BACK ROADS EPISODE 10: TENTERFIELD, NSW – A little town with a big history.
Thursday 8 April at 8:00pm
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
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
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
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
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.