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WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland released


He questioned whether the investment in Nobbys, both time and effort, would actually pay off. 

Like any true artist, Glenn Dormand, aka Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab, worried it was a landmass that was only sentimental for a small minority, its appeal not stretching beyond a select few. 

That was, he says, until he met Penny Cecil, the woman who spent her childhood living atop the iconic Newcastle landmark. 

And, then it all changed. 

“There were so many times during the filming that I thought, ‘Is anyone going to actually care about this rock?’” Glenn says. 

“I mean it’s a knob that appears to be sticking out of the ocean weirdly between the port and an idyllic sandy beach.” 

The answer comes in the first few seconds of the latest installment of ‘Stories of our Town’ – the collection of free documentaries produced by musician, historian, director and TV personality Chit Chat von Loopin Stab (Dormand) and Tony Whittaker of Carnivore Films. 

“Nobbys to me is Newcastle”.

“Nobbys is the icon for Newcastle.”

“It’s part of the landscape, it’s part of its history, it’s part of the DNA of our city.” 

“There’s not one person that ever visits here that doesn’t take their picture in front of this landform.”

“It’s Whibayganya, it’s not Nobbys, it’s a site of story and of significance to Aboriginal people.” 

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland

Thats the mash-up of voices that signals the start of the film. 

While visually we, as viewers, are being treated to a collage of the nobbly rock formation on postcards, black and white photography, and drawings, audibly we are being introduced to the voices of Novocastrians that will share their connection to it for the remainder of the 30-minute documentary. 

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland is a glimpse at the connection Newcastle has with its most iconic landmass. 

From the eyes of a collection of Novocastrians, the film’s creators have explored its historic, cultural, and geological past, right through to its current pop status. 

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland

Steeped in history, the headland proves to have its own cult-like following, as well as its own myths and legends, with barely a year passing when it does not feature in the news cycle. 

“The first moment I thought there was some humanity to this rock, was when Penny described spending her childhood living at the top of Nobbys,” recalls Glenn.

“Her dad was the signal man and her and her siblings lived up there for most of their lives.

“When she started telling us stories about what it was like to live there I thought, this is something special.

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland

“I thought we’d be asked to remove the stories about her family’s partying up there, but I think most people just thought ‘that’s so Newcastle’.” 

Dormand and his crew have been meticulous when it comes to capturing the many voices within the film, and the crispness of sound adds an extra layer of enjoyment. 

A local Aboriginal, a former pro-surfer, nearby residents, historians, a surveyor, geologist, ship captain and harbour master all have a say, each offering a unique take on a site that holds sentiment to each of its admirers. 

“It’s a geographical feature, instantly recognisable to anyone who’s been in Newcastle, or knows Newcastle,” says Greg Ray. 

“It’s our Opera House, it’s our Harbour Bridge,” adds Gionni Di Gravio OAM.

The Stories of Our Town Film Project has made 21 documentaries about Newcastle and the Hunter region over the past four years.

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland

Five of these films have been successfully added to major streaming services including Foxtel, Binge, SBS and NITV.

In 2022 the project was highly-commended for its productions at The National Trust Heritage Awards for its services to education.

As the 19th instalment of the four-year project, this is one of the most “educational” for me.  

I’m almost ashamed to admit it’s the first time I was hearing many of the stories that make up this history of this unique site.

And, it was a learning feast accentuated by the many accompanying photos, anecdotes, angles and educators.

Underground tunnels, plans to blow up Nobbys, ghost tales of convict women left to die, a kangaroo that can cause earthquakes.

The fact that NASA knows Nobbys by its two names, that its formation is to blame for Stockton’s erosion issues.

WHIBAYGANBA, The Story of Nobbys Headland

Sea foam, large surfable waves, grounded ships, the only lighthouse owned by the Commonwealth – there’s so much to take in during the 30-minute film.

As a fairly new addition to the city, I was particularly fond of the crispness of the sound throughout, the voices, the Newcastle accent, the nuances that are so Newy, the humour, the honesty, the sometimes bluntness, the unapologetic unashamedness. 

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it’s free, so I for one will be watching it again and again.

“This is a love letter from Newcastle to Nobbys,” says Glenn. 

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