Director Gillian Armstrong Reveals Her Most Inspiring Australian Stories

We spoke to acclaimed Australian film director Gillian Armstrong about her new project which celebrates inspiring Australians.

Ahead of this Australia Day, critically acclaimed film director Gillian Armstrong has helped create a short documentary which tells the stories of everyday Australians. 

In the past, Gillian has directed blockbuster films starring big names like Cate Blanchett, Winona Ryder, Christian Bale, Ralph Fiennes, Catherine Zeta Jones and Sam Neill. 

However, she has since turned her attention to the personal and unique stories of people who rarely see the spotlight - despite their remarkable achievements. 

Her latest project, 'The Inspiring Story of Us', follows Australians like Ethan Butson - an 18-year-old inventor from NSW who created new technology to aid stroke victims and the vision impaired. It also 64-year-old John Maher, who after losing his daughter in a tragic car crash spends his time educating teens on road safety. Another example is Jerry Kelly from the Northern Territory who uses his passion and skill to teach at-risk youths how to be stockmen. 

The list goes on. 

For Gillian, these are the stories that inspire her and continue to fuel her passion for filmmaking and storytelling. 

"The sort of films I’m interested in are about character, and who we are and why we do what we do. And I do think the best stories – [like] the old cliché - come from real life," she told LifeStyle

The people featured in 'The Inspiring Story of Us', she says, all have important stories to share. 

"I think a film about everyday people who are giving something back, or who are passionate about the thing they’re doing, even if it’s tiny," she confesses. "I think it’s a great time to actually remember what true human values are."

For Gillian, these values include "empathy, generosity, hard work and caring for others" - which all of the folk in 'The Inspiring Story of Us' possess. 

"If you really think about it, all of them are happier people because they’ve found something and they’re giving back. I think  it’s a good thing to remind people that in the end that’s what should be important life, not whether or not you get photographed with a celebrity outside a cinema."

Gillian is a proud Australian - and a large source of that pride comes from Aussies' great sense of humour. 

"I think it’s the thing I’m most proud about when I’m away and living or working overseas  is the wonderful self-deprecating quality we have, and that sense of humour and the ability to be humble," Gillian observes.

"Everyone in the film has that quality. Without even thinking about it they all went, 'Hero? You’ve got to be kidding. No, we’re not heroes.' That is very Australian and a good quality I think we should hang on to.

"We also get up and do things, get on with everybody and try not get big headed. They’re all really good things for us all to remember. That’s what I think we all feel is the best of Australia."

Watch the film here: 

As part of their sponsorship of the Australian of the Year awards CommBank has partnered with film director Gillian Armstrong to celebrate everyday Australians with Australia’s biggest crowd-sourced documentary, available to watch at

(Image credit: Tim Baure)

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