Interview: Jannali Jones

Jannali Jones discusses cultural disconnection among Aboriginal individuals and her award-winning play Trail's End

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 4 minutes
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Trail's End
Photo by Cassandra Jones
Published 05 Feb 2024

Cultural and familial disconnection is something many Aboriginal people experience yet it is overlooked by many. Aboriginal people often find themselves walking between two worlds as they navigate their cultural identity and what it means to be an Aboriginal person in modern Australia.

This experience was something award winning Gunai/Kurnai writer Jannali Jones hoped to capture in her latest play, Trail’s End. “I wanted to convey in some way what it's like growing up as an Aboriginal kid who has been disconnected from their culture,” she says. “It's an experience that can be hard to articulate, and I found it difficult to properly wrap my head around until I was well into my 20s.

“Due to a history of dissemination and fragmentation, it's actually a pretty common experience across First Nations peoples of Australia.

“I hope that people feel they understand a little more about the Aboriginal experience – or at least one example of it – and that they can challenge some of the stereotypes they may have been holding, whether consciously or not, about what an Aboriginal person is.”

Trail’s End follows half-brothers Sam, played by Dylan Miller, and Jamie, played by James Goodliffe, as they come to terms with the loss of their mother, exploring issues of family and identity being part of a mixed family. Both brother’s cultural experience and grief has been different with older brother Sam, who is Aboriginal, struggling to reconnect with his culture and have a relationship with his non-Aboriginal family.

“The brothers' cultural experience is in contrast to each other – Jamie went to a private school, Sam didn't. Sam struggled with his home life, Jamie hasn't. Jamie has been a lot more sheltered, whereas Sam almost has a second family who's adopted him and helped him through hard times when his own family didn’t,” Jones explains.

“Jamie feels comfortable enough to go out and explore the world – his identity is shaped more strongly through music than culture – whereas Sam is still stuck second guessing who he is and where he fits into the world,” she says.

The two brothers decide to go on a final camping trip before Jamie goes to university where they reflect on growing up and share secrets with one another. However, Sam is keeping one last secret hidden from his brother and planning to do something he knows is unforgivable.

The one-act play is led by a team of Aboriginal creatives, which Jones said was vital when telling Aboriginal stories. “It's crucial that Aboriginal stories are told by Aboriginal people. Without Aboriginal people being involved, it's not only inauthentic storytelling, but in the past we've seen how it leads to misrepresentation, stereotypes and just plain getting it wrong,” Jones says.

“Most people in Australia haven't even met an Indigenous person, so a lot of what they know about us comes from news media, which tends towards negative coverage.” Jones was also determined to provide opportunities for other Aboriginal creatives and expand the presence of Aboriginal theatre in Adelaide. “Part of my mission in producing this play was to give opportunities to as many local Aboriginal creatives as possible,” she says.

“It was also a way for me to feel out the local scene and work towards building a greater presence of Aboriginal theatre in Adelaide. I'm super proud of all our cast and crew as well – most of whom are emerging in their fields – and hope they can use the play to help them go further in their careers.”

As the only Aboriginal work of its kind in this year's theatre program, SA-based Jones said it was “so special” to share her work with her family here and hopes to see more Aboriginal theatre on offer in the future.


Trail's End, Marion Cultural Centre, and Goodwood Theatre and Studios, until 3 March