Writer of comedy series Gnomes, Tegan Higginbotham / Photo by Carlo Zeccola

Screen Australia has announced over $400,000 of Story Development funding for 16 projects including feature films, television and online series. The slate includes a musical comedy about moral corruption in the advertising industry called The Agency, a comedic horror Gnomes centered on grudge bearing garden gnomes in a fictional regional town, and a thought-provoking feature film Misfit to be produced by Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).

“The new development guidelines have now been in action for five months. We drastically reduced eligibility barriers and will now fund projects for any screen platform. We’ve had a fantastic response from the industry and the number of applications we’re receiving per week is steadily increasing,” said Nerida Moore, Head of Development at Screen Australia.

“As well as innovative and exciting projects from established practitioners, we are starting to see new and emerging voices from around Australia coming through. In this funding round I’m particularly delighted to see so many emerging female writers.”

Of the 16 projects receiving funding 11 projects were funded through the Generate fund, two through the Premium fund, and three were funded through the legacy development program (which is no longer operational).

Among the projects funded for development are:

  • Blood Sisters from Mad Dan Productions: An adventure/drama series for online set in Far North Queensland. This thriller follows three teenage girls on the run, bonded by death and united by truth. Blood Sisters has a strong writing team led by acclaimed writer and Story Producer Anthony Mullins (The Strange Calls), along with Kodie Bedford (Mystery Road TV Series), Daniel Mulvihill and Madeleine Dyer. Madeleine and Daniel co-wrote and produced the 2017 online series Sexy Herpes. Stephen Corvini who has worked on dramas including Safe Harbour and Hyde and Seek is on board as executive producer with Enzo Tedeschi (Airlock).
  • Breathing Sea from Midwinter Films: A period melodrama set in a remote Australian coastal town in the 1930’s and 40s. The feature film is told as an unfolding mystery shifting between two time periods and follows a couple of fifty years, Marta, a Jewish Immigrant and Jack, an Australian fisherman and solider, who are confronted by death and challenged by a past secret. Producer Bridget Callow-Wright and director Priscilla Cameron are joining forces once again after The Butterfly Tree which was selected to screen at Toronto International Film Festival in 2017.
  • Finding Sanity from Sandcastle Studios: A feature film about the true story of the man who risked his life to discover the world’s first treatment for mental illness. Dr John Cade was a young Australian doctor who defied the medical establishment to stir up a miracle that changed the world. This biographical drama is based on the book of the same name by Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore. BAFTA-winning screenwriter Mike Bullen who created and is executive producer on Cold Feet is attached as executive producer and AWGIE-winning screenwriter Chris Cudlipp will write and produce this uplifting film.
  • Gnomes from The Two Jons: A character driven comedy with a supernatural twist. The series is written by writer, comedian and actress Tegan Higginbotham (Oddball) and Paul Verhoeven (Steam Punks), with script editing from Marieke Hardy (Laid). Richard Kelly (Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell) and John Molloy (Molly) will produce alongside Joel Kohn who will also direct. Joel created the series, which is inspired by his viral short film Gnomes Attack.
  • Misfit from Made Up Stories: A feature length drama written and directed by emerging writer and director Luci Schroder whose short film Slapper was selected to screen at Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The film follows Heidi, a woman who suffers intensely from trauma-triggered, dissociative identity disorder, and her experience navigating life as she falls through the cracks in a system that is not designed to support her. The film will be produced by Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson and Steve Hutensky who are currently working on the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed crime novel by Jane Harper, The Dry.
  • Splitters from Arcadia: A feminist conspiracy feature film exploring sexism within the cosmetics industry. The all-female creative team comprises of producer Lisa Shaunessy (Killing Ground), executive producer Alexandra Burke, script editor Joan Sauers and writer and director Brooke Goldfinch. Brooke wrote and directed the multi award-winning short film Red Rover and was the recipient of the 2016 Lexus Short Film Fellowship making the short film Outbreak Generation, which was also produced by Lisa Shaunessy and Leonie Mansfield.
  • The Agency from Ambiance Entertainment: An outrageous musical comedy set in a trendy advertising agency, focusing on an artistically-stifled jingle writer Sebastian, his eccentric co-workers and his seemingly endless client list, as he battles for authenticity in a world of facades. The writing team is led by co-creator Joel Slack-Smith (Orange is the New Brown), and includes Emmy Award-winning British writer Roger Drew (The Thick Of ItVeep).
  • The Gathering from Asphodel Films: A six-part teen drama series about a group of disillusioned teens who discover they have been chosen to battle a centuries-old evil simmering within their small town. The series is an adaptation of the successful novel of the same name by author Isobelle Carmody. It is written and directed by Nicholas Verso (Boys in the Trees) and co-written by Craig Irwin, who worked with Nicholas on the fourth series of Nowhere Boys. Kodie Bedford is on board as a writer and recently co-wrote for the teen drama series Grace Beside Me and critically acclaimed series Mystery Road.

