NAIDOC Week 2024: First Nations streaming and TV highlights

One easy and meaningful ways to mark NAIDOC Week is to engage with some great First Nations TV and streaming stories.
The Last Daughter

‘Keep the fire burning! Blak, loud and proud!’ is the theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week (7-14 July 2024).

It’s a theme that calls on Australians from all walks of life to honour and recognise the strength, vitality and endurance of First Nations culture.

Held across Australia each year, starting on the first Sunday of July, NAIDOC Week encompasses a variety of awards ceremonies, educational events and locally organised activities that celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

One easy and meaningful way to participate is to watch some of the great First Nations-made and themed screen content available across platforms, especially on the ABC, SBS & NITV, and DocPlay. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

ABC TV

An extensive curated list of films, comedy and factual programming for NAIDOC week can be found here on ABC iview. A few of our personal highlights include:

NAIDOC Awards (Simulcast ABC TV and NITV, Saturday 6 July, 7.30pm)

The ABC returns this year as official NAIDOC broadcast and education partner. Kicking off the week will be the telecast of the First Nations night of nights, live from Tarndanya (Adelaide) on Kaurna Yerta, hosted by Total Control star Rob Collins, 10 News First presenter Narelda Jacobs, and comedian and actor Steph Tisdell. Award-winning musician Jess Mauboy will headline the night’s entertainment.

The Last Daughter (broadcast after NAIDOC Awards)

After being raised by a white family, a young girl is taken away and returned to the Aboriginal family she didn’t know. Decades later, she’s on a journey to discover where she truly belongs. The Last Daughter is a 2023 feature documentary was made through a unique collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cast and crew using the ‘Banaam Framework’ – a relational based rather than hierarchical one.

Black Comedy – Series 1-4

A sketch comedy show by Blackfellas, for everyone, featuring an ensemble cast of Indigenous writers and performers and many special guest cameo appearances. Starring Wayne Blair, Steven Oliver, Aaron Fa’aoso, Nakkiah Lui and Bjorn Stewart. This show can be a bit hit-and-miss, but there’s a lot of love, naughtiness and laughter to be had.

Redfern Now – Series 1 & 2

Set in Australia’s most infamous suburb, Redfern, this gritty, award-winning drama series follows six different Indigenous families, all of whose lives are changed by a moment’s decision, an accident or a seemingly insignificant incident. Originally aired in 2012, and produced by Blackfella Films as part of the ABC’s Indigenous Department, Redfern Now is the first series to be commissioned, written, acted and produced by Indigenous Australians and it’s powerful, contemporary drama. It stars Wayne Blair, Deborah Mailman, Jimi Bani, Miranda Tapsell, Kelton Pell and Leah Purcell.

Mystery Road – Series 1 & 2, Mystery Road movie, Goldstone + Limbo

The excellent crime mystery series starring Aaron Pederson as Indigenous Detective Jay Swan makes a good companion for a bunch of other Bunya-produced films available on ABC iview, including Ivan Sen’s original Mystery Road movie, follow up Goldstone and recent film Limbo, starring Simon Baker, Rob Collins, Natasha Wanganeen, Nicholas Hope.

You Can’t Ask That: Indigenous (in Series 1)

Insightful, irreverent, moving and unpredictable, this episode sets the record straight about what it’s really like to be an Indigenous Australian. This excellent series educates, informs and breaks down the stereotypes.

SBS & SBS on Demand

SBS Elder-in-Residence Oration presented by Rhoda Roberts AO with Stan Grant (Sunday July 7, 6.30pm)

Reflecting on the 2024 NAIDOC Theme: Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud, and filmed on Mabo Day 2024 – Rhoda Roberts AO, a proud Widjabul Wieybal woman from the Bundjalung Nation, delivers her second oration as SBS’s Elder–in-Residence. She’s joined by prominent Wiradjuri journalist, Stan Grant, and features an in-depth interview where Grant speaks about wide-ranging issues including the state of the media today, world politics, and his personal journey.

Little J & Big Cuz (Weekdays from Monday 8 July at 6.05pm)

This cute and educational Indigenous-produced animated series follows Little J (Miranda Tapsell), who’s five, and Big Cuz (Deborah Mailman), who’s nine. They’re a couple of First Nations Australian kids living with their Nanna (Ursula Yovich) and Old Dog (Aaron Fa’Aoso). Little J and Big Cuz are busy with the ups and downs of playground and classroom, and there’s always something surprising going on, whether it’s at school, in the backyard…or beyond as they learn about community, Country and culture.

First Nations Cinema Collection: The Drover’s Wife, We Don’t Need a Map

There’s a treasure-trove of curated Indigenous and First Nations cinema on SBS on Demand. Highlights include Leah Purcell’s gutsy reimagining of The Drover’s Wife, and Warwick Thornton’s playful documentary, We Don’t Need a Map, as well as his breakout debut feature Samson & Delilah, and award-winning short film Green Bush.

For classic Australian cinema featuring the late iconic Aboriginal actor and dancer David Gulpilil, SBS has Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout, Peter Weir’s The Last Wave, Phil Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence and Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes and The Tracker – all of which are well worth a watch.

DocPlay

Mabo: Life of an Island Man (8 July)

Mabo – Life of an Island Man is the story of a small island and an extraordinary man, Eddie Koiki Mabo. Directed by Trevor Graham, this 1997 documentary reconstructs a more personal and intimate version of the famous land rights activist, portraying him as a man, husband and respected Indigenous leader, using a combination of archival footage and family interviews.

Ablaze (8 July)

Tiriki Onus finds a 70-year-old film believed to be made by his grandfather, Aboriginal leader and filmmaker Bill Onus. Tiriki pieces together the film’s origins and discovers more about Bill’s fight for Aboriginal rights.

Read: Academic, advocate, singer and filmmaker Tiriki Onus discusses the film made by his grandfather William ‘Bill’ Onus and the documentary it inspired

First Australians: the untold story of Australia

Rachel Perkins’ acclaimed seven-episode history series chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. The series explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world’s greatest empire. Produced by Blackfella Films over the course of six years, and first aired on SBS in 2008, the documentary is part of a bigger project that consists of a book, a community outreach program and a website featuring over 200 mini-documentaries.

NAIDOC Week 2024 runs Sunday 7 July to Sunday 14 July.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk