NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Sisters of the Sun – Film

by Patrick West and Simon Wilmot

The past has its place in the future. Djargurtwoorroong elder, Wombeetch Puyuun, is teaching Scottish-born settler Isabella Dawson his aboriginal tongue so that her father, James Dawson, can write his book on the customs and languages of the first peoples of the volcanic plains of Victoria’s Western District. But how can language preserve the past in a land where time overwhelms words? Meanwhile, contemporary Australians of the volcanic plains meditate on the passing of time in a place of sheep, algae, eels, lava, and stars. Susan Cole and Janice Austin, descendants of Isabella’s and Wombeetch’s people, meet for the first time, and reflect on Wombeetch’s friendship with James, and what it means to be ‘the last of your tribe.’

Using a ficto-documentary method, this project explores settler-colonial culture in the context of an invitation, manifested in the words of the memorial to Wombeetch Puyuun in the Camperdown cemetery, to remember the first peoples of the region. It reveals the perseverance of an Indigenous presence thought to be passing and the disappearance of colonial ambitions for the future. In this way, it suggests place-making for reconciliation and post-colonial community, built on something more enduring than economic and commercial narratives of place, and attuned to all the languages of place.

This film provides the basis for further work using ficto-documentary film-making as a platform for place making, in a time of reconciliation, at the local level. It also challenges the idea that work on this scale is less important and impactful than work at the national or international level.


Year and month of completion of production: March 2014

Country of Production: Australia

Filmed in the Volcanic Plains of Western Victoria, Australia.


Running Length: 26 mins 35 seconds

Screening Format: DCP or HDCAM

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Originally shot on: Red 5k & DVCPRO50 720p

Languages: English and Djargurtwoorroong

Subtitles: English


Director/writer/producer: Simon Wilmot

Writer/producer: Patrick West



This research is part of the larger Deakin University Flows & Catchments project that sought to improve the well-being of the communities of South-Western Victoria through innovative creative arts activities that immersed themselves in the distinctive landscapes of the region. The Sisters of the Sun project tackled the problem of well-being in the context of reconciliation and post-colonial activism. Engagement with the local Lake Bolac Eel Festival had earlier revealed to the researchers how contentious and divisive reconciliation was in this community. The chosen ficto-documentary form for the film Sisters of the Sun emerged as a strategy for creating a place-making story, folding past time into present and future time. This chronological juxtaposition showed that the settler James Dawson’s words, on his obelisk in the Camperdown cemetery, were ironic. In memorializing Aboriginal people as ‘the last of their tribe’, Dawson anticipates the contemporary experience of settler colonialism, in which stories of place based on commercial and economic exploitation of the land have turned out to be impermanent. In the interests of both Aboriginal and settler-colonial well-being, the film offers a sympathetic ear to these tales of impermanence, and gently positions them as part of a larger story of country founded in the continuous presence of First Peoples. In this way, the film disrupts the older settler-colonial place narrative, offering, in its final scene, an image of reconciliation in the form of Dawson’s grand-daughter and a descendent of the Djargurtwoorroong people walking together.


Dr Simon Wilmot is the Head of Group for Film, Animation and Performing Arts in Deakin University’s School of Communication and Creative Arts. He is a documentary film maker and lectures in film and television production. He has recently published on TV Sports broadcasting, directed Crescent Under the Southern Cross a documentary on Muslim soldiers in the Australian defence forces for the Department of Veteran Affairs, and is currently producing a short science fiction film, Distant Space using new virtual production methods.

Dr Patrick West is an Associate Professor in Writing and Literature in Deakin University’s School of Communication and Creative Arts. He was the Higher Degree Research Coordinator in the school from 2016 to 2019. A recent creative-arts publication is the short story ‘An Aura Nothing Out of the Ordinary,’ published in Prosopisia (Vol. XIII, No. 2, 2019). With Eleni Bastéa he co-edited a Special Issue of TEXT on Writing | Architecture in 2019 (No. 55) available at

Main image: West & Wilmot, Sisters of the Sun 2014 (Still)

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