Back Roads

Episode 4: Best of Back Roads- Conquering Isolation

Thursday 25 February at 8:00pm

This time presenter Heather Ewart takes a wild ride through the outback, from South Australia’s legendary Oodnadatta Track to the sweeping open plains of western Queensland and the Northern Territory’s harsh Tanami desert. In this remote country people can live hundreds of kilometres away from a supermarket, even a roadhouse. To make isolation work you need resilience, a sense of humour and, as Heather discovered, you’ve got to be a bit creative too.

In this special episode, Heather brings together the inspiring characters she’s had the privilege to meet on the back roads and shares their latest news.

One of the highlights is a road trip a few years back with a much- loved hero of the Queensland bush, old- fashioned greengrocer Fari Rameshfar. For 30 years, Fari had steered his trusty truck through floods, droughts and cyclones to bring fresh food and supplies to far flung communities. Heather joined him on his run to the Lynd Junction roadhouse, 400 kms inland from Cairns.


Episode 5: Eugowra

EUGOWRA, NSW – how the identity and history of a tiny community is shaped by its rich landscape.

Thursday 4 March at 8:00pm

Wiradjuri country

This time, presenter Heather Ewart has a crack at driving a horse-drawn plough in the rich, farming country of the NSW’s central west. The experience leads her to ‘dips me lid’ to local legend, 92-year-old Wilf Norris.
Wilf was only a 14-year-old stripling when he was put in charge of a ten-horse team of Australian Draft horses to work the family farm. He not only rose to the challenge, but also began a life-long love affair with a breed renowned for its endurance and hardiness. As Heather discovers, these are qualities Wilf himself embodies. He championed the Australian Draft horse long after it fell out of favour, earning himself an Order of Australia for his services to the breed; not bad for a bloke who never finished school. Even being a successful farmer wasn’t enough for the indominable Wilf – after he retired from the farm, he went on to carve a second career for himself and his horses in showbiz.

Wilf is now immortalised in a life-size mural in Eugowra, one of 34 beautifully executed artworks that are the town’s major drawcard. They are the brainchild of young mum and graphic artist, Jodie Greenhalgh, who shares with Heather what inspired her.

While Eugowra is proud of its generations-long farming tradition, one of its local farmers is looking at the land through a very different lens. Kim Storey is using her passion for photography to challenge the stereotype of farmers as old blokes with bibs and braces.

Through her eyes, stock standard images of drought-stricken landscapes are transformed into breathtaking panoramas filled with drama.

Kim’s neighbours include three farmers of the future. Heather catches up with cheeky, young charmers and watches them expertly going through their paces during a muster. Ella, Ava and Harry tell Heather they’re determined to follow their parents onto the land – but not as a team because as siblings, they’d argue too much!

Sadly, a much earlier generation of young local farmers were tragically robbed of their future on the land. In 1916, brothers Christopher and Charles Gage, left their family farm in Eugowra as volunteers in World War I. Both were killed within a year of arriving on Europe’s Western Front. Three of their descendants, Janet Seath, her daughter Libby and their cousin Julie Hutchings, have an extraordinary story to tell Heather about discovering the truth of their ancestry, hidden from them for more than half a century.
Join Heather as she arrives in a town at the centre of the richest gold escort heist in Australian history and, along the way, discovers where its real treasure lies.


Episode 6: Agnes Water & 1770, QLD

Thursday 11 March at 8:00pm

Gureng Gureng Country

This time on Back Roads, guest presenter Paul West explores the twin towns of Agnes Water and 1770,
in Central Queensland, where he finds locals on a mission to save their environment.

Paul discovers that on the surface, these twin towns are quite different. Agnes Water is the bigger town and has a legendary surf break. Whereas 1770 is tiny and is famous for its unusual name. It marks the year of Captain Cook’s landing on Australian soil.

Locals embrace the past, but they are much more interested in the present. They’re concerned about their environment and how they can save it. And as Paul learns, the best thing is, anyone can get in on the action. It’s called ‘citizen science’ and it involves ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People like ‘Turtle Crusaders’ Nev and Bev McLachlan. She was an office worker, and he was a school teacher but over the summer holidays for the past 43 years they’ve been visiting Wreck Rock, just down the coast from the twin towns, to do turtle conservation. A chance meeting with the endangered loggerhead turtle led to a labour of love that has lasted a lifetime.

Nev and Bev and their small crew are all volunteers and patrol the beaches in the area from dusk til dawn. Paul gets lucky when he goes out with Nev on his quad bike. He spots a mother turtle laying her eggs while a bit further on he finds Bev helping baby turtles make it into the sea. Their selfless devotion is inspiring.

Back in town the palm trees are swaying, and people of all ages are surfing the waves. This idyllic vista marks the intersection of the last surf beach in Queensland and the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef.
Locals seem to really love their slice of paradise, but they are also keen to keep it that way. Another passionate volunteer is wildlife carer, Yvonne Thomson. She’s Agnes Water’s very own Dr Doolittle. When Paul drops by, he finds her house / animal shelter, full to the brim with a menagerie of creatures. Paul learns that Yvonne has devoted most of her life to caring for injured wildlife.

On his last day, Paul heads offshore to see where the Great Barrier Reef begins. Jim Buck, another turtle crusader, takes Paul out to the picturesque, Lady Musgrave Island. Jim’s been collecting data on green sea turtles for the past 33 years. He’s not even a scientist, he’s a retired engineer, and yet for three months every year, Jim and his small team of volunteers collect vital data for the Queensland Government.

