A documentary co-written and produced by Murdoch University filmakers Glen Stasiuk and Jeffory Asselin won the award for Outstanding Achievement in the Feature Film – Factual category at the recent WA Screen Awards (WASAs).
The WASAs are the premier celebration of Western Australian screen culture, celebrating excellence and achievements in film.
Mr Stasiuk and Mr Asselin worked on the documentary for three years and hope the film will educate and inspire debate.
“Many people may not know that before becoming a well-known tourist destination, Rottnest Island was an Aboriginal prison beset by appalling conditions, brutality, disease and death,” Mr Stasiuk said.
“Our hope is that the film will bring to light the history, suffering and conditions experienced by those incarcerated for mostly minor offences.”
From 1838 to 1931, around 3700 Aboriginal men and boys from all over Western Australia were sent to the island. As many as 370 died during their incarceration, succumbing to disease, degradation and the hangman’s noose, making Rottnest the site of the largest number of deaths in custody in Australia.
The film includes interviews with Nyungar scholars and elders and features sequences which illustrate the Nyungar’s cosmology, or dreaming stories associated with the island’s separation from the mainland around 7000 years ago.
Mr Stasiuk received a $100,000 Australian Research Council grant to make the documentary, with research for the film contributing to his PhD.
Wadjemup: Black Prison White Playground premiers in late August.
Murdoch University undergraduate film student Anthony Wootton also received a nomination for his film Twisted Minds in the category Best Feature Film – Drama.
Photo credit: Glen Stasiuk