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Island Fettlers (2006)


A documentary that uses historical footage, with current interview and observational footage, about the journey of Torres Strait Islander men who moved to the Pilbara to work on the railways and after the job finished stayed on.

Curator’s notes

In the 1960s, Torres Strait men left their homes to travel to the foreign country of the Pilbara, determined to provide for their family. When the work was over, many returned home, but some did not. Those Torres Strait Islanders that stayed created a community and continued their traditional culture. The juxtaposition of Torres Strait culture against the backdrop of the Pilbara offers a stark contrast, visually, physically, and aurally.

Island Fettlers begins with shots of Darnley Island in the Torres Strait, Far North Queensland, in 1964. The tropical coastline of Darnley Island sets up the visual paradox characterised by country as the story of the Island fettlers unfolds. Darnley Island, coloured by the tones of the ocean and swayed by the wispy sea breeze appeals to the senses as a place that is colourful and imbued with movement. The tones of the Pilbara is intensified by the sense of trapped heat; a different kind of island that is circumvented by vast dry land. In Indigenous cultures, there are many different tribes or nations, and these tribes or nations represent the variation in the landscape itself. Island Fettlers draws upon this understanding, gently reminding us that Australia is a great and varied land, as too are its Indigenous peoples.