Women of the Island: The unique stories of Tasmanian women

The unique spirit of Tasmanian women is being celebrated through a new multimedia project.

Women of the Island began in August 2016, and aims to showcase the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary Tasmanian women.

At its foremost, it is a documentary webseries, which will further branch into photo-text profiles and eventually, a hard-cover book. 

It’s the passion project from four Tasmanian women – three film makers and a photographer – and together, they plan to create and release 20 films in the space of two years, plus highlight many more through written and photographed profiles.

Film maker Ninna Millikin said the team saw the project as a “time capsule”.

“A slice of life in the here and now; we think it will be history for the future,” Millikin said.

In a November screening, the project showed three episodes on three very different Tasmanian women: Madeline Wells, a young Aboriginal woman from the North-West; Jenine Olbrich, a sixth-generation cattle farmer from Cygnet who devotes her spare time to her collectables passion; and Julia Drouhin, a French sound performance artist who has found a home and passion in Tasmania.

As part of the project’s creation, the team asked the Tasmanian community for suggestions on women to profile.

Millikin said they had received about 100 nominations, which provided “wonderful” reading material, and a sense of the stories yet to be discovered and told.

“I think the strength of the project is it wasn’t built on just one idea of what is special or extraordinary,” Millikin said.

“What motivates myself and my team members is telling women’s stories and shining a light, or showing the world, all these ‘ordinary’ women who are doing extraordinary things; showing that we have a lot to be proud of in Tasmania, and that we’re very diverse.”

She said the diversity of the state’s women was evident in those first three films.

Millikin said there only tended to be two things that linked the women to each other: their passion, and their connection to place.

Upon approaching the women to begin the subject, Millikin said each handled the proposal differently.

For all of the women, there was a journey in the process, she said.

“We are really honoured that they trusted us with their stories, and grateful that they opened up their lives to us,” she said.

“It was an act of trust or leap of faith on their behalf.”

Since they were released, together the films have been viewed more than 90,000 times, and have been shown love through sharing on social media.

Millikin said that for her, the reward of the project was two-fold: one, in telling the stories of Tasmanian women which may have otherwise gone unheard.

The second: working alongside other passionate Tasmanian women to tell those stories.

As well as Millikin, the team involves film makers Lara van Raay and Rebecca Thomson, and photographer Amy Brown, all of Southern Tasmania.

They each help out in a different way for each film, Millikin said, so each production was a true colloboration.

Thomson is the founding member of the Women of the Island project.

All these ‘ordinary’ women who are doing extraordinary things; showing that we have a lot to be proud of in Tasmania, and that we’re very diverse.

Ninna Millikin, film maker

“As a team, we are women telling women’s stories for the simple reason that we want to celebrate everyday women around us, and to address the historical lack of women’s stories in our culture and the telling of history,” Thomson said.

Thomson said the amount of male lead characters versus female in television shows and films in Australia and the US was always weighted to the former.

She said this unbalance lined-up with the amount of men working as writers, directors and producers in the industry.

“We are creating this project in the belief that it is important to have women telling stories both behind and in front of the camera,” Thomson said.

“And because we are all residents of this lovely island of Tasmania we are in a unique position to be able to tap into the stories of the women who live here.”

To discover Women of the Island and submit your own nominations, visit womenoftheisland.com and facebook.com/womenoftheisland.

  • The project was produced and develop in association with Wide Angle Tasmania through Step-Out Web17