On the 29th July 2014 Glen Turner, an Environment Protection Officer, was shot three times and died by the side of a deserted country road at Croppa Creek near Moree. Two men walked away from the scene: the killer and a sole witness. They would meet again in the Sydney Supreme Court, in a criminal case that touched the lives of many including Glen Turner’s life partner Alison, their two children, his sister Fran, friends and colleagues, and members of the local farming community.
Cultivating Murder is both a personal story of those affected by Glen Turner’s killing, and an exploration of the wider political implications of the murder, in the context of proposed changes to Australia’s environmental protection laws.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Land clearing is a major source of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing approximately 12 percent to Australia’s total emissions. It contributes to higher temperatures, decreased rainfall and more intense droughts. Most state governments have legislated to reduce land clearing and replanting trees has become a major plank in Australia’s greenhouse strategy. Despite this many farmers and some state governments are trying to wind back the legislation to make land clearing easier. This will lead to an increased rate of habitat destruction and species extinction.
WHY WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
Film Projects and Sensible Films have been producing award-winning television and cinema documentaries for over twenty-five years. We believe this film can put a spotlight on land clearing practices that will generate valuable debate and discussion. We have been funding this production ourselves and we now need some cash to finish it. The film has the unqualified support and participation of Glen Turner’s family and we need your support to tell the story in the most effective way possible. Even if we reach our target don’t not donate because your support will be put to good use in making a better film. We really appreciate any assistance you can offer.
Writer/Director Gregory Miller first heard about Glen Turner’s murder when he read a newspaper article in June 2014 Horrified by what had happened he decided to approach Glen’s family about the possibility of telling their story.
Filming “under the radar” while the case was sub-judice, Greg interviewed Turner’s widow Alison and sister Fran before and during the two-month trial. He also filmed residents of the local community to construct a picture of the pressures facing local farmers. Through interviewing environmental experts, such as Turner’s colleagues in the Department of Environment and Heritage, Greg learnt what is happening in regional Australia and what is at stake.
As a compliance officer, Glen Turner’s job brought him into conflict situations similar to those that police deal with on a daily basis. In the film Glen’s job is described as being an “environment cop”: he investigated, gathered evidence and reported on alleged breaches of the Native Vegetation Act. The accused Ian Turnbull and his extended family had been conducting extensive illegal land-clearing in the Moree district and were well known to Greg.
It is unusual for environmental issues to be introduced as evidence in a Supreme Court murder trial but they are pertinent in this case. The trial charted the growing divide between the goals of industrial-scale farming and those of environmental protection. The defence claimed that the Native Vegetation laws were confusing, badly drafted and hard for farmers to follow, and that this led to a build-up of frustration which in turn led to depression and “mental impairment”. Turnbull, claimed that the act of killing was therefore the result of “extreme provocation”.
The trial exposed Turnbull’s sense of entitlement, a belief that traditionally things have been done a certain way and that no one has the right to interfere with or regulate the way farming is practiced. In June 2016 the jury rejected Turnbull’s defence, as did the judge. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to 35 years prison with a minimum non-parole period of 24 years. The judge found that there was no confusion about the law and that Turnbull’s actions were motivated by his plans to fully industrialise his farming methods and increase his land values by illegally clearing vegetation.
Over the past twenty years Australian governments have been introducing more environmental protection regulation to meet carbon emission reduction targets. Large corporate interests have entered the industry with greater financial resources and plans to industrialize the landscape. The frustration of farmers at increased regulation has played into the agendas of these large corporate farming operators.
Glen Turner’s wife Alison, his sister Fran, his neighbours and workmates are extremely articulate about the environment issues raised by the film. Their personal stories throw a sharp light on the wider public debate about land clearing policy and regulation. As well as exploring the environmental issues the film is a deeply affecting personal story as Alison comes to terms with Glen’s death and tries to prepare herself and their two children for a future without him. Alison is dedicated to seeing the film made. Without her dedication completing the film would not be possible.
As the trial progressed in the NSW Supreme Court, the State Government was releasing draft legislation for sweeping new environmental protection laws. Over the following month lobby groups on both sides have made contradictory submissions. This stand-off between ecologists, environmental lobby groups and industrial scale farmers is intensifying. The lines are being drawn, with a strong lobby group of big farming interests and corporate land developers determined to wind back environment laws. They are pitted against the Government’s own environment departments, environmentalist and scientists, determined to protect the laws.
Cultivating Murder presents personal stories from the frontline of this new environmental battle, that is shaping up to define the future of farming practice and environmental protection in Australia. With both sides unhappy with the draft laws, we are now in limbo with the NSW and Queensland governments soon to debate new bills.
