Australia's richest men but Jeffrey Lee has turned his back on a fortune. As senior custodian of the Koongarra uranium deposit he has decided not to allow mining on his land.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heritage listing adds to Kakadu protection

Heritage listing adds to Kakadu protection

Simon Santow reported this story on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 08:21:00

TONY EASTLEY: For more than 30 years, a relatively small parcel of land inside Kakadu National Park had been earmarked as a rich uranium mine.

But a persistent, shy local Aboriginal landowner and a committed band of environmentalists had other ideas.

Overnight in Paris they received the news they'd been hoping for - Koongarra is to be World Heritage-listed.

UNESCO's decision was vigorously opposed by French resources giant Areva but received bipartisan political support in Australia.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: Traditional landowner Jeffrey Lee travelled to Paris to help convince UNESCO to heritage list Koongarra.

JEFFREY LEE: I came here to France to talk about Koongarra because I was fighting for Koongarra now for very long time and during my younger days, in my teenage years, I had a long struggle on the way and it was very hard to me in those days. But as I was getting older and more mature, I started realising where all this really mean to me.

SIMON SANTOW: Jeffrey Lee still hunts, fishes and lives off the land.

He was worried that Koongarra was in the sights of the resource giants, even though it sits alongside Kakadu National Park.

The French uranium miner, Areva wooed Jeffrey Lee.

JEFFREY LEE: They did offer me a lot, a lot of money but all that came down to that to me is my land so privilege to me and my responsibility is on that land and I don't own the land. The land owns me.

DON HENRY: The company is one of France's biggest uranium mining companies. They have been pressing very vigorously to get the green to mine in this area so the threat was real, it was always imminent. That is now gone and that is something to celebrate.

SIMON SANTOW: Don Henry the executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation has been helping the bid to save Koongarra from mining.

DON HENRY: Oh, look it is absolutely fantastic news. There is a 30 year battle to have this area saved. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Kakadu and I think the great thing here is the traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee has put it forward for protection. Great courage by him, a wonderful gift for all Australians and everyone around the world.

SIMON SANTOW: With world heritage listing now a reality, the Australian Government is expected to incorporate Koongarra into the Kakadu National Park.

TONY EASTLEY: Simon Santow.