Experiencing Interruptions?

On Australian Shores: Survivor Stories

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kimberley Aboriginal workers were involved in weed spraying campaigns organised by the Agricultural Protection Board of Western Australia. They received no training or protection equipment. They were told the chemicals they were mixing and spraying by hand were safe to use. Unbeknownst to them, they were spraying Agent Orange - a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D herbicides.

Many healthy young Aboriginal men died in their thirties and forties, leaving behind heartbroken parents, partners, siblings, children, and communities. But the impact was not limited to them. The toxins they were spraying affected their wives, who suffered miscarriages and could not have children, and their own children, who were in contact with their clothes. Aunty Lena Buckle, from Derby, lost a daughter, a son, and a grandson. Many of the survivors today have suffered from cancers and other conditions. Many of their grandchildren are also affected, some born with malformations. Senior Nyikina Elder Lucy Marshall AM campaigned for the victims of Agent Orange in the Kimberley, until her death - she received an Order of Australia Medal for her tireless efforts. She passed away in 2021, without the answers she was seeking, having lost a son, a grandson, and a nephew. Some of her son's organs are still held in a facility in Perth - against Aboriginal cultural protocols.

Two government enquiries were held in 2003 (led by Dr Andrew Harper) and 2004 (led by Dr Bruce Armstrong). Cancer sufferers were promised compensation - none of the other ailments or deaths were attributed to the use of Agent Orange. ABC Australia covered the story twice, in 2012 and 2014. Since then, repeated calls for compensation and recognition of the victims have fallen on deaf ears, due to the statute of limitations.

This important documentary gives voice to 42 people, survivors, family and community members, so that their stories are not forgotten.

  • Magali McDuffie
    Three Sisters, Women of High Degree; Protecting Country;
  • Alexander Hayes
    Protecting Country
  • Alexander Hayes
    Protecting Country
  • Eugene McMahon
    Cultural Advisers
  • Victor Hunter
    Cultural Advisers
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    54 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 3, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    HD Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Magali McDuffie, Alexander Hayes

Dr Magali McDuffie is an internationally awarded filmmaker, accomplished researcher, and consummate educator with over 17 years' experience working in culturally diverse regional and remote projects both as a filmmaker and academic researcher. She has worked for 17 years with Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, on internationally recognised documentaries such as Three Sisters, Women of High Degree, and Protecting Country, as well as numerous film projects with Aboriginal media organisations. Privileging a listening approach, her films are the result of close collaborations with communities and individuals whose voices are not being heard in the mainstream media. Using the camera as an emancipatory tool, Magali is passionate about exposing injustice, and creating a dialogue around human rights, agency, and social justice.
Dr Alexander Hayes is an internationally renowned artist, researcher, veteran educator, and acclaimed author. He brings 25 years of project management experience to Oethica Group Productions and has a reputation for catalysing creative enterprise as a techno-ethicist, skilled web designer and entrepreneur. He initiates and facilitates public events with Oethica through the Ngikalikarra engagement framework, championing human rights and social justice projects as a film media producer and philanthropist.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

This film is the result of a long journey. Magali McDuffie met Lucy Marshall AM, a Nyikina Elder, in 2007, and she told her the story of her family, and of the many victims who had been impacted by the use of those dangerous herbicides. Over the next 14 years, as Magali worked on many different film and research projects together with Lucy and her community, she never forgot those stories. It was in 2017 that Magali's partner Dr Alexander Hayes set the wheels in motion to find sponsorship to support their research, and their accommodation and travel costs across the vast Kimberley region of Western Australia so they could finally make this film. In the end, 42 survivors, family and community members were interviewed, telling their harrowing stories of survival and grief, in this compelling 54-minute documentary, in a bid to get an acknowledgement of their lifelong plight. This is THEIR story.