Join Paul as he discovers the heart and soul of these towns, where science is harnessing the ‘power of people’.

Some sad news

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Episode 7 BEST OF BACK ROADS: LOCAL HEROES

Thursday 18 March at 8:00pm

This time on Back Roads, Heather Ewart embarks on a road trip like other, to catch up with some of our favourite characters - wherever they may be. Heather’s journey takes her from the parched red dirt of the Pilbara town of Roebourne in WA to the rolling green hills of Corryong in Victoria’s
High Country.

She rediscovers some locals who dared to dream big from a young age, a farmer who is changing people’s lives on the other side of the world and a legend who, with the support of her community, saved a town. These are stories of passion, persistence, and perseverance. They are Back Road’s ‘Local Heroes’.

First stop is the Riverina region in New South Wales. Famously one of the flattest places on earth, the Hay Plains have been considered dull, dusty and even “hell” by one of Australia’s most famous poets, Banjo Patterson. It’s here that Heather drops in on a few generations of bush bards – the Vaggs. The red dirt has clearly inspired this family to not only write bush poetry but also raise money for a cause close to home, the Dementia Australia Research Foundation. Jon Vagg and his son Allan call themselves the ‘Back Block Bards’ and have published their very own book of poetry. Since our last visit they’ve smashed their target and have raised over $100,000.

Next stop on the road trip is the small town of Thallon, in South West Queensland to catch up with another hero, Leanne Brosnan. She’s a woman on a mission. When the town hit rock bottom after drought and three floods in four years, Leanne made a stand. With the help of some of her friends, she saved the local pub from closure.

However, that wasn’t Leanne’s only project, she also spearheaded a campaign to get artists to paint the local silos, to draw more visitors to town.

Saving a town is hard enough but helping people on the other side of the world, seems like a daunting task. Not to our next local hero, Dione Carter, from Nyngan on the edge of the outback, in New South Wales. Dione runs a 20,000-hectare sheep and cattle farm with her husband, Jack, and her
three daughters. Twenty-six years ago, she decided to sponsor a child in Uganda. Little did she know that the little boy they sponsored, called Moses, would end up running a charity for them in Budaka, Uganda. Dione and her family put Moses through private school and university, and he wanted to use his good fortune to help his own community. From this simple act of generosity grew a charity which, with the support of Nyngan’s locals, built a private school in Uganda with more than a thousand students. And since our visit to Nyngan in 2018, they are now building another school for children with special needs.

Join Heather on this epic journey around Australia to reconnect with some of the remarkable local
heroes who live on the back roads.

Back Roads S7 - Episode 8: Malacoota

Thursday 25 March at 8:00pm

Join presenter Heather Ewart as she heads back to visit some old friends in Mallacoota, on the far eastern tip of Victoria. On her last visit in 2016, Heather discovered a coastal jewel, with its sparkling lakes and long sandy beaches surrounded by pristine wilderness.

Three years later, on New Year’s Eve 2019, a firestorm engulfed the town destroying more than 120 homes and buildings. The dramatic images of four thousand people seeking refuge on the foreshore under a blood red sky made worldwide headlines.

Heather catches up with the locals she got to know last time, finding out how they’ve dealt with the impact of the bushfires, then a global pandemic. Will she find a place that still pulls together and refuses to be beaten?

Heather meets up with local artist Yolande Oakley and her neighbour, musician Justin Brady. He lost his house and most of his possessions in the fires. Yolande and her husband Graeme took him in and supported him through the toughest of years.

“I was a bit of a wreck to be honest and to have neighbours that were just so loving and caring and really sort of took me under their wing. It’s almost like I’m part of the family now so I just feel very grateful for that,” says Justin.

Last time she was in town, Heather heard how Mallacoota had rallied around a local family shattered by the loss of their parents in a tragedy that stunned the world.

Gerry and Mary Menke were passengers on Malaysian Airlines MH 17. The plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all on board.

In another cruel blow, the Menke’s old family home was wiped out in the bushfires.
“It almost sparked a second wave of grief, it was sort of having to work through it again,” says daughter Anna Cowan.

The Menke’s eldest son Brett says that grieving for their parents gave them experience in how to deal with trauma.

“We were more empathetic to how people were dealing with the fires and how to try and help them recover from that.”

Back in 2016, Mallacoota showed its determination to band together in the face of a challenge. The town was working hard to save its only permanent GP, Dr Sara Renwick-Lau. She couldn’t attract another doctor to join the town’s medical practice and was struggling to keep it afloat. This time, Heather finds things are looking up.

“The community got to it and we did a whole heap of recruitments and we’ve got our new doctor and our beautiful brand- new building, it’s amazing,” says Dr Sara.

In 2021, Heather finds Mallacoota is again doing things its own way. After the fires, it set up its own bushfire recovery association and, not surprisingly, three
quarters of the town signed up as members.

“People are passionate about this town,” says Jenny Lloyd, Deputy Chair of the Mallacoota and Districts Recovery Association. But they can’t do it alone.

More than a year after the bushfire crisis, Mallacoota is still waiting for funds to do urgent upgrades to the community hall, a safe place of refuge during the emergency. The Mallacoota Board Riders Club is doing what it can to help the healing process.
In tandem with the club’s learn- to- surf clinics, it runs free counselling sessions on the beach with a psychologist.

“We’re trying actually to reclaim the beach because you know the beach was a traumatic place for a lot of people. They sought refuge here throughout the fires, so it’s a good thing to do,” says club committee member Brett Menke.