Funding approvals for feature films are listed here 

Funding approvals for television and online are listed here 

Funding approvals for titles funded last financial year including The Breathing SeaSplitters, and Finding Sanity are here 

Charges laid over alleged sexual assault of two young girls – SCC Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad

A man will face court today charged over allegedly sexually assaulting two young girls in the Lake Macquarie region.

Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation following reports an eight-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl were sexually and indecently assaulted by a man known to them.

Following further inquiries, detectives, with the assistance of Australian Border Force (ABF), arrested a 59-year-old man at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay about 2.15pm yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

During a search of the man, investigators seized electronic devices and several USB drives.

He was taken to Day Street Police Station where he was charged with two counts of indecent assault person under 16 years of age, and aggravated sexual assault – victim under the age of 16 years.

Police will allege in court the man sexually and indecently assaulted both girls at a property in the Lake Macquarie area in January 2018.

The man was refused bail and is due to appear at Central Local Court today (Tuesday 20 November 2018).


Women in court on pursuit, fraud offences – Port Stephens-Hunter

Police have charged two women with 29 offences following an alleged crime spree across the Port Stephens – Hunter Police District during the past week.

Officers will allege the two women, aged 24 and 27, stole numerous vehicles across the district by posing as interested buyers for vehicles advertised for sale online.

On Thursday 15 November 2018, the women allegedly stole a black Mazda 6 from an address in Bolwarra Heights.

Police will allege that vehicle was used in multiple alleged offences including failing to pay for fuel at a service station at Nabiac yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

Later that same day, the Mazda6 was found damaged on Viney Creek Road, West Tea Gardens; a short time later, a Toyota Hilux was stolen from a home further down the same road.

Police established a perimeter around Viney Creek Road and saw the stolen Hilux travel past. Officers activated warning devices and attempted to intercept the driver but she failed to stop as directed.

A pursuit was initiated with the vehicle followed north on the Pacific Highway; however, due to erratic driving the pursuit was terminated.

Members of the public contacted police to report the driving of the Hilux which enabled police to resume the pursuit when they came across the vehicle on Failford Road, Darawank.

The pursuit continued through Tuncurry and Forster where the women were arrested when their ute was forced to stop due to heavy traffic on the Forster Bridge.

Police arrested the two women and took them to Maitland Police Station where they were charged with a string of offences including steal motor vehicle, police pursuit – not stop – drive manner dangerous, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, aggravated break and enter, drive motor vehicle during disqualification period, having goods in custody suspected of being stolen, and shoplifting.

They were refused bail and will appear in Forster Local Court today (Tuesday 20 November 2018).

Large crowds expected for Newcastle 500, racegoers urged to plan their trip

NSW Police are urging racegoers to plan their trip ahead of time and travel safely on the roads as large crowds are expected for the return of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.

