The documentary, which won in the ‘Promotion of Indigenous Recognition’ category, follows the story of Laurie Baymarrwangga, lovingly referred to by the Yan-nhangu people as ‘Big Boss’, the last fluent speaker of the Yan-nhangu language and the 2012 Senior Australian of the Year.
The judges were particularly impressed with the stunning videography, claiming ‘the film offers an insight into ways for progressing understandings of Aboriginal culture, alongside the ongoing difficulties Aboriginal communities face as they seek to sustain and support their unique connections to country… as they contend with an increasingly globalised world.’
The project was primarily filmed on Murrungga Island, the largest of the outer Crocodile Islands in North-East Arnhem Land, where Laurie Baymarrwangga was born and has spent her whole life living on country and upholding the culture of her people.
Though Laurie Baymarrwangga passed away in August 2014 at the age of 98, her legacy lives on through the bilingual school she began on the island and a Yan-nhangu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary that she produced with anthropologist Dr Bentley James. At her passing Dr James paid testament to her life’s work on his website.
“To the very end she struggled to save her ocean home from mining and exploitation, unspoiled for future generations… a truly great leader, a nurturer, her spirit returns to the homelands that created and compelled her.”
A passionate campaigner for her people, she initiated and funded the Crocodile Islands Rangers to keep the cultural and environmental practices of her people strong. The group manages approximately 400km2 of land and 6000km2 of sea in an area that has been given international recognition for its conservation significance for migratory birds and turtle nesting.
‘Big Boss: The Last Leader of the Crocodile Islands’ will screen on NITV at 8.30PM on Sunday 29 November. Make sure you check out this award-winning documentary for an inspirational take on the life of one of our esteemed elders. Missed it? Watch it On Demand.