Goonellabah tale told on TV

DOCUMENTARY: The Girls of Goonellabah filmmaker Penny Evans with the healing group facilitator Mereki.
DOCUMENTARY: The Girls of Goonellabah filmmaker Penny Evans with the healing group facilitator Mereki. Dale Roberts

THE Girls of Goonellabah, a documentary about an Aboriginal women's healing group, will be screened nationally on NITV (Channel 34) tonight at 6.30.

The documentary was produced and directed by Penny Evans and filmed with the help of some of her fellow students in a Lismore TAFE Screen Media course.

Ms Evans said NITV was calling out for content, and programs made by indigenous people from rural and remote areas "ticked all the boxes".

The healing group, known as the Ancient Wisdom for Sensitive Souls, is run by Interrelate at the Goonellabah YWCA.

The women have been meeting for two-and-a-half years with facilitator Mereki utilising a wide variety of activities including yoga, meditation and basket making to help deal with issues including domestic violence, drugs and alcohol and displacement.

Ms Evans first met the women in the group when she facilitated some art workshops and said they were very receptive to the idea of talking about the group for a TV audience.

"I guess what I was interested in was the longevity of the group and seeing that it was helping them a lot," she said.

But she said trying to uncover information about the early history of Goonellabah had proved to be almost impossible.

"There is no history written about Goonellabah; the history is all oral," she said.

Ms Evans spoke to some women who were moved to the town in the early 1980s when it was mostly cow paddocks, but searches of Lismore Council, the Richmond River Historical Society and the Department of Housing failed to turn up any photos of those early days.

Ms Evans also attempted to uncover where the policy of creating a "checkerboard hill" (alternating white and black families in public housing) had originated.

"Everyone was moved off their land so there were all sorts of tribal conflicts and no-one was living on country so of course it was going to be dysfunctional. And in most cases the housing was inadequate," she said.

Ms Evans said the documentary highlighted the need for a residential rehabilitation centre for Aboriginal women in the Lismore area.

Topics:  documentaries television

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