It was a case that shook a tiny country town in northern NSW – three children disappeared from an Aboriginal Mission on the same street in Bowraville. There has always been one suspect in the murders of Colleen Walker-Craig, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, whose remains and clothes were found off the same dirt road.
The man was acquitted, allegedly due to a botched, racially-biased police investigation. For 30 years, the families of the children have been fighting for a re-trial and justice.
Now, a co-production between Mint Pictures and Jumping Dog Productions is bringing the story to the screen. The Bowraville Murders was due to open in NSW and Victorian cinemas but has been postponed due to lockdowns. The film is screening in cinemas across the rest of the country until 16 September.
The film, which follows the families through the court process, is directed by award-winning journalist and Muruwari and Gomeroi man Allan Clarke.
Multi-award-winning producer Dan Goldberg, who began his career in newspapers and magazines, including as editor of The AJN, joins Stefan Moore who describes himself as “a New York-born, non-practicing Jew who turned into an Aussie bush battler” as co-producers and co-writers. The film is executive produced by Adam Kay and Susan Lambert.
As Clarke says in his Director’s Statement, knowing that three children were snatched and murdered from the same street in a small town within a five-month period should have been enough for national outrage. It should have been enough for their names to be known in households, for the media to pursue the story relentlessly and for the police to do everything in their power to catch the killer. But it wasn’t.
“The truth is, it was not enough, because this is Australia and Colleen Walker-Craig, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup were Aboriginal,” Clarke wrote.
According to Goldberg, Lambert, alongside co-producer Anna Cater, led the successful battles in the court to lift the suppression order on naming the sole suspect. “For the past five years, all media has been banned under law from naming the alleged killer – until now,” Goldberg told The AJN.
Goldberg also made note of the fact that the project was supported financially by many members of the Jewish community.
“The crowdfunding campaign had a significant response from the Jewish community, as well as all like-minded Australians who believe in the power of documentary to tell stories, even ones like this that aren’t comfortable to watch. It drew support specifically from people who understand, and are uncomfortable with, the grave injustices done to First Nations people on their own land.”
The Bowraville Murders is a finalist for the 2021 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, and will be screened during Sydney Film Festival later this year. The winning film will receive a $10,000 cash prize, presented at the Festival’s closing night on Sunday 14 November.
“We are thrilled to once again invite audiences to come together and experience these unforgettable true stories captured and shared by Australia’s very best documentary filmmakers,” Sydney Film Festival Head of Programs & Documentary Programmer Jenny Neighbour said.
“From exposing racism in Australia’s criminal justice system to an evocative reflection on the misogyny endured by our first female Prime Minister, this year’s documentaries will resonate with audiences long after the final credits stop rolling.”
Documentary Australia Foundation CEO Dr Mitzi Goldman said it’s always a joy and honour to share powerful films, celebrating their excellence. “The award that Documentary Australia Foundation gives to the winner in this competition is only a small measure of our appreciation of the commitment, the artistry, the tenacity and resilience of Australian documentary filmmakers,” she said.
“It’s not easy to finance these films, they often take many years to make, they confront traumatic experiences and carry them in profound and poetic narratives to audiences far and wide. I’m proud to have spent my working life in the documentary sector and I thank you all for the dedication and love that you have given to your subjects and your art.”
Due to COVID lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, a virtual screening of The Bowraville Murders will be held on September 4 at 7.30pm, followed by a Q&A with director Allan Clarke, hosted by Stan Grant. Book at bowravillemurdersfilm.com.au
To access screening details, head to bowravillemurdersfilm.com.au/watch/