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From Sand to Celluloid – Two Bob Mermaid (1996)


A short drama, set in the 1950s, about an Aboriginal girl Koorine (Carrie Prosser) who is fair skinned and gains access to the local swimming pool where Aboriginal people are legally denied access.

Curator’s notes

Two Bob Mermaid is the directorial debut of Darlene Johnson. It is the story of Koorine (Carrie Prosser), a fair skinned Indigenous girl who ‘passes’ – allowing people to think you are white. Koorine dreams of becoming a famous swimmer. The title of the film refers to Esther William’s film Million Dollar Mermaid, a 'two bob’ mermaid creating a correlation between class and dreams. In order to achieve her dream Koorine lets the townspeople think that she is white so that she can gain access to the local swimming pool from which Aboriginal peoples are banned.

Two Bob Mermaid is visually stunning, and Johnson manages to tell quite a political story through the eyes of a child, whose innocent tendency to dream is restricted by the political restrictions imposed upon Aboriginal people during the period the film is set (1950s). The banning from swimming pools was a reality for Indigenous people up until racism was outlawed in Australia. Dr Charles Perkins during the Freedom Rides of 1967 encouraged Indigenous people to fight the bans. Indigenous peoples were made citizens of this country after the 1967 referendum.