Ernie Dingo is hoping to put the ‘Australia’ back in Australian television.
The television presenter and actor says Australian networks are losing their national identity as shows capturing the Aussie spirit disappear from the small screen to be replaced by American programming.
It’s a cultural revolution Dingo hopes his new series, Going Places, which will begin airing on NITV from Sunday (December 4), will help combat.
“I was looking at all the TV shows that are on at the moment and we don’t have a lot of Australiana,” Dingo says. “They are bringing in all this American stuff.
“How are our kids going to grow up with an Australian way of life or doing things unless we bring back Hoges and the Leyland Brothers and stuff like that where there is a general interest in regards to the Australian larrikin?
“We’re going to become American citizens. We’re not second class Poms or Americans. They don’t give a shit about us. It’s killing our industry.”
Going Places will initially air as three one-hour episodes.
Dingo visits The Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Kakadu National Park and talks to locals — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — about their connections to some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks.
A second series is planned for next year and is expected to see Dingo and the film crew visit his home country of mid-west Western Australia, Tasmania and other regions.
Dingo became a household name in the 90s as the host of the long-running Channel Seven travel series The Great Outdoors.
He says Going Places is the show he never got to make at Seven.
“This show is an hour long,” he says. “What we do in an hour is what I’d like to have done with the Great Outdoors…
“They do a Great Outdoors story for six or seven minutes. We do this in an hour. It’s because we talk to the locals, the people who work there, we find out how they feel, what they think, where they come from and chat with them as people rather than wham bam thankyou ma’am.”
Dingo says the Australian tradition of having a yarn — at risk of becoming a lost art — is the magic ingredient in the series.
“My concern with Going Places is Australiana,” he says. “We have a unique mateship system here. We used to be able to sit down and yarn with each other….
“This is how I see Australia.”
NITV senior producer Rima Tamou says he hopes the series can eventually be shown overseas.
“I think the world is the oyster in this series because we are connecting with people on a humanistic level and it comes down to place and where you live and what’s important to you,” he says.
It’s been a milestone year for Dingo who turned 60 in August. He lives north of Perth close to his country and is the proud grandfather to six grandchildren.
On the day of this interview Dingo was 300kms into a 3000km drive home from the east coast to WA.
Earlier this year while participating in the SBS show DNA Nation, Dingo discovered that the Yamatji people to whom he belongs have lived in WA’s mid-west more than 43,000 years.
It’s an area he’s keen to show to the rest of the world.
“On the coast we’ve got the Batavia reefs, the Batavia coastline through the Abrolhos Islands. The Dutch landed in Yamatji country 400 years ago, but everyone talks about James Cook being 200 years ago.
“We’ve had interaction on the West coast all over this period. The Dutch used to sail up to what was the Dutch East Indies and is now Indonesia and there was a lot of interaction with West Australians 300 miles inland.
“Three hundred miles inland from the Batavia coastline is a traditional painting with a Dutch sailing vessel painted on the wall. Wildflowers, crayfish, mining and the mighty Murchison River just goes down through the middle of it all. It is pretty special. More so because that’s where I come from.”
Also on Dingo’s bucket list is to drive from Kununurra in WA’s north down through WA to the State’s south coast.
“There are a lot of Aboriginal communities out there who got no television and seem to be forgotten,” he says. “There are so many beautiful places, traditional areas, it will be good to go out there.”
Dingo says he genuinely loves traversing the country.
“I used to spend as much time as I could,” he says…. every so often I get the Windex out, wash the windows so I can see it all clear.”
- Going Places airs on NITV at 7.30pm on Sunday.