Beginnings

I’m Philippa O’Donnell, a journalist raised in regional Victoria. I’ve worked in print, radio, television, and online media all over Australia. It was my privilege to be a journalist and manager with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for more than 20 years.

My time with the ABC included a stint as station manager at one of our most remote stations, Karratha, for one fatal cyclone season. That’s where this project was born.

In Karratha, I met Yardi in her role as a teacher’s aide. I thought her story should be recorded and preserved. Then, while working in Darwin, I met Debra. She shared lots of stories about life at Oenpelli, but it’s the one about tribe survival that I really want to record and preserve. In Perth, I met Gerard who spelled out his plan to use his AFL experience to help upcoming generations of young indigenous Australians. Today that plan is the thriving Clontarf Foundation which helps thousands of boys all around Australia, every day. Later still, at Dareton, I met photojournalist, Jimmy Nelson, and learned of his project – Before They Pass Away. Speaking with Jimmy and his team – especially his idea of preserving stories for future generations – has helped inform my project. And in Melbourne, I met Vicki, who told me of the humble beginnings of her Opening The Doors Foundation which helps Aboriginal families with funding so they can educate their children at schools of their choice.

Recording and preserving these stories through Black and White has been my passion project since leaving the ABC. Entirely self-funded to date, I’ve verified this project is feasible through research, travel, testing, planning, and cogitating. I’ve been on the road, meeting people, testing equipment and myself (try a solo trip to Gunbalanya – crossing the East Alligator – and you’ll see what I mean). I’ve road tested a one-person, portable kit which is mostly battery-operated and ideal for Black and White. It is important to move gently to ensure the conversations are personal and intimate. Production (researching, publishing, preserving) takes about five weeks for each story. The published video stories will run for about 45 minutes, supplemented by podcasts, written stories, additional links, resources, and photographs online.


 

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Photograph of attending to the camp fire