Thetraveljunkie.org – A revealing documentary series; following new Australian citizen and celebrated film and television star Miriam Margolyes as she embarks on an epic two-month journey across the nation to discover what it means to be Australian today.
Starting in Bondi, Miriam reflects that it was much easier to climb the property ladder here 40 years ago. She meets real estate agent Monika Tu, who takes her to see one of the grand homes she’s selling and reveals the prosperous migrant market.
However, heading west, Miriam discovers fellow Australians who believe in an Australian Dream that’s built on freedom without a mortgage. But Miriam’s disturbed to discover that there is a growing number of women in Australia who can’t afford a home in retirement – and who now make up the fastest growing number of homeless in the country.
With most of eastern Australia in the grip of the worst drought since Federation, Miriam heads to the country town of Trundle to see the reality for herself. Here she meets fourth-generation farmers who have been forced to shoot some of their starving animals. Miriam gains a searing understanding of what it takes to hold onto the Australian Dream in the face of unrelenting adversity.
In Melbourne, Miriam meets Lidia Thorpe, a leading Indigenous activist. Lidia’s perspectives leave Miriam with pressing questions about the value of the Australian Dream. However, Miriam re-discovers the dream in the rural Victorian town of Nhill. Here she meets Tha-Blay Sher, who came to Australia from Burma with her family. Miriam learns that Tha-Blay is one of many Karen refugees who now work and live in Nhill after being stateless in their country of origin. Here, as Miriam discovers, is ‘the Australian Dream in action’.
Miriam’s first stop is a roadhouse south of Alice Springs, where she meets Spud and his mates. She discovers she has a lot to learn about the concept that she considers very masculine. Spud introduces her to Heather, one of the few women truckers in Australia. Female truckers only make up two per cent of the trucking industry, but Heather assures Miriam she feels she is surrounded by ‘good mates’.
Miriam visits the Country Women’s Association to meet some of Alice Springs’ Aboriginal residents and experience their community initiatives. She also meets Aboriginal elders, who set up the Children’s Ground to pass Arrernte traditions, songs, dances and stories on to the younger generation. Miriam worries that despite Australia’s ideals of mateship, the country still hasn’t found a way to bridge the deep divide that exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens.
Arriving in Darwin, Miriam encounters a group of transgender Tiwi islanders, who invite Miriam to a drag night that evening. Miriam discovers a community that is more diverse and inclusive than she could ever have imagined. Miriam muses that, for them, mateship is a very ‘evolved state of affection’.
On her last day in Darwin, Miriam is invited to attend a game of Aussie rules. Despite her hesitations, she is soon caught up in the spirit of the game. AFL, Miriam observes, unites Australians of all backgrounds, heritage and colour. It is infused with the spirit of mateship.
Miriam’s travels have given her a new appreciation of the value of mateship as something that reflects the ‘essential decency’ of Australians. But Miriam also wonders whether mateship these days could do with a broader definition, something that celebrates how it can connect us all despite our many differences’.
On the final part of her journey, Miriam visits the Gulf of Carpentaria to see where the wealth of the Lucky Country comes from. At the McArthur River Mine, Miriam is taken aback by the enormity and scale of this operation. Miriam can’t help but wonder what happens when the luck runs out.
In Borroloola, Miriam meets one of the region’s biggest landholders. Frank’s father bet his life savings on a horse race and used his winnings to buy Seven Emu. However, less than a month ago, the entire place was flattened by a cyclone. Miriam discovers that Frank is cynical about Australia being the Lucky Country.
Miriam arrives in suburban Brisbane, where she meets one of the wealthiest couples in Australia. She visits their wildlife research centre, where they are working to save the koala, which is now on the brink of extinction. Miriam meets a koala that is miraculously free of deadly disease, as is her young joey. This could be great news for the future of this iconic Australian species.
The next morning, Miriam joins a group of school strikers protesting climate change outside parliament house. She meets 15-year-old Gina, who asks Miriam to define the term Lucky Country – before offering her own unique perspective that Australia is ‘unlucky’ because ‘as a country, we find change difficult’.
Miriam’s final stop is Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast. Miriam meets an Aussie family and joins their kids as they take part in Nippers, the regular club surf education program for young Australians. The inclusive nature of the beach and the embrace of the ocean for Australians of all ages is, for Miriam, a true signifier of the Lucky Country.
After eight weeks and 10,000 kilometres, Miriam is finally back home in Robertson. Australia, she muses, has been a lucky country indeed for her. Australia, she says, will always be a little bigger and beyond her imagination. But have her experiences left her feeling that she is now more Australian? Well, yes – almost!.
Watch this documentary online on iview.abc.net.au.
Happy Sustainable Travels!