Head of indigenous Sally Riley leaves the film body to join broadcaster ABC Television.

Screen Australia’s head of indigenous Sally Riley is leaving the film body to start an indigenous department at ABC Television.

Riley, who has championed indigenous film-makers including Warwick Thornton, will now be responsible commissioning primetime drama and documentary. The budget is yet to be determined.

She has led Screen Australia’s rigourous one-to-one training programmes for the past nine years and is expected to continue working with local film-makers in her new role.

 “Last year was a benchmark year because of the success of two films that could not be more different from each other,” Riley told ScreenDaily.

Rachel Perkin’s musical comedy Bran Nue Dae has grossed $6.7m (A$7.3m) to become the biggest local hit of this year so far; while Thornton’s low-budget drama Samson & Delilah(pictured), which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes and earned $2.9m (A$3.2m) locally.

Led by Riley, there has been a shift in Australia over recent years to indigenous film-makers making films about their own communities. Ten years ago, audiences avoided such projects but the growing number of higher quality films has encouraged audiences to return.

Riley has also implemented policies, including protocols to help non-indigenous film-makers working with indigenous content, people and culture. This will continue at the ABC.

Screen Australia recently funded The Place Between, about a woman coping with life after three years in jail. It is written and directed by Beck Cole, produced by Kath Shelper and goes into production on May 24. It has no sales agent attached. Cole married Thornton on New Year’s Day and Shelper produced Samson & Delilah.