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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lycett and Wallis: filmmakers launch latest Stories of our Town

A convicted forger, an unlikely friendship and a behind-the-scenes look at a previously unrecorded culture. These are the enticing ingredients set to feature within a Newcastle filmmaking duo’s latest venture, to be released Friday.

Lycett and Wallis: Unlikely Preservers of Aboriginal Knowledge is the fourth installment of the dozen  ‘Stories of Our Town’ series and follows The Star Hotel, BHP, and The Scott Sisters.

The 38-minute film offers snippets of Aboriginal life and culture in Newcastle and the Hunter Region through the illustrations of convict artist Joseph Lycett and his sponsor Newcastle Commandant Captain James Wallis.

Set in the years between 1815 and 1818, the film covers the timeline in which Lycett was sentenced to Newcastle for forging bank notes in his homeland.

film crew
Filmmakers Tony Whittaker (left) and Glenn Dormand interviewing Australian Museum’s Vanessa Finney.

Filmmaker Glenn Dormand, aka Chit Chat Von-Loopin Stab, says the film offers a unique insight into the city’s early settlement.

“Before the existence of cameras, convict Joseph Lycett captured traditional Aboriginal life in Newcastle as it had existed for millennia, at the nexus point before most of their lifestyle would be lost forever,” he says. 

“This is a wild tale that every Novocastrian needs to know.”

 The films are the brainchild of former Machine Gun Fellatio frontman Dormand, together with Carnivore Films’ Tony Whittaker.

The pair has gifted the series to the people of Newcastle.

Joseph Lycett Corroboree painting. Painted in Wickham with Nobby’s in the background.

The main aim of the films, Dormand says, is to entertain and possibly educate.

“We want to add new light on stories people already know and hopefully discover stories people don’t know,” he says.

This latest film taught Dormand something new about his hometown.

“[Lycett and Wallis] captured a time pre-colony, before we destroyed Aboriginal culture. Yeah, I really enjoyed this one.

“The first time a European was tried, convicted and hung for the murder of an Aboriginal was right here in Newcastle.

“The story of Joseph Lycett has really blown me away.”

The film covers aspects of Aboriginal life in Newcastle at the time including a legal system, sports, clothing, funeral ceremonies and food production.

For local Awabakal man Shane Frost, who features in the film, Lycett’s drawings offer a snapshot into Aboriginal life before white settlement.

“I’m not looking at these pictures like other people look at them,” he said.

“I’m looking at my relatives. These are like family albums. That’s why Lycett is so important to Awabakal people.”

For University of Newcastle archivist Gionni DiGravio, the film offers a glimpse into a history unlike any place in the world.

“In 1816, in one of the most brutal colonies in the world, two mens lives crossed paths and, in the most inexplicable set of circumstances, created an art explosion,” he says.

“It can’t be overstated that what these two men captured at the time is unique. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Lycett and Wallis: Unlikely Preservers of Aboriginal Knowledge will be available for viewing at the Stories of Our Town website from Friday 7 May.

Newcastle Weekly readers can watch the trailer here:

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