Royal National Park – A Place for Belonging


The beauty of Royal National Park and surrounding areas is uncontested. Nor is the richness of its biodiversity. The Royal National Park was the first formally declared national park for the purpose of protecting a natural area, and signaled the beginning of a whole new phase in public life, nationally and internationally – the invention of national parks, which now cover 17% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface.

The Sutherland Shire Environment Centre is a driving force in the campaign for World Heritage Listing of the Royal National Park and received a Community Heritage and Icons Grant to engage the community in that effort.


Digital Storytellers were engaged by First National Park and Sutherland Shire Environment Centre to facilitate the creation of a community film which celebrates the cultural, environmental and historical significance of the Royal National Park and Royal Reserves and campaigns for its inclusion on the World Heritage List

Digital Storytellers put a call out via social media and local press for community members to volunteer to be involved in the creation of the film. Over 2 weekends in March, 2017, Digital Storytellers organised and ran hands-on filmmaking workshops where volunteers ventured into the park, with Digital Storytellers guidance, to interview park visitors, rangers, local Indigenous community members and local environmental campaigners. They also shot stunning footage of diverse people and iconic places in the Park.

Digital Storytellers gathered this footage to edit into a 3 minute piece which was screened at a community event in April. 

The project was complimented with a follow-up film editing workshop following the launch of the film, to enable participants to gain additional film editing skills using footage that they gathered themselves.


  • “Royal National Park – A place for belonging”, a community-created film which tells the story of the significance and beauty of Royal National Park and the Royal Reserves for people, planet and prosperity, was produced
  • The film is now being used to raise awareness of the campaign for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park and the Royal Reserves, including a petition on The Action Network.
  • Just 3 months after the program, the film is being distributed online and had over 15,000 views on the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre Facebook Page, over 200 Likes, over 300 Shares, and additional views on YouTube.
  • There are over 400 Signatures on petition for Royal National Park world heritage listing
  • 20 community volunteer participants now also have the skills to continue to create stories about topics they find relevant and important and also have a network of peers that they can collaborate with for support in digital storytelling. .
  • 70 Community attendees at official film launch at community facility Hazelhurst Gallery, Gymea, 2 May 2017.
  • Participant William Besley has since co-founded his own agency, Powerhouse Pictures, which employs/contracts several other young people in Digital Storytelling,
  • In June 2017, NSW State Labor Party adopted the policy to support World Heritage listing for Royal National Park going into the 2018 election year