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The stories of ‘boat people’ who are now Australian citizens.

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Short films coming soon

Feature Synopsis

Freedom Stories is an exploration of the achievements and struggles of former ‘boat people’. Now Australian citizens, they arrived seeking asylum from the Middle-East around 2001 – a watershed year in Australian politics sparked by the Tampa affair and Prime Minister John Howard’s declaration: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”. Some were only children when they found themselves in indefinite mandatory detention in remote places such as Woomera or Nauru and then placed on temporary protection visas, which extended their limbo for years. It has taken astonishing resilience and over a decade for them to build secure lives and start contributing to their new country. These are ordinary people who found themselves caught up in the extraordinary consequences of political brinkmanship but have long since dropped out of the media spotlight. They live among us now and given the Government’s boast that it has ‘stopped the boats’ it is time for their voices to be heard.

Quotes from Audiences and Reviewers:
“Uplifting and inspiring”
“Deceptively complex”
“Exudes humanism from every pore”
“Warms the heart sometimes and enrages us at others”
“An amazing pastiche of unique characters”
“Both timely and fascinating”
“A thoughtful, quietly involving documentary”


Feature Screenings


How to Host a Screening

We have a range of flexible options for people to see the film and groups to host screenings:

Community groups that wish to host a screening in a venue eg church/town hall/cafe (not a cinema), with either no charge or a gold coin donation to cover costs, can buy a screening copy here for $75. Screen from Bluray or DVD.

Other groups or institutions (such as councils) that wish to run public screenings please email to negotiate a screening fee.

Ticketed screenings, eg for fund or awareness-raising, are charged a screening fee, which is negotiated dependent on the circumstances, size of the venue etc. The host will need to find a screening location and organise the logistics of projection and ticketing. Email for more information.

Screening in your local cinema is easy! Book a screening through FanForce a cinema-on-demand platform that takes care of the logistics of ticketing and booking the cinema.

Whichever of these options you choose, we can help with publicity material and with promoting the screening on social media and our website.

Contact us if you have any queries

FanForce is a cinema on demand platform, a new way to watch films in the cinema. Whether you’d like to request a group booking and see Freedom Stories in your local cinema OR if you want to host screenings yourself, then FanForce can make it happen. There is no charge to host a screening and the host can even earn a percentage of the box office!

How does FanForce work?

Go to and select FANFORCE A SCREENING NOW, then enter your preferred cinema, date & time.
You can also contact us and discuss any questions:

Promote your screening to your networks and on social media, FanForce can help promote it too. Everyone books a ticket in advance on the FanForce website. If enough fans reserve tickets, then your screening is confirmed. If it doesn’t get the numbers required, then the event can try again later and no-one loses any money.

FanForce organises the screening event with the cinema. All everyone has to do is turn up and enjoy!

If you’d like to request a screening with a Q & A from the filmmakers, or other people associated with the film, include that request on the booking form and if it is logistically possible, we’ll get there!

Click here for more information on FANFORCE:

Director’s Statement


Steve Thomas

I first began meeting asylum seekers while making ‘Welcome to Woomera’ (2004). I got to know detainees from the Woomera Detention Centre who were then in community detention but ‘for their own protection’ the Immigration Department would not allow them to tell their stories on film.

My next film ‘Hope’ (2008) featured the late Amal Basry, who survived the SIEV X people smuggling disaster in 2001 only to die from cancer five years later in Melbourne. Amal refused to be silenced about her experiences and in travelling around Australia with the film I met more former asylum seekers, who had all been through the experience of Australia’s unique system of indefinite mandatory detention followed by Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs were abolished in 2007 but recently reinstated).

I decided to collaborate with some of these people in telling positive stories about their contributions as new Australian citizens to our society. Rather than making a ‘political’ film I simply wanted to introduce former asylum seekers to audiences that may never have met a ‘boat person’, because my experience was completely counter to the negative labelling and scapegoating that predominates in the ‘refugee debate’.

As I embarked on this journey I soon realised that for many it had taken the better part of a decade to get their lives back on track and to start achieving something. To reap the benefit of hindsight I decided to work with participants who arrived in detention around 2001 – the controversial period of the Tampa, the ‘children overboard’ affair and the Howard Government’s ‘Pacific solution’.

My starting point for filming was ‘what these people are doing now’ but as I got to know them it became apparent that in one way or another most remain deeply affected by their experiences of the double ‘limbo’ of detention and TPVs. I was struck by the direct correlation between the psychological damage done and the time spent in detention and on TPVs, as well as age on arrival. So this became a film not just about our shared humanity and the enthusiasm and resilience of people compelled to seek a new home, but about how they are facing past traumas for which we all share some responsibility.

The feature documentary includes a dozen participants who were happy to collaborate with us. They are from a range of Middle-Eastern backgrounds, reside across four states, and some were children when they arrived. They spent between several months and several years in detention and most spent several years on TPVs. Altogether we filmed with around twenty participants and those not included in the feature are the subjects of six more short films. Each has a story and with the Federal Government claiming to have ‘stopped the boats’ it is time those stories were heard


There are many ways to contribute to the Freedom Stories Project:

We are very grateful for all donations we have received so far, and they have come in all sizes, from a few dollars to larger grants. Every donation received from now on will contribute to our ongoing outreach and educational work around Australia. Our aim is to screen the film to as many Australians as possible, but this takes resources and expertise. All donations are tax deductible if made via our page on the Documentary Australia Foundation website.

One of the best ways to help and participate in this project is to put your hand up to host a screening. Not only will you help to get the word out that refugees and former asylum seekers are contributing to our community, you will enjoy watching the film with your friends, family and community.
Go to the host a screening section of the website to see how easy it is to host a screening, and to find out about the flexible range of screening options we have developed.

Anyone can register to be on our mailing list and it is a great way to stay in touch with future screenings and events. We always need interested supporters who are willing to spread the word about future screenings among their own networks.


Please get in touch if you would like to host a screening, or if you have a question about Freedom Stories.

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