It is as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Shine that Jan Sardi is best known, but the 66-year-old believes his Order of Australia owes as much to his advocacy for Australian storytelling broadly, including as president of the Australian Writers Guild from 2011-18, as it does for his own body of work.
“I’ve been a writer for 40 years and the majority of those have been spent campaigning for the rights of Australian storytellers, and for Australians to be able to hear and see Australian stories,” says the one-time teacher, whose other works include the screenplay for Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer, the TV adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River (co-written with Mac Gudgeon), and the Hollywood adaptation of Nicholas Sparkes’ romance novel The Notebook.
“It’s not just me – we’ve all been fighting this fight forever, and the fight goes on,” he says.
“Our screens are being flooded with foreign content, which is good and bad. Back in the 1960s and ’70s it was all American content and there was a Make It Australian campaign that was fought and quotas were brought in. But we keep having to have this battle.”