“SOME of the young people I met never had that culture passed on to them – I could see that you had to go back to the old ways, because the way today is not getting through to them, you have to take them back to country.”
After the success of the 2011 film Mad Bastards in Australia and internationally as one of just 13 films selected worldwide for the Sundance Film Festival, its leading actor and co-writer Dean Daley-Jones realised the power film had to both inspire and send an important message to both the indigenous and non-indigenous community.
Daley-Jones took that success and ran with it, turning from actor to director to make the short documentary Walk Tall Stand Strong, directed by Kelrick Martin, which has just been nominated for a national Inside Films (IF) Award.
Hearing the stories of more than 20 indigenous Casuarina Prison inmates to make the film, which aired as part of ABC’s Message Stick program earlier this year, Daley-Jones said he learnt many things from the incarcerated young men, not least that they had missed out on learning their culture.
“In the beginning of the documentary, we show an Aboriginal man dancing in the streets of Fremantle – he had been through alcohol abuse, jail and violence – but when he went back to his country he got back in touch with his culture and his elders and he has come full circle,” Daley-Jones said.
“We need to change the system – jail has failed, the system is failing, we need to come back to our culture.”
Growing up in Coolbellup and studying performing arts at John Curtin College, Daley-Jones is no stranger to the issues his documentary tackles, citing alcohol and substance issues, violence and brushes with the law as part of a past he has learnt from and overcome.
“We’ve all suffered from traumatic times and loss in our lives, but you can go down different paths on how you deal with that,” he said.
“I can’t just be a person who makes films, I have to take advantage of some of the success I have to put something back into the community and help young men.
“I want to inspire my brothers and sisters from all around to be proud and own their responsibilities, not to hang on to the past but to learn from it.
“We’re strong people with strong culture and that culture is coming back stronger and stronger but there are a few things that need to be changed to stop that incarceration.
“So that people can work in a bank but at the same time be proud 21st century urban warriors with strong culture.”
Walk Tall Stand Strong can be viewed at www.abc.net.au/tv/ messagestick/stories/s3400041. htm and behind the scenes footage and an interview can be viewed at http://www.ifawards.com.au/film/walk-tall-stand-strong.