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My Survival As An Aboriginal: NFSA Digital Restoration

49m Documentary, History, Indigenous 1978

The groundbreaking documentary by activist Essie Coffey about the hardships faced by Indigenous Australians and their struggle for cultural survival.

In My Survival As An Aboriginal, Murrawarri woman, musician and activist Essie Coffey documents the hardships faced by First Nations Australians and their continuing struggle for cultural survival. She gives the children lessons on Aboriginal culture, speaking of the importance of teaching them about their traditions. Otherwise, Aboriginal children are in danger of forgetting about their heritage because they are being taught white culture instead. My Survival As An Aboriginal was directed by Essie Coffey in collaboration with non-Aboriginal filmmaker Martha Ansara. It was the first documentary directed by a First Nations Australian woman and one of the first films where an Indigenous Australian was directly involved in deciding how their community would be represented.

The NFSA Restores program is the National Film and Sound Archive’s premiere film restoration activity which digitises, restores and preserves, at the highest archival standards, classics and cult films so they can be enjoyed by contemporary and future audiences.


Essie Coffey


Martha Ansara


Essie Coffey


Alec Morgan





Bonus Content

Introduction My Survival As An Aboriginal


Curator of the Buwindja Collection, Gillian Moody shares what inspired her to select My Survival As An Aboriginal. She invites you to engage, explore, reflect on and Buwindja (remember) these exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and stories. 

In Conversation


Gillian Moody, Curator of Buwindja, sits down with Pauline Clague, filmmaker and Associate Professor, Jumbunna, UTS, as they take a deep dive into the rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling in screen culture. They reflect on how the films in the Buwindja Collection showcase eras of change in filmmaking with fascinating insights into the dramatic shift from stories being told about First Nations peoples to Indigenous filmmakers telling their own stories. As Pauline powerfully states, it is now the case that ’Nothing about us without us’”.  

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The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia acknowledges Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live and gives respect to their Elders both past and present. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings and/or text.