Guided by Indigenous canoemaker Kyle Slabb from the Bundjalung people, a group of young men (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) build traditional canoes and embark on a 3-day sea voyage re-tracing an ancient trade route from the heart of the Queensland Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island.
Upon becoming a father, award-winning author Benjamin Allmon realised he knew nothing of the Indigenous history of his home, the land of the Saltwater People, to teach his son. So he embarked on a voyage of discovery that led him further than he ever expected.
Together with Bundjalung canoemaker Kyle Slabb, veteran paddler Mark Matthews, and the local Indigenous communities, they set out to make traditional canoes that they would then paddle from the heart of the Queensland Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island, a journey not made for over 100 years. But what started as one man’s attempt to educate himself became something far bigger: a hardcover book fully illustrated by renowned Walkely-nominated photographer David Kelly, and this documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jeff Licence.
It is a story of connection – not just between the Saltwater People, but between generations, between black and white, between land, sky and sea.
It is a story of collaboration – whether it is made from bark or dugout, no one makes a canoe alone.
It is a story of co-operation – the paddlers must work together if they are to get anywhere in these shark- infested waters.
And it is a story of continuance – of ancient knowledge now held by just a few, of ensuring that tomorrow’s elders are brought along for the journey today.
The Saltwater Story was made with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Queensland Government, the Gold Coast City Council, and Silver Service Marine.