A high-visibility police operation will be in place from Thursday 22 November to Monday 26 November 2018 in Newcastle, for the finale of the Supercars Australia Championship Series.

General duties officers from Newcastle City Police District and across Northern Region, assisted by specialist police, will focus on road safety as well as anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence.

Northern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the event has become a calendar highlight for the City of Newcastle, with over 150,000 spectators expected to visit over the weekend.

“Our number one priority is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to safely enjoy this family-friendly event without disrupting the local community,” Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

“Police will be out in force over the weekend targeting speeding, drink-driving, mobile phone and seat-belt offences, to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely.

“Motorists are urged to drive to the conditions and allow extra travel time as there will be heavy traffic and delays on major and local roads, particularly as crowds arrive on Friday and Saturday, and leave on Sunday and Monday,” Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

Centre for Road Safety Executive Director Bernard Carlon said speeding, drink and drug driving, and fatigue remain the biggest killers on our roads.

“We want everyone to travel safely this weekend, so if you are driving, don’t speed and take a break if you’re feeling tired, and never, ever drive if you’re affected by alcohol or drugs,” Mr Carlon said.

For all special event traffic information, including road closures, special event clearways and live traffic reports, visit:

Further information about the event, including venue maps, transport and parking availability, can be found at:

Man charged over alleged aggravated sexual assault of woman in the Hunter region

A man has been charged by Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad over the alleged aggravated sexual assault of a woman in the Hunter region in September.

Earlier this month, detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation after receiving reports a woman had been sexually assaulted by a man she met on social media.

Following extensive investigations, a 30-year-old man was arrested by detectives at Ryde Police Station just after 4pm yesterday (Monday 19 November 2018).

He was charged with aggravated sexual assault-inflict actual bodily harm on victim.

Police will allege in court that the man attended a home in the Hunter region on Sunday 30 September 2018, and sexually assaulted a 26-year-old woman.

The man has been granted strict conditional bail to appear at Burwood Local Court on Monday 10 December 2018.


Greater choice for Australian women: Women’s Economic Security Statement 2018

The Coalition Government is delivering practical measures to help give women greater choices about their lives, build financial security for themselves and their families, and grow the Australian economy.

Over the past few decades, Australia has taken great strides in improving women’s economic independence and security.

There are more women in work than ever before, with a majority of the more than 1.1 million jobs created since the Coalition came to office taken up by women; this year has also seen women’s participation in the labour market reach record highs – in October 2018, the women’s participation rate was 60.5 per cent; and the gender pay gap is moving in the right direction, down to a record low of 14.5 per cent.

But despite this progress, some problems still persist. Women are likely to earn less than men; they are likely to work part-time at over twice the rate of men; and at retirement age there is a 42 per cent gap in their superannuation balances.

The Women’s Economic Security Statement is built around three key pillars: participation in the workforce, better earning potential and economic independence.

That is why the $109 million Statement is focussed on assisting women at many different points of their lives, in different parts of Australia, and in different circumstances.

It will help equip them with the tools and support they need to make the best choices about their future.

Whether it is boosting entrepreneurship in girls and young women, bringing business together to help reduce the ‘flexibility gap’ and gender pay gap, expanding the parents who can access parental leave payments and the period the payment is taken, or supporting women in their darkest hour with access to the funds they need to escape domestic violence, the Coalition Government is focused on supporting Australian women.

The Women’s Economic Security Statement won’t just give women and their families’ greater choice, it will also grow the Australian economy.

When women do well, their families do well, and our economy and nation prospers.

