Back Roads

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###Back Roads Season 2

ABC TV’s hit regional series Back Roads returns to our screens for a second series (starting Monday November 28 2016 and flowing into 2017), introducing viewers to more of this country’s most resilient communities. Heather Ewart visits country towns across Australia to discover what makes bush communities tick, and to meet some colourful locals who will inspire and uplift. Back Roads is a window to the resilience of the bush, for anyone who wants to celebrate Australia’s diversity, positivity and ability to just get on with the job. All stories told with trade-mark grit and good humour.

By focusing on small communities the TV program takes its audience to parts of Australia that are not covered by other media organisations. However that means that only a few communities can be covered in each series. Expanding Back Roads into a digital offering means giving a voice to regional Australians from thousands of other small communities across the country. Back Roads digital content will be available on the Back Roads program website, social media and iview.

Production Credits: Back Roads is the flagship series of ABC Regional Division.

Runs for: Nine x 30mins episodes on ABC TV, ABC iview, YouTube, and the Back Roads social media platforms

Coming to 2017

What does Nine have to do with it (i.e. tag)?

Fixed , thanks

Back Roads Season 3

From Monday 27 November at 8:00pm


Now in its third series, Back Roads returns to ABC TV introducing viewers to more of Australia’s most interesting and resilient communities. These are towns full of colourful characters whose grit and good humour will uplift and inspire. In this nine-part series, award-winning journalist Heather Ewart uncovers more wonderful communities defined by their strength and humility. These Australians are as awe-inspiring as the landscape that surrounds them. “They’re proud communities like my hometown, full of surprises, fight and spirit”, says Heather.

This series you’ll meet 34-year-old Hunter McLeod, a former Melbourne commercial radio DJ turned pilot, who lives and flies in one of this country’s most remote areas, South Australia’s Oodnadatta track.

You’ll meet best friends Doug Sheather and ‘Snags’ McKimmie, old ‘bushies’ from the foothills of the high country around Corryong in Victoria. Doug’s bachelor shack is basic to say the least - with a view to die for. These cattlemen are as authentic as the whips they hand-braid.
And there’s also Wayne Quach. He loves mangoes so much he left his life as a successful software developer in Arizona, in the USA, and moved to Pine Creek in the Northern Territory to become a mango farmer. The former Vietnamese refugee now runs 12 mango farms, and has recruited his son Robert from the US to help out.

Back Roads highlights the significance of place and how it inspires lives and passions writ large.

First stop is the Victorian high-country town of Corryong, before this nine-part series heads to the small Tasmanian town of Dunalley, which has re-invented itself after a bushfire almost wiped out the town. Then Back Roads traverses the Oodnadatta track in South Australia, on to Canowindra in NSW, Pine Creek in Northern Territory, a journey through West Australia’s Pilbara with female truck-drivers, Robe in South Australia, and to a place close to Heather’s heart, Violet Town, in Victoria.

Back Roads - Season 4

From Monday 11 June at 8:00pm

Now in its fourth series, Back Roads takes viewers to more of Australia’s most interesting and resilient communities. These towns are full of colourful characters whose grit and good humour will continue to uplift and inspire.

With so many wonderful towns to visit, and double the episodes, award-winning journalist Heather Ewart is joined in this series by guest presenters, ABC News Mornings anchor Joe O’Brien, foodie and farmer Paul West, and triple j’s Breakfast news presenter Brooke Boney.

“I’m delighted the success of Back Roads has led to its extension to include a winter series. Because of our high production values and the time we spend in each community getting to know it, I can’t be everywhere. I’m thrilled to welcome our guest presenters Joe, Paul and Brooke to our team while I’m filming in other places in our vast country”, said Heather.

In this series Heather takes viewers on a road trip along New South Wales’ spectacular Waterfall Way, the innovative former timber town of Scottsdale in North-East Tasmania, a voyage of discovery along the Murray River in South Australia, the “bogan” town of Nyngan in NSW and the fascinating multicultural agricultural town of Robinvale which also has a fascinating war history.

Country born and bred, Joe O’Brien swaps the ABC News studio for the back roads of outback Queensland to tell the story of Thallon, a tiny community which has come up with some big ideas to save their little town, led by one remarkable woman.