“It’s this kind of thing that really makes a difference for communities, being together and the initiative shown by people within the town to be able to make this happen,”

Episode : Cooktown

Thursday 1 April at 8pm

This week, Back Roads heads to Cooktown, a place heaving with history. Guest presenter Craig Quartermaine, a Noongar Banjima Yamatji man from WA, comedian, and ABC Radio presenter, goes on a journey of discovery to this stunning part of the world.

Cooktown’s main claim to fame is, of course, that Captain Cook pulled up here in 1770 when his ship hit the Great Barrier Reef and needed repairs. Cook and his crew couldn’t leave because of the wild winds and ended up staying for 48 days. In the many years since, others have been lured here by the picture-perfect views and laid-back vibe.

Craig Quartermaine arrives in Cooktown to find out what the locals make of Captain Cook and how the community is making sense of its past. Craig meets an Indigenous family whose ancestors came face to face with Cook. Sha-lane Gibson is busy organising a festival to commemorate the 250ᵗʰ anniversary of Cook’s visit, where locals will dress up and re-enact the landing, something they have been doing for more than 60 years. Sha-lane’s grandfather Fred Deeral plays a very important part in the re-enactment. Fred’s great-great grandfather handed Captain Cook a broken tipped spear, which Cook interpreted as an act of friendship. That gesture is widely accepted as the first act of reconciliation ever recorded in Australia.

Craig meets two women who have formed an unlikely partnership and are re-writing history. Cooktown local Loretta Sullivan did not know an Aboriginal person until she met Indigenous elder and historian Anita Hornsby. The two have become best friends and they have been studying the journals of Endeavour crewmen and are making sure the Indigenous perspective is not forgotten. For Alberta reading the journals was empowering, and she found by looking back, she has been better able to move forward.

Craig also visits Normanby station, a cattle property owned and run by Indigenous brothers Vince and Cliff Harrigan. The property was bought by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1995, and returned to the brothers’ grandfather Jack Harrigan, because Jack’s mother is buried there. The brothers have been running the station since their grandfather died, but still find time for their other passion, music. The Harrigan brothers, along with their siblings and a couple of cousins, are members of the Black Image Band and perform all over Cape York Peninsula.

Craig also meets a kite-surfing couple Ant Hadleigh and Paully Smith who are leasing the land where they run their business at Elim Beach, from the traditional owners. Ant has known elder Eddie Deemal for more than 30 years. It’s a win-win arrangement and the friendships that have been forged are the real deal.

This episode is about connections, about friendships and forgiveness. There is much to learn in this wild and remote area, so join Craig Quartermaine for an unforgettable journey.

Poh’s episode was featured on Gogglebox this week. The Goggleboxers were “disappointed” that she did not cook in Coober Pedy after meeting various people, but overall they liked the episode. Tim and Leanne wanted to visit the cake shop ran by the two ladies and try the rainbow cake one day.

BACK ROADS EPISODE 10: TENTERFIELD, NSW – A little town with a big history.

Thursday 8 April at 8:00pm

Ngarbal Country

This week Heather Ewart visits the historic town of Tenterfield in NSW, arriving on horseback because it’s an old-fashioned kind of place.

Tenterfield is a town with a rich history, such as being the home to the uniquely Australian equestrian sport of Campdrafting. It’s an uniquely Australian sport involving a horse and rider working cattle. The first ever Campdraft was held in the town in 1885 and to this day Campdrafting still brings the town together. Heather saddles up to meet the competitors at the latest event, including three-year-old Leo who is already notching up the wins.

History runs deep here. It was in Tenterfield in 1889 that Sir Henry Parkes, the Premier of the Colony of New South Wales, gave a speech, the ‘Tenterfield Oration’ that eventually led to Australia’s Federation.

Flamboyant singer-songwriter and entertainer Peter Allen was born in the town before going on to take New York and the world by storm. As a boy, Peter used to play on the verandah of his grandfather’s saddle shop. His grandfather was George Woolnough, also known as the ‘Tenterfield Saddler’, which inspired Allen’s hit song.

The 21ˢᵗ century has been less generous to the town. Tenterfield suffered major drought, fires and Covid. Now locals are fighting to get life back to normal and Heather visits the characters who are making a difference. Stuart Moodie was 14 when he tried to singlehandedly save a river system. In 2019 the rivers on his property were running so dry that Stuart started pulling out and saving the remaining Cod from the mud by hand. The fish are now back in the river, and Heather joins Stuart for a spot of fishing.

Others are helping the river systems recover after the fires. At an Indigenous nursery in the town, Matt Sing grows local varieties of plants that are then re-introduced to burnt-out riverbanks. Heather meets some of the young Aboriginal kids working at the nursery, which counts as part of their schooling, as well as taste testing the hottest pepper they grow!

Join Heather as she travels through time in historic Tenterfield, a town drawing on its past to try and preserve its future.


Episode 11: Adelaide River, NT

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Thursday 15 April at 8:00pm

ADELAIDE RIVER, NT – the unexpected, fascinating, and sometimes tragic side of life in the Top End.
Arawai, Kungarakan, Wulna country

This time, presenter Heather Ewart takes a walk on the wild side of the Top End.

In Adelaide River, she joins the Fawcett sisters on a buffalo muster, a rollercoaster ride which has her literally on the edge of her seat. Sisters, Kellie, 30, Kyla, 28 and Kimberley, 20, thrive in this testosterone charged atmosphere. It seems anything a boy can do, the sisters are certainly game for, and so is Heather.

