• A still from the short film Wurray, part of Songlines On Screen. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
“This country holds our story forever like an archive. Travelling through country, the songs reveal themselves. They are embedded in country.” - Francis Jupurrurla Kelly
Jerico Mandybur

29 Apr 2016 - 4:33 PM  UPDATED 13 Jun 2016 - 10:55 AM

Songlines are the complex Aboriginal belief systems that interconnect land, deep spirituality, knowledge and values – the very threads of life. NITV and Screen Australia had the rare opportunity to document these ancient traditions, which incorporate the full spectrum of storytelling including dance, song, art, body painting and natural sites of great significance. From there – Songlines On Screen was born.

Made up of 8 short films from the remote regions of Western, Northern and Central Australia, the documentary series seeks to “share the creation stories that are the foundation of our country’s rich history,” says NITV’s channel manager, Tanya Denning-Orman.

“The recording of our sacred Songlines enables us to keep our stories alive for future generations. The series will also offer a better understanding and respect of our culture and history, bringing us a step closer in educating all Australians about Aboriginal identity,” she says.

Cornel Ozies is the director of one short film within the series, ‘Footprints’ and says “Songlines are a library of information. They are many things: a road map, a bible, our history. The examples and stories in Songlines guide the way we live and give us our unique cultural identities. But our culture and history is an oral one, if it is not talked about, it is forgotten.”

“In order for our culture to survive, it must move from oral to documented. To record these Songlines to film is a natural progression. We must use any devices at our disposal to keep our traditions alive. The songs that the old people sing and pass along are about the country and the sacred places where songs belong.”

Sunday 12 June, 8.30pm

It is 2014 and a group of young Aboriginal men from a tribe on the verge of losing their Songlines have just discovered that a law boss from a neighbouring tribe knows some of their cultural songs and dances. They have not been performed for more than 50 years and it was thought they had been lost forever. The songs and dances were given to the men’s tribe, the Djugun tribe, by their creator during the Buguragarri (the Dreaming).

Sunday 12 June, 8.45pm

Naji is a story from the Bugarregarre time, the Dreamtime. The spirit beings came out of the ocean and woke up the silent, barren land, as they moved from Dabberdabbergun in the West, to the land of the rising sun, creating life and importantly, water, as they travel. This creation story comes to life through the use of re-enactments as Richard Hunter, an elder of the Goolarabooloo people, recounts the steps of his First People. Or during the Buguragarri (the Dreaming).

Goorrandalng: Brolga Dreaming
Sunday 19 June, 8.30pm

Goorrandalng is a song and a story. The Goorrandalng song is about brolgas. It's from Granny Sheba Dignari's mother and is sung all the time for country, keeping it strong. Goorrandalng is also the name of the dreaming place, at Keep River National Park in the Northern Territory, where women can go to become pregnant. In the Goorrandalng dreamtime story, women went to the special place and turned into brolgas.

Tjawa Tjawa
Sunday 19 June, 8.45pm

Tjawa Tjawa Songline follows a group of women in search of husbands, travelling from Roebourne all the way to Kiwikurra in the Great Sandy Desert to the south of Balgo. A long journey with many stories along the way about how the women came to their end, only to come alive again and continue to travel the lands.

Bulunu Milkarri
Sunday 26 June, 8.30pm

One woman’s journey to learn an endangered Songline from remote Arnhem Land that explores cycles of death, life, rain, tears and the replenishment and abundance of land, sea and spirit, and the quest to ensure this ancient Songline is practiced for generations to come.

Sunday 3 July, 8.30pm

The story of the creation of the First People of Western Arnhem Land and the battle between good and evil, resulting in the songs and stories handed down today.

Sunday 3 July, 8.45pm

Yolngu song men trace the epic dreamtime story of their great nomadic warrior, Wurray, across the wilderness of North East Arnhem Land.

Damari and Guyala: A Story of Two Brothers
Sunday 10 July, 8.30pm

Before the whiteman arrived, two brothers Damari and Guyala, made their way down the east coast of Australia. They came seeking shelter and food after a long journey from the North and made a stopover near the land of the Mandingalbay Yidinji tribe of the Cairns area. The story of betrayal, lies and loyalty is told in the language of the Mandingalbay Yidinji elder David Mundraby.


Songlines On Screen begins from June 12, 8:30pm on NITV. Catch up on the films with SBS On Demand HERE