Global debut at New York Film Festival for Australian art-for-conservation documentary Great Observers

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Australian art meets conservation science in a beautiful documentary making its worldwide premiere at this month’s Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York.

Great Observers, a film by Ben Ferris featuring Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s effective conservation work, has been selected to make its debut this month at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival – the world’s leading conservation film festival. The film will be available for viewers to watch online from 26 November 2021 to 1 January 2022.

The documentary follows five celebrated Australian artists – Tim Allen, Peter Stevens, Mary Tonkin, Alison Coates and David Collins, accompanied by renowned Art Critic John McDonald – as they find creative inspiration at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Mt Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in North Queensland. The documentary captures the artist’s response to experiencing the dramatic landscapes and the state-of-the-art conservation program being implemented on the ecologically important site.

Each artist transformed their experience into an impressive collection of art works which were hung and sold at Defiance Gallery in Paddington, NSW. Each artist and their representing gallery generously donated the first $45,000 raised from the sale of their work to AWC. The funds are being used by Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) to help save the endangered Northern Bettong from extinction by building northern Australia’s first feral predator-free area at Mt Zero-Taravale in North Queensland and reintroducing the Bettong to this safe-haven.

“It was a privilege to watch each of these artists work, each in their own distinctive way,” Ben explained. “They are a rare species in themselves, and they would often quickly disappear behind bushes, up rivers and down mountains, making it difficult for my small crew and I to catch them. It felt appropriate to observe them within the stunning but precarious ecosystem of our Australian landscape.”


“There is a strong synergy between science and art as both involve in-depth observation and these artists and the film-maker have demonstrated the power of the landscape at Mt Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a joy to see the works of incredibly talented artists and our inspirational country showcased on an international stage,” said Tim Allard, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Chief Executive Officer. “We hope the documentary inspires viewers to learn more about the critical state of Australian wildlife and urgent need to deliver effective conservation programs to prevent their extinction.”

The artists program which has been running since 2012 introduces artists to remote environments across Australia and raises funds for the organisation’s important work protecting and restoring Australia’s biodiversity. Previous groups included visits to Mornington (2012), Pungalina-Seven Emu (2014), and Newhaven (2017). Nineteen eminent and emerging Australian artists have taken part to date, raising around $800,000 in proceeds to AWC. The program is generously supported by Defiance Gallery.

Located 80 kilometres north-west of Townsville, Mt Zero-Taravale is a spectacular Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) sanctuary on the edge of Queensland’s World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics. AWC protects a stunning diversity of landscapes from vine forests to eucalyptus woodlands, arid savannah country, and steep granite gorges lined with prehistoric hoop pines, and endangered wildlife like the Sharman’s Rock-wallaby.

Some 700 plant species occur on the sanctuary, including several threatened species, and some which are found only at Mount Zero-Taravale. The sanctuary also provides refuge for over 400 species of native land animals, including 200 bird species. It supports populations of threatened species such as Red Goshawk, Green Ringtail Possum and Masked Owl.

Watch the trailer for Great Observers, here. Tickets to view the world premiere of Great Observers online can be purchased from today for US$20 by visiting,


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