Although the buffalo is a feral animal that wreaks havoc on the environment, it is highly prized as live export and almost as emblematic of the Territory as the crocodile. In fact, one of the NT’s own was rocketed to international stardom by Australia’s biggest box-office success, the eighties blockbuster, Crocodile Dundee. Charlie the buffalo, who was famously hypnotised in the film, was given movie star treatment when Adelaide River became his home. Heather discovers what happened to him next
– and it’s not what you’d expect.

During her encounter with Charlie, Heather meets a vet who once treated him. At the age of 24, Jan Hills set off in search of adventure and found it in the Top End. Jan tells Heather the secret of handling a buffalo bull with a lethal set of horns attached to a very large, very hard and very bony head. It is a technique that raises a laugh, even as it makes good, practical sense.

Her appetite whetted by the thrill of the buffalo muster Heather goes in search of the Territory’s most iconic and deadliest creature and encounters it on the Adelaide River itself - massive saltwater crocs that leap spectacularly out of water to grab prey. Despite being overawed by their lethal power, Heather is convinced by local guides Alex Williams and Linda Scurr that the crocodile is much more than just an efficient killing machine.

It is yet another revelation in an action-packed Back Roads that is full of surprises, not least when Heather learns about Adelaide River’s links to World War II history, largely hidden from the Australian public at the time and still little known.

It leads Heather to local landmarks resonant with personal and emotional stories, astonishing memorabilia and quirky relics, a highlight being a gem of Australian bush architectural heritage. This becomes the setting for a memorable and romantic climax to an unforgettable Top End adventure.

Episode 12: Central Highlands, Tasmania

Thursday 22 April at 8:00pm

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS, TASMANIA – The Wild Beating Heart of Tassie

Lairmairrener country

Guest presenter Lisa Millar heads to the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, the Central Highlands in Tasmania. This often-overlooked patch of Tassie doesn’t feature in the tourism ads. It is a harsh, sometimes beautiful place where people live in isolated shack communities dotted around the lakes. Most of these wily ‘Highlanders’ are drawn here by what hovers beneath the water – the wild, speckled brown trout. The Central Highlands is regarded as one of the best fly-fishing spots on the planet and attracts people from all over the world.

However, the water in the Highlands can be deceptive. On a fine day, when the surface of the lakes reflects the azure sky, it looks like a patch of Mediterranean paradise. But it can all change in an instant. The fickle and often brutal weather plays a big role in life up here. Just ask the locals. Their lives revolve around its ever-changing moods.
Driving around the Great Lake, Lisa’s stomach turns when she looks in the rear vision mirror and sees that familiar combination of red and blue flashing lights. When the local police officer, Senior Constable Dan Adams pulls her over, she thinks the worst. Luckily for her, instead of a ticket Lisa gets a tour of the local area. Dan’s stationed in the old hydro town of Liawenee, which is the Aboriginal word for ‘frigid’ and has a population of 2. Last year it took out the title of being one of the coldest inhabited places in Australia.

To delve into the history of this place, Dan says Lisa must visit Irene Glover, one of the last true-blue ‘Highlanders’. Irene’s family has been in the area for 5 generations. She and her husband run a sheep property called ‘Wihareja’. They’re the last fulltime farmers in the Highlands. Irene says that a big part of the history of this place is wrapped up with the shepherds who roamed these parts since the early 1800s. When the feed ran out in the low-lands, farmers hired shepherds to run the sheep up to the Central Highlands. They lived in shacks for months on end tending the sheep and later hunting and trapping rabbits to survive. While shepherding may be a thing of the past, hunting is very much a part of the present. Lisa gets a big surprise when Irene, an avid hunter, shows her into her office and discovers it is lined with her mounted stag trophies.

They breed ‘em tough up here!Lisa heads back to the Great Lake to find out more about what lures most people here – the fishing. She catches up with fisherman, ‘Hairy’ Castles, who lives in Miena, the largest town on the lake.
He looks as wild and woolly as the weather. He joined the fly-fishing army early in life when his Dad brought him up here to stay in a shack by the lake. Back then, Hairy reckons the shacks where primitive – no power, outside toilets and tank water. People used to come up to fish and would build a shack at their favourite spot.

And so, the shack communities were born. A lot has changed since those days. Now the shacks are all being ‘renovated’, and mainlanders are buying them up to take advantage of the trout and those million-dollar views.
Join Lisa as she goes on a journey in the wild beating heart of Tassie and discovers what it takes to be a ‘Highlander’. Note: No fish were hurt in the making of this program.

Episode 13: The Mallee, Victoria

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Thursday 29 April 2021 at 8pm

THE MALLEE, VICTORIA – PASSING ON THE MALLEE SPIRIT.

Our travels were held on the lands of Aboriginal Traditional Owners and we acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging future leaders.

This time, Heather travels through the heart of Victoria’s Mallee.

A land of sweeping landscapes and huge skies, it’s the state’s hottest and driest region. It was also its last frontier, because the tough drought-resistant Mallee eucalypt scrub made it so hard to clear.
Bert Holland is Mallee born and bred. At 87-years of age, he’s done it all, including digging up the mother of all Mallee stumps. The ten-tonne-whopper holds pride of position in the town’s park and is a testament to the region’s history. Bert says the Mallee legacy lives on today. “Because everyone knew what hardship was like, everyone’s there to help one another and that spirit’s gone on right through. The work ethic, I think was the backbone of the Mallee.”