Paul West, who grew up in country NSW, heads to spectacular Natimuk in Victoria, where a diverse community of rock climbers and GermanLutheran farmers have learnt to get along.

Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman and triple j’s Brooke Boney discovers that in the Tiwi Islands, 80 km off the coast of Darwin in the Northern Territory, there’s so much more than footy. She immerses herself in this fascinating ancient culture which come up with creative ways of finding a balance between the old ways and the new.

Interesting ABC is showing two seasons of Back Roads within six months. Have they run out of subjects for Australian Story?

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Seeing that ratings are down, they may have chosen to rest it.

Could it be a bit cheaper to produce than Australian Story? Not that it comes across as cheap, Heather Ewart was interviewed last week on 774 and said each episode takes about eight days to film. Could be getting greater productivity put of the production team too.

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Series Return

From Monday December 3

Heather Ewart is on a road trip in Queensland with a much-loved travelling greengrocer. For 30 years, Fari Rameshfar has travelled through droughts, cyclones and floods to deliver fresh food to people living in isolation.

Note: ABC Media release describes this as both “Series 4” and “Series 4 Summer” and the ABC web site describes it as “Series 5”. Take Your pick. Start time also seems to be either 8pm or 8.30pm.

2019 Upfronts

Back Roads, Series 5

Back Roads takes viewers to Australia’s most fascinating and diverse regional towns and communities, bringing the voices of regional and remote Australia to our audiences like no other prime time television programme. From the Pilbara to Cape York and everything in between, these stories of everyday Australians are as awe-inspiring as the landscape that surrounds them. Popular host Heather Ewart uncovers tales of resilience, inspiration and strength in community, and aided by special guest presenters, leads a program that contributes to a sense of national identity and unity.

Back Roads - Season 5

From Monday 17 June at 8:00pm

ABC TV’s much-loved series with a big heart, Back Roads, returns with an epic journey from one of the world’s most remote cattle stations in desert country to one of the most spectacular landscapes in the heart of central Australia.

Suplejack Downs, on the edge of the Australia’s third largest desert, the Tanami in the NT, is home to the Cook family, whose backyard spans more than 400,000 hectares. The nearest petrol station is a five-hour drive on a red-dirt track and it’s an 18-hour round trip just to go to the shops.

While it’s an exciting place to grow up, presenter Heather Ewart learns how the extended family’s two teenagers and five children under the age of 12, access an education that will allow them to take their place in a fast-changing contemporary society.

It’s a very different education from the vast majority of Australian kids. From a very young age, the children learn how to change a tyre and look after their horses and cattle, as well as 21 dogs, chooks, a camel and even an orphaned joey. They learn to juggle that with a normal school day, through classes beamed in via satellite from the School of the Air in Alice Springs.

During Heather’s visit, the Cook family prepares for a week-long bush ride, initiated by the children’s inspiring mum and aunt, Tiani Cook. The aim of the ride is to raise awareness of the challenges of getting an outback education. Before the ride, the Cooks travel to Alice Springs, 9-hours south, where the kids get a rare chance to hang out with their classmates from other remote areas. From Alice, they travel west through Tjoritja, the magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges, to the Glen Helen Gorge where their week-long ride back to Alice Springs begins.

On the way to Glen Helen, Heather meets another family who’ve embarked on an extraordinary tree change. Former primary school teacher Nadia Gardner, senior ranger Paul Gardner, and their three young kids, have swapped suburbia for the spectacular Ormiston Gorge National Park. They’re not only living the dream, but their kids are also growing up in one of the most beautiful backyards in the world.

Like their School of the Air classmates, the Cook kids on Suplejack, nature is an essential element of their outback classroom.

Executive Producer, Brigid Donovan. Series Producer, Louise Turley. Supervising Producer, Kerri Ritchie. Story Producer, Gerri Williams. 8 x 30 mins episodes

Potential for the Season 5 premiere to be pushed back a week thanks to Australian Story’s repeat broadcast of biography of Bob Hawke next week.

