Karrabing Film Collective

Solidarity and Satire Against Settler Colonialism
A media collective using video and installation to communicate issues of environmental devastation, land restrictions, racism, and economic exploitation, and a sense of heritage and cultural resistance to these issues.


Climate damage and social inequity intersect with devastating consequences in Australia’s Northern Territory, where Aboriginal people have faced decades of neo/colonial violence and socioeconomic marginalisation. Matters have worsened with environmental devastation caused by mining and tourism.


In the face of such devastation, Karrabing Film Collective works as an Indigenous media group that uses filmmaking to document neocolonialist racism whereby Australia’s government, with its white settler mentality, sells Indigenous lands to mining companies and undermines Indigenous culture, rights, and capabilities.

The Collective’s videos satirise obstacles that members face in interacting with corporate and state powers. Shot on handheld cameras or phones, videos are made in intentionally accessible ways that forego expensive film equipment or expertise. Videos are sometimes accompanied by drawings or maps – for example, Karrabing recently combined the production of a film with the digital mapping of a network of rock weirs and shell middens damaged by erosion and climate change, with the goal of creating a cultural heritage area. Karrabing’s understanding of heritage challenges amnesiac accounts of Australian history that begin with white settlers. Its projects extend backwards into deep ancestral and planetary time, and expose the shared extractive mentalities of settler colonial government and contemporary mining industries.

Beyond such outputs, Karrabing’s organisation is an important example of a highly interdisciplinary and politicised practice of mutual aid. Karrabing means “low tide” in the Emmiyengal language, and refers to a fluid form of collective organisation freed from the Australian government and its strictures around land ownership. The collective comprises some thirty extended family members whose ancestral lands stretch across the coastline of the Cox Peninsula. Members speak five languages between them but consider themselves one family or “mob”.1Elizabeth A. Povinelli, ‘The Rise of an Indigenous Europe and the Genealogies of Indigeneities.’ Berliner Festspiele, Media Library, Gropius Bau (2022)<https://mediathek.berlinerfestspiele.de/en/gropius-bau/journal/der-aufstieg-eines-indigenen-europas-und-die-genealogien-der-indigenitaeten> [accessed 15 November 2022]. Karrabing’s videos speak of injustices, often through parodic reenactments of bureaucratic tangles that expose issues of racism and climate damage to audiences worldwide. Members often accompany their films on tour to present their way of life as a challenge to extractive capitalism’s status quo. The collective’s approach emphasises belonging to each other, the land, and the more-than-human beings who travel across it. The north American anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli is the group’s only non-Indigenous member, and trained in anthropology to help the group fight for recognition: the Australian Land Act requires that Indigenous groups provide a lawyer and anthropologist in order to formally seek recognition.2Elizabeth A. Povinelli. Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), p. 22. As Povinelli explains, resisting extractive capitalisms logic of separation and exploitation, “Karrabing seeks to hold in place a… relationality… summarized in the creole phrase, ‘roanroan and connected’, which essentially means ‘One’s own because of its connection to others’”.3Povinelli, ‘The Rise of an Indigenous Europe’.