They certainly know how to roll up their sleeves and get things done in the Mallee. When new pipelines radically cut water loss after the Millennium drought, they also left the region without recreational water. The locals got to work. This resourceful community got together to build their own lake. Now, it’s the busiest place in town, alive with activities from water skiing to fishing, barbecues to runners.

The Mallee people are investing in their children and the future. “If kids want to return to this community, we need to have a vibrant community for them to come home to,” says organiser ‘Spot’ Munro. “It’s future generations that will actually drive this community into a really strong position and it’s up to us to set the foundations.”

That theme is continued throughout the Mallee. In Chinkapook, Heather meets artists Robby and Jackie Wirramanda, who are using their art to keep the stories of their people and their culture alive. In Sea Lake, the local school teaches agriculture with the backing of the community, including the local machinery dealer who lends the students a brand new $150,000 tractor to learn on every year.
Join Heather as she discovers the Mallee spirit that binds these towns together.

Episode 14: Cloncurry, Qld

Thursday 6 May at 8:00pm

Mitakoodi Country and Kalkadoon Country

This week, guest presenter Kristy O’Brien heads out to north-west Queensland and big cattle country. The ABC News and Landline reporter was born and bred in the Sunshine state. She knows drought and hard times are all part of the landscape and lifestyle in the outback.

But in early 2019, mother nature unleashed a whole other level of natural disaster on the region.
At first, a tropical monsoon was met with joy by people living in the lower gulf and north-west Queensland. Graziers welcomed the drenching rain after a brutal seven-year drought but then, the deluge kept coming. Flooding rain and freezing winds battered northern Queensland for a week.

By the time the slow-motion disaster had rolled out, more than 500,000 head of cattle had perished, and graziers struggled to deal with the enormity of the devastation. Kristy asks the question, ‘how do people out here keep getting back up?’

In Cloncurry, she found the community rallied together. Professional photographer and grazier Jacqueline Curley put out an urgent call for help from the isolated region. Her heartbreaking photos went viral, and help flooded in. “I think it brought the best out in everybody for a long time, just trying to help each other,” she said.

Susan and Peter Dowling launched an online fundraising campaign… and Australians responded, donating $1.3 million within weeks. “People who were in drought themselves were donating just to help the cause,” says Susan. “That was phenomenal.”

Support came from all areas as government, individuals and organisations swung in to help with financial and practical assistance. The region’s Flying Padre, David Ellis, says people right through the community were impacted. He uses a light plane to visit his community, which spans an area three-times the size of Victoria. “These are great salt of the earth people, there’s a genuineness and integrity, a wholeness about their lives that’s just amazing.”

It is a community that pulls together in the tough times. From a saddle bronc riding school supporting men’s mental health to an outback spirt lifting ‘paint and sip’ session, Kristy finds the people of Cloncurry know how to look out for their mates… and that getting back on the horse is a way of life.

EPISODE 15 RUPANYUP AND MINYIP – VICTORIAN TOWNS ‘WITH PULSE’

Thursday May 20 at 8.00pm

Wotjobaluk Nations

This time Back Roads is heading into silo country, taking a journey through Victoria’s
Wimmera. Heather Ewart visits towns that could not sound more Australian if they tried, Rupanyup and Minyip.

Heather meets the hard-working and humble people of this part of Australia, who have made their homes on the wide-open plains.

Rupanyup has been enjoying a steady stream of tourists thanks to its massive silos in town, which were painted by a Russian street artist for the Wimmera Mallee’s silo art trail. Like all the small communities dotted through the Wimmera, ‘Rup’ as the town is affectionately known, is trying to keep the momentum going and attract more people to move there.

With so much chickpea and lentil grown there locals have re-branded Rupanyup, ‘a town with pulse’. Savvy locals are creating their own opportunities with pulses.

Heather meets Bec Dunlop, who runs a café on wheels using the local lentils and chickpeas in her dishes. Bec bought her caravan for $750 and renovated the whole thing with help from her dad and local tradies.

Sudath Pathirana works for Wimmera Grain Company, which was started by locals 30 years ago. Sudath is from Sri Lanka and was a fashion designer there, designing knitwear for brands like Nike and Adidas. He moved to Rup with his wife Sarah, and they are raising their two children in the small town.

Sarah is now also working at the silos, after a career in food and wine. Sarah whips up a batch of meringue made from aquafaba, which is the water left over when you soak or cook legumes such as chickpeas. Aquafaba is huge in the vegan world, because it can be used as a direct replacement for egg whites in some dishes.

Retired farmer Michael Woods opened a museum in town in 2007 with his late brother John. The huge green shed is packed with machinery, tractors and pretty much any collectable you can think of, including old biscuit tins and the toys that came in cereal boxes. Michael and his brother shared a passion for travelling Australia scouring op shops and clearing sales. Michael’s family believed nothing should be thrown away.

Michael recently built a replica of his grandmother’s house inside the museum which he has filled with her belongings. Michael has collected a lot of things, but what he treasures most is his fox terrier dog Lucky who turned up one day at the Museum and never left.

With its big sky, massive landscapes and streetscapes frozen in time, Rupanyup’s nearest neighbour, Minyip, has been a favourite with the Australian film industry. The small town was chosen as the location for some of the scenes in ‘The Dressmaker’, starring Kate Winslet. More recently, Minyip was the location for the filmmakers of the huge box office hit,’ The Dry’, starring Eric Bana.

Dale Maggs runs a café in the heart of Minyip. He rides his motorbike out here every day from his home in Rupanyup. Minyip was also ‘Cooper’s Crossing’, the fictional setting of the hugely popular tv show ‘The Flying Doctors’ of the late 80s. Dale’s café was the garage where Rebecca Gibney’s character ran a garage.

