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Ronin Films

First Nations


Year: 2017

Classification: Exempt - Ronin Recommends: PG

Runtime: 55 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Jeff Licence

Produced By: Benjamin Allmon

Language: English

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Vimeo on demand

Guided by Indigenous canoemaker Kyle Slabb from the Bundjalung people, a group of young men (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) build traditional canoes and embark on a 3-day sea voyage re-tracing an ancient trade route from the heart of the Queensland Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island, a journey not made for over 100 years.

70km, 3 days, 2 canoes,

one unforgettable adventure.

Upon becoming a father, award-winning author Benjamin Allmon realised he knew nothing of the indigenous history of his home, the land of the Saltwater People, to teach his son. So he embarked on a voyage of discovery that led him further than he ever expected.

Together with Bundjalung canoemaker Kyle Slabb, veteran paddler Mark Matthews, and the local Indigenous communities, they set out to make traditional canoes that they would then paddle from the heart of the Queensland Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island, a journey not made for over 100 years.

What started as one man's attempt to educate himself became something far bigger: a book, and a documentary film.

It is a story of connection – not just between the Saltwater People, but between generations, between black and white, between land, sky and sea.

It is a story of collaboration – whether it is made from bark or dugout, no one makes a canoe alone.

It is a story of co-operation – the paddlers must work together if they are to get anywhere in these shark- infested waters.

And it is a story of continuance – of ancient knowledge now held by just a few, of ensuring that tomorrow's elders are brought along for the journey today.



The Saltwater Story is a superbly illustrated book written by Benjamin Allmon, with 177 photos by photographer David Kelly which illuminate Allmon's account of a journey rarely afforded outsiders. The book is published by Cairn Tor Books, 2018.

Director, cinematographer, editor Jeff Licence
Producer Benjamin Allmon

Music Kyle Slabb, Benjamin Allmon, Corrina Bonshek

Canoemaker Kyle Slabb
Veteran Paddler Mark Matthews
Paddlers: Benjamin Allmon, Jarulah Slabb, Kyle Matthews, Banahm Slabb, Bijang Slabb, Malachi Urquart, Brandon Matthews, Travis Simon

With Robert Anderson, Quandamooka Elder
Josh Walker, Quandamooka Songman
Che Walker, Quandamooka Musician

Supported by the Australian Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland, Gold Coast City Council and Silver Service Marine

© Tiger Monkey Productions