Sinem is born to Turkish-Cypriot parents who migrated to Australia in the early 70’s. In High School she was fascinated by the Civil Rights movement in the USA and was soon introduced to the reality in her own country after life changing Legal Studies classes on Aboriginal Deaths In Custody. She went on to study Media, Aboriginal and Legal Studies at RMIT and Latrobe Universities in Melbourne whilst volunteering at her local Aboriginal culture centre in Geelong, Victoria. In 2000, her unyielding interest to find out more about traditional Aboriginal culture led her to move to Darwin where she completed her Secondary Teaching education at Charles Darwin University. It was during this time she made her first trip to N.E Arnhem Land and was adopted into her Yolngu family at Yirrkala, who have been a strong part of her life ever since.
She then returned to Victoria to teach senior Media Studies, where she wrote and taught a dynamic course for Yr. 10, 11 and 12 students looking at stereotyping and representation in the media, and the importance of independent media; always with a strong focus on Indigenous Australians. In 2003, she co-wrote, directed, produced and edited the first feature length film to be made in an Australian school. Casting over 120 students and screening the final film over 3 nights at the local Village cinema.
In 2004, she was invited to join musician Michael Franti on a journey to the Middle East to film and document the human cost of war for his film ‘I Know I’m Not Alone.’ Her experience in Baghdad, Palestine and Israel was hard-hitting, but it reinforced her passion for social justice. Upon returning to Australia, she made the decision to return to N.E Arnhem Land, to teach in community schools and follow her passion for Indigenous rights. She taught at Yirrkala, Maningrida and Galiwin’ku communities as well as various homelands such as Mapuru and Mirrngatja. Elcho Island became her home and here is where she began to truly understand the clash between cultures and the need for uncompromised self-determination. In her spare time, she was invited to film and take photographs of Yolngu life, hunting, ceremonies and stories. Soon she uncovered the quiet maneouvrings of the then Howard Government, making broken promises in return for 99 year leases over community land. When the Northern Territory Intervention hit in 2007, she knew it was her responsibility to help peoples’ voices be heard beyond Arnhem Land, and embarked on the journey of making Our Generation.
Damien is of English-Malaysian ancestry, born in Venezuela and growing up in Europe. He has an MA(Hons) in World Religions from Edinburgh University with a focus on Indigenous religions, and also a Masters in Environment & Development from Cambridge University. For the past 12 years, he has worked on the interface between environmental conservation and indigenous rights, both on the ground and with larger organisations such as UNESCO and The Gaia Foundation. He has worked with Indigenous groups in the Amazon, the Guiana Shield and various parts of Africa, to help them assert their land and cultural rights.
Damien is passionate about using the arts to inspire social change. In 2007 and 2008, as Green Man Arts, Damien was invited to curate and produce the Green Man Stage at the London Mayor’s Thames Festival, the city’s largest free cultural event with over a million festival-goers. As one of the main stages of the festival, the 2-day stage showcased music from around the world combined with inspirational speakers on protecting and celebrating the Earth’s cultural and biological diversity. In July 2007, at a time of transition, Damien met Sinem, fell in love, and after 2 years of long-distance relationship and visits to Australia, he decided to make the move. Drawing from his experiences with Indigenous people elsewhere and his creative mind, he joined forces with her to help make Our Generation. Now resident in Australia, he is deeply committed to inspiring social change in the country with respect to Indigenous rights and environmental protection. He recently created and directs the Stand For Freedom campaign, supporting Aboriginal people’s challenge to the Stronger Futures legislation (Intervention 2).