Every year, Dale Maggs organises a ‘Show and Shine’ event for car and motorbike lovers, with all money going to the real Flying Doctors, the RFDS. Dale’s big hope is that more films will be made in the Wimmera. He says Minyip is like one big film set, with amazing old buildings, and scenery that looks terrific on the big screen.

Heather is impressed by the fighting spirit of these small Wimmera communities, and how hard they are working to ensure their future is full of opportunities.

Episode 16: Series 7 Final Episode

STRAHAN, TASMANIA – a world heritage cultural landscape and an open library of stories.

timkarik and paluntarrik country

This time, Heather Ewart travels to Strahan in Tasmania, a tiny coastal community in one of the oldest and most spectacular wilderness landscapes on this planet.

With beautiful heritage buildings lining its waterfront, Strahan has just over 700 locals, but it’s made world headlines – not once but twice – and even boasts a world record. Heather meets two young locals, Mikaela and Tahlia, sisters who remain excited to this day about taking part in that 2012 record setting water skiing event.

Strahan’s magnificent harbour, six and a half times the size of Sydney’s, was key to that achievement. Its vast expanse isolates Sarah Island, one of the most brutal convict settlements in Australia, pre-dating Port Arthur. In one year alone, 1825, two hundred and forty men received a total of ten thousand lashes on Sarah Island. Because of that and despite its isolation, two of the most famous escapes in our convict history were from the island. One of them is celebrated each night in Strahan itself. The longest running play in the Southern Hemisphere, ‘The Ship That Never Was’, has been running for 27 years. Heather meets Kiah Davey, the daughter of its playwright, who ropes Heather into performing in it – much to the audience’s amusement. On the same night musician Mick Thomas, from the popular Aussie band, ‘Weddings Parties Anything’, performs a song he wrote celebrating the other famous convict – turned cannibals - escape from Sarah island, ‘A Tale They Won’t Believe’.

In a community rich in stories, Heather also meets two proud young Aboriginal women, Sharni Read and Nala Mansell, who show her what they describe as their “open library”- the breathtaking coastal sweep of West Tasmania.

In the early 1980s, the Gordon below Franklin World Heritage wilderness area was almost flooded by a dam. A blockade sparked international interest and outrage and stopped the dam. Heather meets the Morrison family, locals who supported the blockade and saved their family’s historic timber mill as a result. In the 1940s, three Morrison brothers journeyed up the Gordon River in search of much sought-after Huon Pine. Their story inspires Heather to see the world heritage Gordon River for herself.
Joining Trevor Norton on his yacht, the Stormbreaker, Heather’s overnight journey into the heart of one of the world’s great wildernesses, is an unforgettable climax to her Strahan adventure.

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Season 8 starts on January 3, 2022.

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Back Roads - Season 8

From: Monday 3 January 8.00pm

As the ABC celebrates its 90ᵗʰ year, Heather Ewart takes a look at the evolution of the great Australian road trip, and revisits some of the very best she’s taken on Back Roads. And in 2022, Back Roads returns to Monday nights at 8pm.

The great Australian road trip is a rite of passage for many, and a passion that can start early in life. Whether it’s skirting the edge of the ocean, driving through vast deserts, heading to the hills or just on the way to grandmas. If there’s a destination worth getting to then there’s a road trip to get there.

In this special episode of Back Roads Heather Ewart looks at some of the very best, and dips into the ABC archives to discover the origins of our love affair with the road.

From its beginnings with mass car ownership of the 1950s, to the birth of four-wheel drives, the surfing road trips of the 1960s, the rise of the caravan and the very first wave of grey nomads, Heather looks at how the road trip became part of our national identity.

And to show how far we’ve come Heather chooses four of her favourite drives. Starting on the Oodnadatta Track in South Australia she drives with local Aboriginal stockman Bobby Hunter as they take in the stunning Lake Eyre.

Swapping the desert for snow country, Heather ventures up to Dinner Plain in Victoria to see a dog sled event, before driving over the border into the NSW snowfields and Mount Kosciuszko.Taking a road she’d never heard of Heather takes a trip along the Savannah Way, from Innisfail to Normanton with a couple of travelling hairdressers.

And no list would be complete without a journey across the mighty Nullarbor Plain, slowing down to turn off the highway to meet the quirky volunteers of the Eyre Bird Observatory.
Join Heather Ewart as she sets out to discover what ingredients are needed to make a road trip – truly epic!

Production credit: Story Producer, Damian Estall.

Series 8 - Episode 2

Monday 10 January 8.00pm

There are unexpected encounters when colourful South Pacific and traditional cultures kick up the red dust of the Pilbara as Back Roads heads to the town of Tom Price in Western Australia.

Who would have thought you’d find colourful hula dancers on the back roads of WA’s Pilbara?

That’s just one of the surprises presenter Heather Ewart encounters in the heart of iron-ore country.
Heather discovers the mining town of Tom Price isn’t all hard hats and FIFO workers. It also boasts a thriving Pacific Island culture. Led by the multi-talented Lita Mahy, the local dance group Penina O Pasifika, treat Heather to a colourful hula performance.

Tom Price was established in the 1960s as a Rio Tinto mining town. At their newest open-cut iron- ore mine, Heather is astonished to learn that the equivalent weight of about 70 family sedans is extracted per day out of this one pit alone.