The Women’s Economic Security Package ($109 million over four years)
Building on strong foundations

The Women’s Economic Security Package is built around three pillars:

  1. Workforce participation
  2. Earning potential
  3. Economic independence

Measures to increase women’s workforce participation
($54.8 million over four y ears):

  • reinstating the Time Use Survey, a contemporary evidence base to measure women’s economic security
  • improvements to Workplace Gender Equality Agency systems to enhance Australia’s gender equality data and reduce the cost of reporting for business
  • establishing the Reducing Barriers to Work Forum
  • increasing flexibility in the Paid Parental Leave system and extending access through changes to the work test
  • supporting regional employers through the Career Revive initiative to develop action plans for their business to attract and retain women returning to work after a career break
  • providing scholarships for women in economics and finance through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program

Measures to improve women’s earning potential
($18.6 million over four years):

  • an expansion of the Curious Minds program
  • establishing a Future Female Entrepreneurs program in partnership with the private sector
  • creating a new grants program, Boosting Female Founders, to ensure women can access the finance they need to achieve their entrepreneurial goals

Measures to support women’s economic independence
($35.6 million over four years):

  • providing Specialist Domestic Violence Units and Health Justice Partnerships, including for financial support services
  • extending early release of superannuation for victims of domestic and family violence
  • expanding the No Interest Loan Scheme run by Good Shepherd Microfinance to women experiencing family and domestic violence
  • funding legal assistance to ensure victims of family violence are protected from direct cross-examination by their perpetrators in family law matters
  • improving the visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings
  • providing family law property mediation
  • establishing a new Small Claims Property pilots program


Today, the Leader of the Opposition has written to the Prime Minister urging him to agree to a bipartisan taskforce, led by the Attorney-General and Shadow Attorney-General, to create a National Integrity Commission.

At the beginning of 2018, Labor announced our plan to legislate for a federal anti-corruption body. All year, the Government has ignored our requests for cooperation.

This issue should be above politics. The time has come for the Liberal and National parties to support a federal anti-corruption body.

A bipartisan process would help ensure the complex consultation and design work can be completed swiftly, and a body established as a priority.

In recent years there has been a loss of public faith in government and Commonwealth institutions. The Liberal Party’s chaos and division have further eroded Australians’ trust in politics.

Labor welcomes the support of members of the cross-bench for a federal anti-corruption body. This provides an opportunity to secure broad parliamentary support to establish a National Integrity Commission before the next election, if Scott Morrison and the Liberals finally come on board.

Mr Morrison delayed the Banking Royal Commission by voting against it 26 times. He should not let his arrogance and stubbornness get in the way of a National Integrity Commission.

Mr Morrison should learn from his mistakes, and join with Labor now so we can work on this issue together.

We are prepared to work with the Liberals, but we will not wait for them.

If Mr Morrison continues to block a National Integrity Commission, a Shorten Labor Government will deliver it.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Greens say Four cents a week for women won’t improve financial security

The Government’s attempt at winning back female support with its women’s economic statement today will fail for its lack of funding and lack of vision, Greens spokesperson for women, Senator Larissa Waters said.

“The women’s economic security statement by the Women’s Minister today contains only minor reforms and pittance of new funding – it equates to a mere four cents per week for adult Australian women. Four cents a week will not fix anything for Australian women.

“The Prime Minister is still nowhere on addressing issues women face, and has been utterly silent on the gender pay gap, rates of domestic violence, and has denied internal bullying of women. His only utterance has been teen-worthy sexualised remarks about Pamela Anderson, for which he still hasn’t apologised.

“Making paid parental leave more flexible is inconsequential when it is still limited to 18 weeks not 6 months, still doesn’t encourage fathers to take more time with their children, and still doesn’t include Super.

“Accessing super early when fleeing DV will still be complex and will simply worsen women’s financial security later in life. And while moves to stop alleged perpetrators cross-examining survivors are welcome, they are long overdue and don’t address the need for vastly more funding so women can access the legal support they need, rather than 40 per cent of callers being turned away.

“What Australian women need to be safe is paid domestic violence leave, a massive funding boost for frontline domestic violence crisis services so no woman is turned away, leadership to drive cultural change so that women are viewed as equals in society, and decent funding for primary prevention of DV.