Episode 1: GLEN HELEN NT

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Back Roads, Series 5, Ep 3 - Woolgoolga, NSW

Monday 1 July 8:00pm

This time, Heather Ewart explores a vibrant coastal community in northern New South Wales, where East meets West and which the locals affectionately call Woopi.

It’s where former banana growing locals are riding a blueberry wave of prosperity, with beachfront shacks giving way to million-dollar mansions overlooking spectacular ocean views and marine parks.

Leading the town’s economic transformation is the local Indian Sikh community, who’ve called Woolgoolga home for at least four generations.

Their stunning Temple on the hill has become a local icon to rival the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, half an hour south. It’s a symbol of a community that’s reaping the benefits of embracing cultural differences.

Key to the Sikh community’s success is its belief in the concept of sharing. On Sundays, there’s a standing invitation to the entire town, including visitors, to join their Sikh neighbours in a delicious, traditional feast at the Temple. You don’t even have to attend the prayer rituals beforehand to get a free feed, although that’s an experience not to be missed.

Sharing is also central to the ethos of the wider Woopi community. These are neighbours who look out for each other in many different and practical ways. When Heather arrives in town in an unusual but typically Woopi way, she finds herself in the middle of one that’s a riot of colour and fun in the surf.

What’s going on she asks?
Well, you might say the locals are really ‘making Woopi’.

Back Roads, Series 5, Ep 4 - Burketown, QLD

Monday 8 July 8.00pm

Guest presenter, chef and farmer Paul West heads to the Gulf of Carpentaria to see one of the world’s most extraordinary weather events.

The local traditional owners, the Gangalidda-Garawa people, call it Mabuntha Yipipee. Others call it the Morning Glory. Everyone looks forward to the arrival of this spectacular and mysterious cloud formation that travels over the Gulf country once a year. It’s one of the rarest meteorological phenomena on the planet and Burketown is the best place to try and see one.

Glider pilots from around the country travel to the tiny settlement of Burketown to drift along the waves of cloud and experience what they call ‘riding the Glory’. They can ride this cloud for hours as it may stretch to a thousand kilometres long and two kilometres high.

Paul West turns ‘cloud chaser’ as he discovers just how elusive the cloud can be. Locals give him the lowdown on the tell-signs as he tries to see ‘a glory’ for himself but, when you’re chasing a cloud, nothing’s guaranteed.

Up here all eyes are on the sky. While Paul West is waiting for ‘the glory’ to appear he travels with the local aboriginal people onto the vast salt pans that surround Burketown for some serious stargazing. The Gangalidda-Garawa have created a boutique tourism operation that shows off the stars and shares their Dreamtime stories.

Paul West then takes to the skies and travels to a nearby island where he discovers a group of Indigenous artists who have been inspired by a local grandmother. Sally Gabori, who was forcibly removed from her home on Bentinck Island, didn’t start painting until she was in her 80s but in just a few years, her large, colourful landscapes of her island home took the world by storm.

Before Paul West leaves he travels back to Burketown to try and find the magical cloud formations one more time. Will he finally get to ‘ride the glory’?

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Back Roads, Series 5, Ep 5 – Kulin, WA

Monday 15 July 8.00pm

Quirky horse-shaped sculptures, made out of 44 gallon drums, make up the ‘Tin Horse Highway’ which greets you as you drive into Kulin, 280 kilometres from Perth. This is one of the many unusual sights you will see around Kulin, which has a population of less than 400 people. The other is an 18-metre high giant waterslide. Not bad for this small country town which was in danger of disappearing in the 1990s.

“There was no cavalry coming over the hill to save Kulin when these little towns were starting to die,” according to Kulin Shire President, Barry West.

A targeted effort by the local community to save their town, combined with an extraordinary gift from a couple of long-time residents, has helped transform the community.

When they died, Phil and Kath Freebairn left more than a million dollars to their beloved town to be dedicated to sport. As well as the giant slide, the generous bequest helped build the Freebairn Recreation Centre, which has facilities that rival those in the city.

It’s also enabled people like Tanya Dupagne, the founder of Camp Kulin, to move to the
area and start a camp for a wide range of children from refugees to kids preparing for life at boardng school. Her work is so successful she was voted Australian Rural Woman of the Year – and Tanya reckons she couldn’t have done it anywhere else.