Iron-ore, Australia’s number one export, has brought prosperity to the Pilbara and the recreational facilities in Tom Price attest to that. However, traditional elder, Maitland Parker, tells Heather there’s a dark side to mining. Maitland and other elders negotiate with mining companies who are applying for leases on Country. According to Maitland, it’s like pitting a little bus against a 10- tonne truck.

In the stunning surrounds of the Karijini National Park, Heather witnesses an unforgettable corroboree on the opening night of an immersive festival known as the Karijini Experience. Over the course of a week, around 2,000 visitors, young and old, will take part in and learn about practices that are the cultural heartbeat of the Banjima people. The festival highlights why Country is central to First Peoples. It’s a message brought home through a personal account from Banjima elder, May Byrne, that moves Heather to tears.

Series 8 - Episode 3

Monday 17 January 8.00pm

Guest presenter Joe O’Brien taps into his inner Bear Grylls in this Back Roads adventure to Cradle Mountain in the wilds of the Tasmanian Highlands.

Joe’s hike begins in Mole Creek where he comes face to face with Mugsy, a teenage Tasmanian Devil with a blood curdling scream.

Next stop is Sheffield, the gateway to Cradle Mountain, where Joe meets flamboyant local Mark Beach Ross. Mark takes Joe on a tour of Sheffield to see what saved this town from the fate of many others in rural Australia – murals. The town boasts hundreds of murals, many are of nearby Cradle Mountain, native animals and a mysterious man, Gustav Weindorfer. To find out more about the man in the murals, Joe heads off to the small town of Wilmot for Weindorfer Memorial Day.

At the local hall, the festivities begin with a celebration of the lives of Gustav and his wife Kate Cowle. Joe learns how their love story gave birth to one of the most stunning parks in the world - the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

Next, Joe sets off on a hike around Cradle Mountain. His guide is legendary food dropper, Wes Moule. Wes carries up to 50 kilos of food to drop off for hikers camping or staying in the huts along the famous Overland Track. Wes and Joe make it to a hut just in time before the Cradle’s treacherous weather closes in. Over a cuppa Joe reflects on how Cradle Mountain’s rugged beauty can bring you to your knees but how it can also fill your soul.

Series 8, Episode 4

Monday 24 January 8.00pm

Heather Ewart finds there are many surprises in the tiny town of Boulia on the edge of the Simpson Desert about 1700 km from Brisbane.

As you drive into the Western Queensland town of Boulia a sign greets you “Welcome to Boulia Shire. Land of the Min Min Light.” But locals warn, don’t go searching for the Min Min Light, let it find you.
Stories of mysterious lights appearing in the night skies are part of the folklore out here, from the Dreamtime to modern day travellers.

Heather Ewart finds there are many other surprises in this tiny town on the edge of the Simpson Desert about 1700 km from Brisbane.

Explorers Burke and Wills might have camped on the town’s river in 1861 on their ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria, but Boulia is now luring a new generation of adventurers; medical, health and nursing students. Medical students from around Australia are welcomed with open arms by the population of less than 500 people. Hundreds of students have worked out of the Boulia Medical Centre over the years, inspiring a future generation of health professionals to work in regional Australia.

If the students time their placements at the medical centre right, they will be in town for the biggest annual event, the Boulia Camel Cup, known to locals as the ‘Melbourne Cup of Camel Racing’.

It was an extra special event in 2021, after the Cup in 2020 had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

Series 8, Episode 5

In South Australia, guest presenter Paul West goes on a wild ride along the Eyre Peninsula’s rugged
west coast, finding a place with an untamed spirit and a fierce self -reliance.

In South Australia, guest presenter Paul West goes on a wild ride along the Eyre Peninsula’s rugged west coast. This remote corner of the country breeds people with an untamed spirit and a fierce self -reliance. The isolation also brings a sense of freedom, but does it come at a price?To find out, Paul embarks on a road trip from Streaky Bay to Elliston. From swimming with playful Australian sea lions, soaking up the beauty of the Great Australian Bight and tasting battered stingray for the first time, there’s plenty to savour on this journey.

But it’s the people Paul meets along the way who make it unforgettable. At the farming and fishing town of Streaky Bay, Paul hears the inspiring story of how the locals came up with a plan to keep their town strong and vibrant and helped the hospital, the medical centre and local sporting clubs stay viable.

In Sceale Bay Paul hits the waves with surfing legend Heath Joske. Heath campaigned with coastal communities along the Eyre Peninsula to stop oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight, taking the protest all the way to Norway. With the help of conservationists, surfers, fishermen and the traditional owners they fought a David and Goliath battle with a global corporate giant and won.The coastal town of Elliston is notorious for its unforgiving surf break and attacks by great white sharks. Here, Paul meets Tom and Morgan Beaty, the sons of an extraordinary woman who defied the odds to find freedom on the waves.

Production credit: Executive Producer, Brigid Donovan. Story Producer: Lisa Whitehead.

UPDATE: this season will also be shown on ABC Australia in the Asia-Pacific region at 11pm AEDT Mondays, at the same time the show airs in WA due to time difference.

Series 8 Episode 6

Monday 7 February 8.00pm

Heather Ewart sets course for Port Campbell on Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast, known for its wild weather and dangerous seas. Local volunteers have always extended a lifeline to those in trouble but has the recent loss of two experienced lifesavers broken their resolve? Or is the volunteering spirit burning as strong as ever?

The Great Ocean Road in Victoria winds its way along the dramatic Shipwreck coast, past the iconic Twelve Apostles, to Port Campbell. From behind the clifftops, the town gazes out on the Southern Ocean. The locals revere it even when the weather is brutal. But the wild, unpredictable weather and treacherous seas can be dangerous.

