Scar trees of Lake Boort the subject of documentary

One of Australia’s most significant Aboriginal heritage sites has captured the attention of a documentary filmmaker.

Bill Code is working on The Lake of Scars, a documentary on the scar trees around Lake Boort and the efforts to preserve them.

The area around Lake Boort contains Australia’s highest concentration of scar trees: trees from which Aboriginal people stripped bark to make canoes, shelters and tools.

“It’s an undeniable link to our past, our present, and it’s a story we need to share, towards our future,” Jida Gulpilil, Yung Balug clan member and educational tour operator, said.

Mr Gulpilil said the site was important for both its cultural heritage and environmental value, both of which put it on par with the more famous Kakadu National Park and Lake Mungo.

Cultural heritage, he said, added value to the environment, the township, and the future of the area’s young people.

But threats from environmental events and human activity are why the Yung Balug and members of the Boort community are working towards protecting the site.

Eventually, Mr Gulpilil said, it was hoped the area would become an internationally-recognised cultural heritage site, with a “keeping place” for artefacts, including bark etchings currently in the British Museum.

With traditional owners and the community working towards the same goal, a theme of reconciliation is also threaded throughout the film.

It was in 2013, while visiting the area reporting another story, that Mr Code met local historian Paul Haw and was shown the scar trees, an experience that left him “blown away”.

After two years of work, Mr Code is realising his ambition to report on the scar trees, but he hopes to garner financial support from the public to finish it.

He said he had spent a “small fortune” of his own money in a bid to complete the film before the scar trees were lost.

“I hope this documentary can make Australians of all backgrounds… realise that we have some amazing history under our noses,” Mr Code said.

Mr Gulpilil said the film would serve an important educational role, helping people understanding the importance of land and water management in protecting the trees and rejuvenating the natural environment.

For more information or to contribute to the project, visit the Documentary Australia Foundation website.