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I met Uncle Bob in May of 2004. At first I had no intention of making a film. I just wanted to go out there and talk to him. It was quite a surreal meeting. He picked me up from my hotel and took me onto his land straight away. We sat on country between Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It was a magical night. He's a singer and songwriter, so in no time at all, he pulled out his guitar and began to sing and included my name in the songs.

Then this shooting star went over us...

"Oh, that's special, that means something", said Bob and his family.

"Then at the end of the night Bob invited me back to stay with him and his family... the community and I just listened to him tell his stories for two days straight. I can remember thinking, "This man's amazing. He helps people to understand what's going on at a very deep level. Everyone's got to hear this guy."

Hand reaching out

At the end of the weekend Bob said, "You're a filmmaker aren't you?

I've got a budget to do a petrol sniffing education film. Do you want to do it?" He was a director of the health clinic at the time. I said I'd be honoured. So I went home, contacted a cameraman and we came back three weeks later. In Bob's way of just going for it and surrendering he said, "I want you to go and get the kids' stories on camera. I want to know why the kids are sniffing petrol." So that was that. Off I went thinking it would be easy. Then, when I met the kids, everything got turned upside down. I sat next to them and realised very quickly that I couldn't speak Pitjantjatjara and they couldn't speak English. I’m white and they’re black. I’m privileged and they’re living in poverty. ‘It’s not fair’, I thought.

I knew the petrol sniffing was a symptom of what was going on and I wanted to tell the complex story of what’s behind it. So I asked Bob if I could have a go at telling his story, and, well, Kanyini is the result.

Making the film itself was an amazing journey. Given Bob is an Anangu man, we were able to access so much precious footage. A lot of the footage is from Ara Irititja, a project of the Pitjantjatjara Council which is a unique group in South Australia focusing on archiving material of the Pitjantjatjara people. A lot of the beautiful, innocent footage of the kids in Kanyini was taken by missionaries and explorers who filmed them in places like Ernabella. The Museum of Victoria also had some footage.

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I remember sitting there watching the archival footage for the first time and thinking, “Oh wow."

I'd heard Uncle Bob talking about life ‘before’ the impact of western civilisation and how many aspects of traditional life reflected beautiful, wholistic thinking and being. Then I saw the archival footage and it was like, there is the evidence for what he’s talking about. I was also touched by some of the missionary footage — it showed there were some good people out there who honoured the way it was. It’s so impactful that footage of traditional life, in my opinion. It helps me to reflect upon our culture and how it can be very destructive at times both of others as well as the earth and other non-human life forms.


I don't know why, but when I was in my early twenties, I felt a very strong need to talk to Aboriginal people about how to slow down the destruction: Aboriginal people lived in harmony with the earth for thousands of years. There is a lot for us non-Aboriginal people to learn.

Beyond Kanyini

Driven by a commitment to learn about this world through collaboration and friendship, I am inspired by what I learn about this place and find myself wishing to share many Indigenous values such as caring for country through film, so that we can all take care of each other and the earth a little better. If you wish to learn more about my work please go to:

Nyuntu Ninti

Book • 2011

In this beautiful photographic book for young children, Bob Randall explains, in a simple but effective way, the Anangu people's relationship to all that is around them, and why we must learn to care for the earth, its plants and its creatures. Based on the award-winning documentary KANYINI by filmmaker Melanie Hogan, NYUNTU NINTI, meaning "what you should know", teaches us about the people who are at the heart of our country.

Nyuntu Ninti Book
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