For the past 60 years, members of the local Surf Lifesaving Club have been keeping watch on Port Campbell Bay and the nearby coastline. Heather learns that first responders have sometimes put their own lives on the line to save others.

A tragic accident on Easter Sunday 2019 gutted the surf club and the town. Two popular and highly experienced lifesavers, Ross “Po” Powell and his son Andy, lost their lives in an attempt to rescue a tourist washed out to sea. They were the first lifesavers to die on duty in Victoria. Po’s widow and Andy’s mum, Val Powell tells Heather about her loss and the family’s desire to continue the men’s legacy.

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Series 8 Episode 7

Monday 14 February 8.00pm

Back Roads – Charleville, Qld

This week, guest presenter Kristy O’Brien heads to the outback town of Charleville in south-west Queensland, where she discovers a place that offers second chances and a community that always finds the silver linings.

Kristy finds the town of Charleville to be a big-hearted community that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Charleville has helped animals and humans, the locals have saved bilbies, stocked rivers as well as giving prisoners a second chance.

Charleville may have faced disasters, but the locals always look on the bright side of life.

Series 8 Episode 8

Monday February 21 8:00pm

Back Roads – Longford, Tasmania

Back Roads host Heather Ewart takes an adventurous trip through Longford in Tasmania to find out if keeping an old world alive can still offer some surprises.

Heather Ewart explores Longford’s (Tasmania) long history of sporting pioneers. Longford’s winding, narrow country roads are legendary and when the town hosted the 1959 Australian Grand Prix it was thrust upon the international stage.

For one weekend a year local petrol heads, some in their family sedans and world champions in their Formula 1 cars would race the same track with thousands cramming the streets to get a glimpse of the action. This included a generation of children who grew up watching the likes of world champion Australian Jack Brabham and vividly remember all the excitement and danger.

Heather heads to a different sort of course, Australia’s oldest continuously operating racecourse, where racing took place five years before the Melbourne Cup. It’s an early morning start with track work beginning at dawn.

Next, Heather meets a young Tasmanian who is also committed to keeping family traditions alive. Sixth generation deer hunter Ellen Freeman takes Heather on a family hunting trip. The wildlife management officer finds it’s not only a way to bond with her grandfather, father and brother but a way to manage the feral deer population that cause problems for many farmers.

It was certainly a memorable experience to end her trip in Longford, a town that’s clearly using its past to propel it forward.

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Series 8, Episode 9

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Series Return

Monday 11 July 8.00pm

Back Roads kicks off its Winter series in the vibrant multicultural town of Leeton, in NSW’s Riverina region.

Heather Ewart travels to the New South Wales Riverina town of Leeton. People from 30 different nationalities have been welcomed in recent years with open arms, changing the fabric of Leeton altogether.

Leeton is the food bowl of NSW, its irrigated land produces rice, meat, cotton, citrus and grapes in enormous volumes. As a result, it’s always needed a workforce, with the first migrants arriving from post-World War Two Italy in the 1950’s.

The town’s multicultural officer Ken Dachi welcomes presenter Heather Ewart to town. He and his wife Sekai experienced the warm Leeton welcome themselves, when they first arrived three years ago from London.

Sekai found work as a nurse in Leeton, but Ken had no idea how well his work skills, as an international aid relief worker, would transfer. Before long the local council had the perfect job for him, welcoming new migrants and refugees.

Refugees from Afghanistan are the newest arrivals in town, often having risked everything to find a new life for their families in Australia.

Heather also meets Roshan Yosufi who arrived in this country as a refugee in 2013 and is now a citizen. He has waited nine years for his wife and three children to be allowed to join him in their new home in Leeton.

Production credit: Executive Producer, Brigid Donovan.

Series 8, Episode 10

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Monday 18 July 8.00pm

A unique insight into the NT town of Katherine, where blakfella and whitefella walk together, with Bardi-Kidja guest presenter Albert Wiggan.

Breathtaking Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge (NT) is home to the Jawoyn people. They believe it was created by Bolung, a giant serpent who carved it in its own reflection, during Creation Time. Guest presenter, singer-songwriter, Albert Wiggan is a Bardi-Kidja man from the WA Kimberley. Albert provides us with a unique insight of someone who grew up and still inhabits the world of traditional Aboriginal culture as well as that of middle-class white Australia.

In his work as an environmentalist, Albert marries Western technology with traditional knowledge of the land. He’s keen to find out how white and black Australians live and work together in a region where sixty percent of the people identify as Aboriginal.

His quest leads him to popular author, Toni Tapp-Coutts. Toni’s best-selling memoir popularised her extraordinary childhood on the iconic Killarney Station. But it was growing up with an Aboriginal ‘mother’ and ‘auntie’ that gave Toni a life-long love of Aboriginal culture – and encouraged her cheeky side.

Proving the bonds of white and black run deep in Katherine, Toni introduces Albert to her long-time friend - actor, singer and artist, Kamahi Djordon King.

Albert discovers Kamahi has performed with Yothu Yindi and the Treaty Project. Kamahi then introduces Albert to Katherine’s answer to Dame Edna Everage. Constantina, is a ‘Faborignal’, a performer with all the cheek and sass that runs through this fascinating community.

His adventures inspire Albert to write and sing a song of hope that we can all, one day become one people.

Production credit: Story Producer: Gerri Williams. Executive Producer: Brigid Donovan