Darlene Johnson, an Australian Aborigine of the east-coast Dunghutti people of NSW, was born in Sydney. As a child Darlene loved hearing her mother's stories of life as a performer in the travelling sideshows of the pre-television Australia of the 1950s. Her Mum's colourful tales of adventures as "Obelia the Mermaid, " who could "eat, drink and smoke underwater " fired the young Darlene's imagination. And although the sideshow life-style was by then long gone Darlene knew she would be part of the bright lights of showbusiness! Somehow! She also credits the George Street cinema for her love affair with film, "It was the place I went everyday after school while my mother worked two jobs. The cinema quickly became my de facto babysitter and my cinematic pre-school!"
Her career as writer/director started with the internationally acclaimed short film "Two Bob Mermaid" in 1996, a story inspired by her mother's experiences of growing up under the assimilation period of the 1950s. It deals with the effects of racism on a fair-skinned Aboriginal teenager, and struck a chord nationally and internationally. Darlene has continued exploring themes of race, identity and perception in both documentary and fiction, from "Stolen Generations" which was nominated for an international EMMY Award, to "Stranger in my Skin", "The Making of Phillip Noyce's 'Rabbit-Proof Fence', " Gulpilil-One Red Blood", a biography of the iconic actor David Gulpilil, to her supernatural fictional drama "Crocodile Dreaming" which featured the first-time pairing of legendary Aboriginal actors David Gulpilil and Tom E Lewis, and her poetic and moving portrait, "River of No Return," about the complexities of living in a remote Indigenous community. "River" was chosen as the opening film at Imaginative Film Festival in 2008.
Darlene has recently been producing documentaries for the Message Stick series at the ABC TV. In late 2013, Darlene completed writing, directing and co-producing the independent doco, "The Redfern Story" a TV hour which was broadcast in 2014 on the ABC TV for Naidoc week. She has just completed her short film "Bluey" as part of the Springboard initiative which had its premiere at the 2015 Sydney Film festival and won best screenplay in a short film. It has also been accepted into MIFF 2015. She is currently developing two feature films, "Baru" and "Obelia". Phillip Noyce is attached as the EP for "Obelia".