New 'Fighting to Farm' documentary tells tale of Soldier Settlers on Kangaroo Island

A documentary that chronicles the remarkable pioneering feats of returned World War II soldiers on Kangaroo Island is soon to complete filming.

The one-hour documentary will tell the story of how the Soldier Settlers and their wives created productive farmland in some of the most isolated locations on Kangaroo Island.

"Fighting to Farm" was produced and directed by KI filmmakers Daniel Clarke and Amy Pysden, helped by a team of aspiring island filmmakers under the banner of Ad Hoc Docs.

The team at their production company Ad Hoc Docs this week released a three-minute preview of the film to mark ANZAC Day: https://vimeo.com/409136250

Clarke and Pysden's other production company Ninti Media has been responsible for several groundbreaking documentaries.

Most people today know KI for its vibrant tourism reputation, but few know its farming history.

Many of the farms damaged in the recent Black Summer fires were founded by returned servicemen after WWII as part of a nationwide repatriation scheme called the War Service Land Settlement Scheme.

Ad Hoc Docs and the Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum have sourced funding to tell the remarkable story of these servicemen.

Often still recovering from battle, the Diggers bought their families to an unfamiliar island where they lived in a basic camp for years while they worked to clear the virgin scrub.

The scheme created farms and the families created communities.

Fighting to Farm includes revealing interviews with surviving Soldier Settlers, including Dudley Roberts, Des Johnston and Cec Harris, as well as Ivy Wooton, who arrived on the Island with her husband Tom.

The Parndana East Camp site was destroyed in the recent fires.

The Parndana East Camp site was destroyed in the recent fires.

Sadly, many of the original farmhouses and two community centres were razed in the January fires.

The people of KI are determined to continue the spirit of those settlers and rebuild their lives and communities.

"Their pioneering commitment is a legendary tale of sacrifice and survival that created a world renowned agricultural industry on KI," director Daniel Clarke said.

"We feel privileged to be able to tell this story at this moment in history. We hope the film can act as a form of healing for local residents and assist in further fundraising efforts."

Clarke said the team at Ad Hoc Docs has been providing work experience for aspiring young Kangaroo Island filmmakers Isaac Doman, Jemma Mcgowan and Cobey Hann, as well as contracting local drone pilot David Rhodes for aerial footage.

The video production has been made possible through a grant from the History Trust of South Australia, the Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum and Executive Producer Johanna van de Woestijne at US-based Coriolis Films.

"The documentary will be completed later this year and the team at Ad Hoc Docs looks forward to working cooperatively with the Kangaroo Island community at this difficult time," Clarke said.

"We will be posting regular updates on our Facebook page in the coming months."

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