THE PRODUCERS AND THE TEAM
Director GREGORY MILLER
Producers JOHN MOORE, LISA HORLER, GEORGIA WALLACE-CRABBE
Editor FIONA STRAIN
Gregory Miller’s documentaries for television include: Co-Producer and Co-Directed 2-part series Breaker Morant The Retrial (2013) for the History Channel; Executive Producer, These Heathen Dreams (2014); co-director/producer Memories of the Struggle (2016), a multi-screen installation for The Museum Of Australian Democracy, Canberra; Executive Producer of climate change series,Tipping Points (2012) for VPRO and The Weather Channel USA; and Cool School Antarctica (2010) for Nickelodeon, NHK, and Discovery Canada, about a group of youths who visit Antarctica to witness climate change first-hand;New Beijing Reinventing a City (2009), the world’s superstar architects present their most extravagant buildings as Beijing goes through massive redevelopment. He was co-director/producer of Angels on Boadway (2008), a 4-part series for SBS, about two rookie Australian producers who take on Broadway; and Besieged-the Ned Kelly Story (2003), Co- Director/producer (for Network 9, TG4 Ireland, History Channel UK), a feature doco about Australia’s Ned Kelly. Other films include: The Final Sacrifice (2007), for Discovery on the Gypsies of India; French coproduction Shark Tracker (2002); King Of The Market(2001 ) filmed in India (SBS ); If It Doesn’t Kill You (99) 5-part series for SBS, kids in crisis learn to sail an old pearling boat through Bass Strait, and Life Chances (’95), a longitudinal doco for SBS and festivals.
In 2015, Georgia completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts at Wollongng University with the multiscreen creative work, The Earth and the Elements (showing at UNSW Galleries in Sydney). She was co-creator/director of multi-screen installation, Memories of the Struggle at The Museum Of Australian Democracy Canberra (2016). She produced the French coproduction These Heathen Dreams (2014), premiered at Melbourne Film Festival, screened at festivals and on French TV. She was director /producer of New Beijing-Reinventing a City (2009), a documentary about architecture and redevelopemnt in China (premiered at Sydney Film Festival in competition); producer of the AFI award winning genre-bender, Jabe Babe: A Heightened Life (2005); co-producer of French corpoduction Shark Tracker (02) for Network 9 and French TV; Line Producer of Besieged-The Ned Kelly Story (2003) andKing Of The Market (2001). Other credits include: Our Place (‘98), Temple on the Hill (‘98), Life Chances (‘95), Mandalay (‘94), Meeting Of Ways (‘88), and Can’t Catch Prawns Without Ice-cream (‘87). She is also a festival director/curator including: WOW festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and televised festival LOUD Media Festival of Youth Culture and the Arts (‘98) including commisioning a 4 part series LOUD Dox for ABC.
John Moore is a Melbourne based producer with over twenty years experience. His many film awards include best documentary at the Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals for Black Man’s Houses (1992), an AFI award for Guns & Roses in 1993 and the NSW Premier’s History Award for Thomson of Arnhem Land in 2001. Abortion, Corruption & Cops was nominated for the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards in 2006 and the docu-dramas Menzies & Churchill at War and Monash: The Forgotten Anzac were ratings winners on ABC TV in 2008. His latest film, the feature length documentary Putuparri and the Rainmakers premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2015 and won Australia’s richest film prize, the $100,000 Cinefest Oz Award, the following month.
Lisa Horler is a producer of television documentary and digital media. Through her company Licketty Split, Lisa h produced and directed documentary programs like LEVANTES (1998, SBS), FROM HERE TO ITHACA (2002, SBS) and MADE IN HEAVEN (2005, ABC) that aired on Australian television.
In 2014, she teamed up with Producer John Moore to become part of Sensible Films. Lisa’s recent projects include the feature documentary FREEDOM STORIES (2015) with Steve Thomas, the feature documentary HOMESICK (Director Mick Cummins), a documentary about living with multiple chemical sensitivities and SPERM DONORS ANONYMOUS, a one hour documentary for the ABC (Director Lucy Paplinska).
How The Funds Will Be Used
We have been filming for 18 months and have commenced editing the film, so we are already very advanced in the production phase, however we now need funds to complete the editing and post production which will take around ten weeks. Funds from Pozible will go towards paying for the following.
We need to purchase some archival material such as news stories from commercial networks and some older footage from the National Film & Sound Archive.
Additional location filming
We still need to film some further interviews with experts,some aerial footage and General Views to enable us to tell the story visually.
Sound Mix & Music
We need to engage a sound editor/mixer to work on the sound design.
On line & Picture Delivery
We need to colour grade the pictures and do all the other fix-ups, titles and graphics such as satellite images, aerials and maps.
The $25K we are asking is the minumum we need to finish the film, but really we need $35K+ to have all the bells and whistles. Because so many people have donated time and support, as long as we reach our target, the film will be finished. We expect the film to screen in cinemas via Fanforce, on Fairfax online and on telvision on completion.
One of our main challenges is getting the word out about the film. We recently contributed to a series of Sydney Morning Herald feature stories about the impact of land clearing on animal habitat. This is one of the stories we are telling in the film about people dedicated to protecting our Australian biodiversity from the threat of over development.
Meanwhile in Queensland and NSW, bulldozers are still ripping through forest and woodland at a remarkable rate. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 40 million trees were cleared in Queensland in 2014-15. The areas being knocked down include vital koala habitat and the run-off from land clearing threatens the Great Barrier Reef.
From a national perspective reducing the rate of land clearing in Australia can help cut our greenhouse gas emissions. “Reducing the rate and scale of tree clearing has the potential to make substantial contributions to meeting the abatement task required by the Australian Government’s 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets.” (CO2 Australia Ltd)
This film will help to generate debate about these issues and hopefully bring people together. Australia needs to get land-clearing policy right. While the debate rages on, more vegetation is lost – and ultimately we all lose.