“I think the big thing about Kulin has been the community spirit that’s here and the way everyone’s willing to chip in and lend a hand,” says Tanya. “If we need food for morning and afternoon teas, or bus drivers or anything like that everyone’s always willing to pitch in and I think that’s been really important for the program. I don’t think it would have actually worked if we’d done it in the city.”

The community hasn’t rested on its laurels. They continue to raise money for local projects. The biggest fundraising - and social - day of the year is the Kulin Bush Races.

In the 24 years the races have been going they’ve raised around one million dollars, which is ploughed back into community projects.

Kulin – a testament to generosity of spirit.

Back Roads, Series 5, Ep 6 – Fish Creek, Vic

Monday 22 July at 8:00pm

A whimsical town straight from a storybook!

This creative little town, near the southernmost tip of Australia’s mainland, really does look like it’s been taken straight off the pages of a story book.

It’s home to children’s book authors and illustrators, world-renowned botanical artists, musicians and sculptors.

Cherished Australian children’s author Alison Lester grew up here on a farm by the sea. The landscapes, characters and animals of her childhood have made their way into her work. Lester tells Back Roads host Heather Ewart, the setting was the inspiration for one of her most famous books ‘Magic Beach’.

Her friend, author and illustrator Roland Harvey has recently moved his gallery into the main street.

Fish Creek is a place where big life changes can be made.

Local woman Amelia Bright used to make prosthetic limbs for humans. Now she’s raising heritage-breed pigs and living off-grid.

Like many story books, Fish Creek does have a dark chapter. Heather Ewart finds out about the mystery of the ‘Lady of the Swamp’ who vanished in the 1950’s. Never to be seen again.

You’ll also meet whimsical couple Fiona Mottram and Ross West who ride Penny Farthing bicycles and tend to a menagerie of donkeys, mules and one-eyed dogs.

There’s one event that unites this eclectic community – the Tea Cosy Festival! Whatever is in the water in this creative town, we want some.

Back Roads, Series 5, Ep 7 – Flinders Ranges, SA

Monday 29 July at 8:00pm


Adnyamathanha Country

While Heather Ewart’s off in another part of the country, her colleague, former ABC foreign correspondent and recently announced new co-host of ABC News Breakfast, Lisa Millar presents this episode.

As she heads towards the Flinders Ranges, Lisa looks forward to capturing the spirit of adventure which characterised her Prussian ancestors who migrated to South Australia in the mid-1800s.

She encounters Phil Mellors, an enthusiast who recaptures for Lisa, the romance of the steam age. She discovers an historic town with a rich film history and meets Susan Pearl, a modern-day pioneer who shines a light on a dark corner of history.

In the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, archaeologist and traditional owner, Mick McKenzie, guides Lisa to The Beginning, the cradle of Adnymathanha creation and a singular, geographical phenomenon.

Further north, in the majestic surrounds of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Doug Sprigg and Vicki Wilson launch Lisa into galaxies far, far away and initiate her love affair with the spectacularly coloured yellow-footed rock wallaby.

Towards the end of her journey, Lisa ponders the meaning of life on Nilpena Station, where owner Ross Fargher and two leading palaeontologists are uncovering a prehistoric seabed, 550 million years old.

From Quorn to Parachilna, via Wilpena Pound, Blinman, Arkaroola and Nilpena, some of the most inspiring outback stories unfold in the midst of the grandeur that is the Flinders Ranges.

Back Roads S5 - Episode 8: RIVERINA, NSW

Monday 5 August at 8:00pm

Famously one of the flattest places on earth, the Hay Plains have been considered dull, dusty and even “hell”! That doesn’t sound like a place where Heather Ewart could find the tallest pub bar in the Southern Hemisphere.

Lisa was guest presenter on two episodes this season.
The show is taking a mid-season break after the August 5 episode with Australian Story returning to the Monday 8pm timeslot on August 12.

Lisa Millar is filming for the show this week.

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I’m glad Lisa will be presenting the Menindee episode, it will be fascinating to hear and see the locals, and bring the Darling River climate catastrophe closer to home for many.


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