The Swap

New SBS series ‘The Swap’ is a bold school experiment

Can a pioneering social experiment break down barriers and build bridges between families from vastly different cultures?

In a trailblazing, television-first original series, new three-part documentary seriesThe Swap follows what happens when 12 students and families from very different cultures, religions and backgrounds are thrown into each other’s worlds.

Exploring whether a ground-breaking social experiment encompassing a school swap can make a real difference in breaking down social barriers and building greater acceptance, respect and understanding between diverse cultural communities, The Swap also observes the possibility of the experiment backfiring as cultures collide, with the potential for controversies to flare.

The architect behind The Swap is Ali Kadri, CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane. Taking part are six Muslim families, four Catholic families and two atheist families. Over one school term, Kadri accompanies the students on an emotional rollercoaster as they experience the anxiety, excitement and wonder of spending time at each other’s schools and with each other’s families and communities.

For everyone involved, The Swap marks the first time they’ve experienced being close to someone who sees the world in a completely different way. It’s a huge leap into the unknown, with shocking, hilarious, poignant and moving results, culminating in an eye-opening and compelling exploration of how little we know about each other, and how very different — as well as similar — we really are.

“This experiment is about acknowledging that we are all different, being proud of the fact that we are different, and respecting each other’s differences," says Kadri. "That cannot be done unless we make the decision to move out of our comfort zones and engage with those who are different around us. If the experiment fails, I may find myself out of a job! But this is an experience that has the potential to transform lives, and for that reason I am happy to take this risk. If successful, I’m hoping it could inform our national curriculum and be considered by schools across the country.”

Born in India, Kadri came to Australia to study in 2003, and after a business career in the education and technology sectors, became CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane in 2020.

Ali Kadri in The Swap

The Swap is part of SBS’s strong original documentary slate in 2023.

“We’re excited about the potential for The Swap to spark understanding and create positive transformation for all the families involved, and for all Australians who follow their journey," says Bernadine Lim, SBS’s Senior Commissioning Editor, Documentaries, "We’ve been given incredible access to this bold community initiative, and we hope the stories and experiences of those involved will encourage discussion, enlighten and inspire audiences. It’s a unique story of contemporary Australia.”

The Swap premieres on Wednesday 8 March at 8.30pm SBS and SBS On Demand. The three-part series continues weekly, with episode two premiering on 15 March and episode three premiering on 22 March. Each episode will be available to stream on SBS On Demand with subtitles in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. All three episodes will also be available with audio description.

The Swap is a Southern Pictures production for SBS. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS. Financed with support from Screen Queensland.

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The third and final episode received a good review on Gogglebox this week.