The Lake of Scars, a new documentary about Aboriginal heritage, the environment and reconciliation, was the only Australian film competing at the international Antenna Festival in Sydney this summer.

The film, six years in the making, faced a range of challengers from around the world in the category of best feature.

Hosted by Dja Dja Wurrung actor Uncle Jack Charles, The Lake of Scars details the relationship between a non-Indigenous farmer and members of Victoria’s Yung Balug clan of the Dja Dja Wurrung, as they seek to protect Australia’s largest collection of scarred trees.

Jida Gulpilil, son of legendary late Yolngu actor David Gulpilil, shares the story of the dozens of scarred trees, middens and stone scatters on his mother’s Country on the edge of the Victorian Mallee.

Mr Gulpilil, a talented musician, also scored the film, in collaboration with composer David Bridie. Dja Dja Wurrung language features strongly in the score.

Director Bill Code, a former Al Jazeera and Guardian Australia journalist, worked closely with members of the Yung Balug clan on the film; with Gary Wyrker Milloo Murray as executive producer and Ngarra Murray as cultural advisor.

“I’m so proud to have been supported by members of the community, both Black and white, as they underwent what is actually a really challenging process”, Mr Code said.

With organic relics – hundred-year-old scarred and dying trees – at its heart, the film examines the preservation of culture and environment as the protagonists fight for scarred trees to be preserved, middens and stone scatters to be protected and recognised, environmental flows of water to be allowed into the seasonal lake, and for a keeping place to be built.

The film, which also deals with the return of sacred artefacts and remains to Country after years in private hands, received funding support from the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Association, Eucalypt Australia and others.


There will be a Q & A Tonight, Friday May 13, with Wonnarua archaeologist Scott Franks and Mr Code after the 6.30pm screening of the film at Randwick Ritz, Randwick, New South Wales.