Formidable Women


Supported beneficiary groups within Women & Girls
Age Demographic
Adults - aged 25 to under 65
Project Focus
Project Area

Project Description

‘FORMIDABLE WOMEN’ is a feature-length documentary about two remarkable women, Oral Historian Wendy Lowenstein and dance historian, bio-chemist & indigenous rights Activist, Shirley Andrews OAM. Lifelong militant activists, their pioneering contributions to the creation of Australia’s national folk and oral history movement is profound. The film recounts both women’s formative years as they struggled against the conservative attitudes of the time and society’s expectations of women in the years after WW2. Shirley was subject to ASIO surveillance due to a romantic relationship and her employment at the CSIRO was terminated. Wendy married a German-Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany recently arrived on the HMT Dunera. Wendy became a founding member of the Folklore Society Victoria and began collecting of Australian folk songs, and dances. Both women had pivotal roles setting up and organising the First National Folk Festival in 1967 & Shirley became a founding member of the Council for Aboriginal Rights with a major role in advocating for the 1967 referendum for indigenous peoples to be included as part of the Australian population. In 1969, Wendy and her family spent a year circumnavigating the nation collecting stories, anecdotes, songs and oral histories from a diverse range of informants. Shirley authored, ‘Take Your Partners’ and was awarded the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1994. Wendy authored numerous books, Weevils In The Flour, The Immigrants & Under the Hook.

Expected Outcomes

The film is to be produced and researched by historian, Martie Lowenstein Nash, winner of the 2023 National Folk Fellowship, and written and directed by prominent Australian filmmaker, Richard Lowenstein. It is a story told via rarely-seen 16mm archive film from the Realist Film Unit, ASIO Surveillance footage, NFSA archive, ABC Archive, songs, recordings, photos, oral histories, and dramatised footage from the films, ‘Strikebound’ & ‘Evictions’. Our aim is to bring increased knowledge and awareness of the importance of National and State Archives preserving recordings and transcripts of the lives, history and culture of everyday people and bringing attention to the inspiring stories of two pioneering women who pushed against the stereotypical gender roles society of the time expected of them.

Project Data & Lessons

The filmmakers have a long-term relationship with the distributor Madman Entertainment, and the documentary streamer, DocPlay who have agreed to distribute the film. The film will be used as a resource in school and university curriculums, historical societies, film & folk festivals, using curated screenings & social media to bring attention to the stereotypical gender roles women still struggle against today. Opininated women still get vilified for their beliefs and passions for equality and human rights and the struggle for gender, racial and social equality continues unabated. The finished film will be an essential educational resource as well as being an entertaining, engrossing and fascinatingly unique story. Anyone interested in the unknown and often ignored aspects of social and cultural history, and stories of empowered women in the late twentieth century will want to see this film.

Project Dates

Project Commences: January 1, 2024
Project Completes: December 1, 2025

Funding Details

Funding Needed
Current Funding
Total Project Costs
Auspice Details
Documentary Australia
Other Funding Sources
VicScreen, Screen Australia, Producer rebate, In kind investment
Other Support Opportunities
Impact investment, Low-interest or no-interest loans, Subsidies

Organisation Details

ABN: 87 092 563 338


Richard Lowenstein


GHOST PICTURES PTY LTD is a Melbourne-based film production company, founded in 2000 by Lynn-Maree Milburn, Richard Lowenstein and Andrew de Groot. Ghost’s expertise has led to some of Australia’s most iconic feature films and documentaries, including “Mystify Michael Hutchence”, “He Died With a Felafel In His Hand”, “Dogs in Space”, “Autoluminescent”, “In Bob We Trust” and music videos for INXS, U2 and many others. Ghost and their highly skilled production team are equally experienced in crafting commercials, branded content and corporate content. Their remarkable portfolio showcases their ability to create cinematic wonders, not only for themselves, but for clients seeking excellence in storytelling and production.

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