Presented by Myf Warhurst, the three-part documentary series premieres Wednesday 1 November at 7:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand
In a television first, SBS and Blackfella Films’ new three-part documentary series Meet the Neighbours follows eight households from diverse cultural backgrounds as they leave the city behind and seek to live and work in the small town of Maryborough, Victoria, for three months. Premieres Wednesday 1 November on SBS On Demand and airs weekly at 7:30pm on SBS.
Presented by Myf Warhurst, this bold social experiment provides insight into the challenges faced by regional Australia, including a lack of affordable housing, skilled workers shortages, and under-investment in crucial services and infrastructure. It’s not just the fate of one town that hangs in the balance. Meet the Neighbours reflects on what the bigger solutions might be for towns doing it tough right across the nation.
Maryborough, home to around 8,000 people[i], used to be one of the most vibrant, multicultural, and wealthy places on earth[v]. Today, this old Goldrush town is one of the least ethnically diverse and most disadvantaged towns in Australia, and its population is ageing fast.
Many regional Australian towns are experiencing ageing populations[xii], declining birth rates, major skills shortages and socio-economic disadvantage[xiv]. As they look for solutions, experts say a key factor in ensuring the future prosperity of these regional towns is the arrival of new migrants.
Meet the Neighbours follows The Welcome to Central Goldfields pilot project, driven by the local council and Maryborough community with support from peak body, AMES Australia, who specialise in migrant settlement in regional Australia.
The eight diverse households from the city bring a range of skills, expertise, and talent to the town, from healthcare professionals to a teacher, a journalist, a chef, a truck driver, and a star cricket player. Some are planning to set up their own businesses. The new residents send their children to the local school, support and join community groups, and even bring some night-time entertainment to the town.
Over the three episodes, Myf Warhurst, who grew up in a small town, explores her personal connection to regional Australia, checks in on the progress of the new residents, and investigates what the big solutions might be to invigorate towns like Maryborough.
Can the new residents breathe new life into the town, and will the move be life-changing for them?
SBS Head of Unscripted, Joseph Maxwell, said: “Meet the Neighbours is extraordinarily ambitious and has the potential to kickstart an important national conversation about the challenges facing parts of regional Australia. It’s another example of the way we tackle big issues through our innovative documentaries at SBS.”
Blackfella Films Producer, Darren Dale, and Series Producer and Writer, Jacob Hickey, said: “There’s been much talk for many years about decentralisation, government initiatives and special programs, to sell and realise the goal of life beyond our capital cities. But the reality is, numbers don’t lie. In many regional areas, retirees now outnumber children. Predominantly white, Anglo and growing older, this is in stark contrast to the burgeoning, multicultural capital cities, where economies and populations have been supercharged by the arrival of overseas migrants.
“The intention of Meet the Neighbours is to shine a light on what is a divided, two speed and unequal Australia, and what some solutions to this disparity might be.”
Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Grainne Brunsdon said: “Meet the Neighbours is an exciting new series from the award-winning team at Blackfella Films, who have a strong track record of creating powerful documentaries that spark important national conversations. This documentary is poised to unveil the challenges faced by Australian regional towns and highlights the immense value of living in a culturally diverse society.”
VicScreen CEO, Caroline Pitcher, said: “Meet the Neighbours documents a bold social experiment, igniting a powerful dialogue about migration and community across the country. We’re proud to back such an important Victorian documentary series and have no doubt that the impact of this project will continue long after the cameras stop rolling.”
Meet the Neighbours will be available to stream on SBS On Demand in five languages: Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. The series will also be available with audio description for blind and low vision audiences.
Meet the Neighbours is a Blackfella Films production for SBS. Principal production funding from SBS in association with Screen Australia and VicScreen.
Meet the Neighbours will be available to stream free on SBS On Demand from Wednesday 1 November, or you can tune in weekly Wednesdays from 1 November at 7:30pm on SBS.