The upcoming referendum on the Voice to Parliament is the subject of a new documentary that has commenced production in the Northern Territory.
Inspired by the knowledge gap between urban Australians and remote communities ahead of the vote, Our Voice, Our Heart follows Tiwi man Jaxon De Santis and Warlpiri/Jawoyn man Justin Grant as they embark on a journey across the NT in an attempt to understand the future vision of communities in the area, while asking them to share parts of their culture with wider Australia.
Starting in the central desert, the pair will make stops in Katherine and Kalkarindji (Gurindji), where they will meet with Grants’s family and the local community. They will then proceed to Pirlangimpi (Melville Island Tiwi) to connect with De Santis’ community, before visiting Gove (Nhulunbuy) in East Arnhem Land and taking part in vibrant festivities at Barunga (Barunga Festival). The crew will then travel to Kakadu (Jabiru), immersing themselves in the rich traditional cultures and customs of Yellow Water (Ngurrungurrudjba) and exploring the rock artwork in Gunbalanya.
Grant co-directs and co-produces with Trade Creative’s Laurens Goud, with De Santis also a co-producer.
The team plans to make a 30-40 minute documentary to be launched at Garma Festival taking place in early August, while also conducting a 10-part social engagement and impact campaign that includes commissioned artwork stretching across the entire project.
Created by proud Worimi Man Gerard Black, the art tells the story of two men (Grant and De Santis) with empty knowledge cups and a message stick journeying across the land to talk with elders and leaders from different mob, filling their cup and message stick as they go. The table in the middle represents the need for all mob to come to the table, listening to the spirits, and work together.
Grant, who also serves as Indigenous consultant on the project, said he and De Santis were exploring their own uncertainty about how to vote in the referendum.
“So many people are asking me how I am going to vote in the referendum, and I have nothing to say,” he said.
“If I don’t know, how are the millions of Australians living in the cities going to know how to vote?”
De Santis expected his experience to resonate with viewers.
“It feels super important,” he said.
“It’s us going out learning, and obviously there are lots of people like us in Australia that are not too sure what the attitudes towards the referendum are from these communities that we are going to find out… Going in with a curious mindset and listening rather than coming with an agenda of a message.”