Finding Place (2006)

In most traditional Aboriginal communities boys aged between 11 to 16 years are taken from their mothers and are initiated through a series of ceremonies into manhood. They are taught their traditional songs and shown the dances that are associated with it. When they return from “bush camp” they are considered men, with all the rights, privileges and respect traditionally associated with their position.

Within the white community men are considered boys until they are 18 years old and manhood is exemplified by the size of your pay packet.

Finding Place explores the issues surrounding ceremonially initiated men as they deal with the daily duality of their social standing, both within the Aboriginal and mainstream Australia.

How do you “Act like a man” when mainstream society insists you’re still a boy and your male role models often seem just as lost as you are?

How do you find your place when you’re torn between two very different societies?

Director: Trisha Morton-Thomas
24 minute documentary
Nganampa Anwernekenhe Series 19


This is not the film I wanted to make. It is a far cry from the original story Idea, but like most documentaries the story kind of grows in its own organic path. No, this is not the film I wanted to make; it’s a hell of a lot better!

In Australian media and society, Aboriginal men are constantly attacked for being drunk, lazy and violent. Barely ever are they given a voice, barely ever are they given an opportunity to express their personal struggles.

My initial concern for this story was that I might run up against some opposition from my elders, after all, the subject of male initiation is a closed door for women. After discussing the idea with many of my elders, both male and female, I managed to convince them that this film would not touch on the actual initiation process, but rather tell of the struggle that very young initiated men have with the wider community in being recognised as men and how that struggle contributes to their behaviour and personal self esteem.

Originally I wanted to explore the coping mechanisms of young Initiated Aboriginal men who were still, according to Australian law “boys”. I wanted to know how these young men cope with the mantle of manhood when they’re still too young to have a tax file number and are still required by law to attend school. How do they fulfil the role of men in traditional Aboriginal society and live up to all the expectations that come with that role when male role models are few and far between and mainstream society is disinclined to embrace these “boys” as men.

It became clear from the very first interview that this film was going to rebel against all the expectations I held for it. Regardless of how hard I struggled to maintain my original story Idea, the film thwarted my every turn. It took on a life of its own and told its own story….A story about initiated men, both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal from different tribes who have a common thread, a brotherhood, bound by ceremony and bonded by ancient lore.



Stefan Dick
Peter Bartlett
Micha Bartlett
Tommy Morton
Joshua Morton

Director - Trisha Morton Thomas
Director of Photography - Jason Ramp/Robyn Nardoo
Sound Recordist - Dena Curtis
Editor - Dena Curtis
Translators - Patsy Morton
Sound Post Production - Mike Gissing

Special Thanks

Mitch Torres
Alice Springs High School
Milner Road Foodland
Alice Springs Town Council
Patsy Morton
Peter Thomas
Richard Morton
Levi Thomas
Domonic Le Souef
Janey Briscoe
Valancia Garner

Production Assistants

Keith Skinner
Curtis Marriott
Brett Appo

Series Producer - Barbara Clifford
Executive producer - Rachel Clements