“What Australian women need to be equal is longer paid parental leave with superannuation, employers to be forced to disclose and close their gender pay gap, equal representation in parliaments and on boards, increased rate of Newstart and for single parents not to be forced onto lower Newstart, affordable and accessible childcare, fairer superannuation taxation, and the right to make decisions about our reproductive health.

“What Australian women need is to not be invisible to Prime Minister Morrison. Get on board or get out of the way,” concluded Senator Waters.

Greens call on PM Scott Morrison to apologise to trans and gender diverse Australians on Trans Day of Remembrance

On this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice acknowledged the importance of the day and paid her respects to the trans and gender diverse people who are no longer with us.

Senator Rice also called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to apologise to all trans and gender diverse Australians for the hurt and damage his past actions have caused.

“This Trans Day of Remembrance I remember the beautiful trans and gender diverse people we have lost because our society refused to celebrate them,” Senator Rice said.

“It is devastating that in Australia and around the world trans and gender diverse people continue to face daily discrimination, violence and vilification.

“Is this any wonder when transphobic, hateful bigots like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have been elected into high office around the world?

“Here in Australia we have a Prime Minister who labelled a program to help teachers support trans and gender diverse kids as ‘gender whispering’, saying we should ‘let kids be kids’.

“These kind of statements from our Prime Minister and elected leaders contribute to trans and gender diverse people suffering worse mental health outcomes than their cisgender peers and the high rate of self-harm and suicide of trans and gender diverse people.

“I call on the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to use today to reflect on the hurt and damage his past actions have caused and apologise to trans and gender diverse Australians.”

Senator Rice also recommitted the Greens to working with the trans and gender diverse community to fight discrimination and realise their rights.

“To trans and gender diverse Australians I say the Greens will always fight alongside you to make your lives easier and safer, so you can thrive and access the health and support services you require.

$51.5 Million Boost to pursue Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Misconduct

The Liberal National Government is providing an additional $51.5 million to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and the Federal Court of Australia to enable further prosecutions of criminal misconduct by banks and other financial institutions and to ensure civil claims are dealt with effectively and expeditiously.

ASIC’s increased enforcement activity, stemming from the additional $70 million in funding from the Liberal National Government, is expected to give rise to more prosecutions by the CDPP and more civil corporate misconduct cases before the Federal Court. This includes cases highlighted by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

As part of this funding boost, an additional $41.6 million will be provided to the CDPP over eight years. This funding will allow the CDPP to consider more prosecutions put forward by ASIC and hire additional prosecutors to manage the increased caseload. This additional funding will also allow the CDPP to prosecute cases faster to ensure individuals and companies that have broken the law face justice sooner.

A further $9.9 million will also be provided to the Federal Court of Australia over four years to fund the appointment of additional resources including two new judges to support civil cases. These appointments will enable the Federal Court to accommodate an increase in disputes with financial institutions as well as civil claims resulting from ASIC’s increased enforcement activity.

The Government has also asked the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) to conduct a review of whether the Federal Court’s criminal jurisdiction should be expanded to include corporate crime. Any criminal prosecutions for misconduct by banks and other financial institutions are currently heard in state courts and hence have to compete with state cases for resources and scheduling. The creation of this additional criminal jurisdiction in the Federal Court would allow these prosecutions to be prioritised and penalties for breaches of the law to be handed out faster. The AGD will consult with relevant stakeholders including the states in undertaking the review and provide its report to the Government in January next year.

Further, the Government will establish a Committee of Regulatory Enforcement Strategy chaired by the Attorney-General’s Department and comprising representatives from the relevant agencies that regulate the financial services sector. These agencies will meet on a regular basis to discuss enforcement matters in the sector and provide feedback to the Government on regulatory and civil enforcement policy.

These initiatives and the additional funding underscore the Liberal National Government’s commitment to ensuring that these agencies and our broader justice system are appropriately resourced to effectively hold banks and other financial institutions to account for misconduct. A strong financial sector which is trusted by Australians is part of the Coalition’s plan for a stronger economy.