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If you're looking for a new television show or movie to watch, why not pick one that won't just entertain, but educate as well?
There's a slew of fantastic films and shows that put a spotlight on the stories of Indigenous communities in Australia, while showcasing incredible talent from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who we don't see enough of on screen.
Best Indigenous TV Shows in Australia
Created and written by Nakkiah Lui, this six-part series follows a young Aboriginal woman Charlie (Lui), who is the co-host of a breakfast TV show. Charlie finds herself at the centre of an unlikely community of doomsday preppers that are anticipating the apocalypse. Expect some laughs but also a deeper story around connections and survival.
Watch the Preppers trailer below:
ABC's political drama Total Control centres on Deborah Mailman's character, Alex Irving, a strong-willed woman in Canberra's cut-throat political bubble where so many odds are stacked against an Indigenous woman in office.
From incarceration rates to deaths in custody, the show explores heavy themes in an authentic and unapologetic way. In a recent interview with Refinery29 Australia, Mailman said that she and the writers have been "uncompromising in some of the ways that we sort of tackle these issues".
There are two seasons of the show so far, with a cast boasting the likes of Rob Collins, Rachel Griffiths and Celia Ireland.
Watch the Total Control trailer below:
All My Friends Are Racist
The web series All My Friends Are Racist was released in August 2021 and I recall bingeing it in one sitting. The show follows two young, successful Aboriginal flatmates: gay influencer Casey (Davey Thompson) and budding lawyer Belle (Tuuli Narkle), who are living their best lives in Brisbane until they're suddenly cancelled by their friends after a 'burn book' wall where they’ve listed all their racist friends, is exposed.
Belle is concerned that this disaster spells the demise of their social lives, but Casey takes a more opportunistic approach – ignore the racists (because who needs them anyway?) and spark a movement.
Watch the All My Friends Are Racist trailer below:
With two seasons available to stream online, this drama revolves around six households in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern, whose lives are changed by either a pivotal decision, an accident or a seemingly insignificant incident.
Expect powerful and bittersweet stories that spark laughs and emotions — told by the Indigenous peoples living them.
Watch the Redfern Now trailer below:
In this sci-fi drama that's set in the future, creatures from ancient Aboriginal mythology with marvellous physical traits emerge and battle for survival. The central character, The Cleverman, struggles with his own power and responsibilities while having to overcome estrangement from his brother.
Hunter-Page Lochard portrays the titular character in this show, with a supporting cast including Deborah Mailman, Rob Collins, Iain Glen, Frances O'Connor, Stef Dawson and Ryan Corr.
Watch the Cleverman trailer below:
Compared to places like the US and the UK, Australia's television scene is rather lacking when it comes to sketch comedy. But what better way to showcase our comical chops than with Black Comedy, a sketch show by First Nations talent that's perfect for everyone.
With four entertaining seasons available to stream, the show features an ensemble cast of Indigenous writers and performers like Nakkiah Lui, Bjorn Stewart, Wayne Blair, Steven Oliver, Aaron Fa'aoso, plus expect some special guest cameo appearances as well.
Watch the Black Comedy trailer below:
Set in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this SBS comedy centres on 13-year-old Robbie Hood (Pedrea Jackson) and his friends. Robbie is famous in his local community in Alice Springs for being a bit of a troublemaker, but one with a heart of gold. The show is a heartfelt and uplifting comedy but also manages to visit some more serious issues that affect Aboriginal peoples, and is well worth a watch.
Watch the Robbie Hood trailer below:
Best Indigenous Movies in Australia
Bran Nue Dae
I recall being mesmerised by the beautiful road trip scenes and glorious musical numbers in Bran Nue Dae on the big screen when it was released in 2009. But it's so good a watch that it's definitely worth seeing on TV if you haven't already.
Jessica Mauboy stars in this musical comedy (based on the 1990 stage musical of the same name) that celebrates family and finding your way back home.
It all begins in Broome, Western Australia in the 1960s, when Willie Johnson (Rocky McKenzie) struggles to woo Rosie (Mauboy) but she ends up with Lester (Dan Sultan). Willie is sent to boarding school and is caught stealing food on campus one night. As he decides to run away, a road trip ensues, and this is where things get very interesting because you never know who you'll bump into along the way.
Watch the Bran Nue Dae trailer below:
Top End Wedding
From Isla Fisher to Rebel Wilson, we're used to seeing some of the same Australian women in popular Hollywood rom-coms. In Top End Wedding, it's very refreshing to see an Aboriginal woman front and centre in a heartwarming story of love and family that makes you laugh and feel all the feels at the same time.
Miranda Tapsell is the female lead in this 2019 flick about a woman who plans to marry her fiancé in her hometown of Darwin in the Northern Territory, only to discover her mother has left the family.
Watch the Top End Wedding trailer below:
Samson & Delilah
The 2009 film follows two Indigenous children, both 14, who escape their difficult lives in an Aboriginal community by stealing a car and heading to Alice Springs in search for a better life.
Directed by acclaimed First Nations filmmaker Warwick Thornton, it's a survival love story and one that doesn't shy away from some deeper themes that impact Indigenous youth and their families.
Watch the Samson & Delilah trailer below:
Another movie directed by Warwick Thornton, Sweet Country is set in 1929, following an Aboriginal man, Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) from the Northern Territory who goes on the run after he kills a white man in self-defence. A manhunt for Sam ensues and that's where the action really begins. Also starring in the movie are well-known Australian actors such as Sam Neill and Bryan Brown.
Watch the Sweet Country trailer below:
Often played in Australian schools and worth a watch by all ages for an important history lesson at the very least, Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the true story of three young girls who were forcibly removed from their mother in the 1930s and sent over 1600km away.
It shows us the harrowing reality for the Stolen Generations, where Aboriginal children were taken from their homes by white people and placed in settlements in a bid to assimilate them.
These three girls, who were forbidden from speaking their native language and forced to abandon their Aboriginal heritage, plan an escape as they head to the rabbit-proof fence in the desert, towards their home.
Watch the Rabbit-Proof Fence trailer below:
The Sapphires is about four Yorta Yorta women, sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) whose musical careers take off when they're discovered by a talent scout and promoter who convinces them to tour for the US troops in Vietnam in 1968.
They form a group called The Sapphires, and perform 60s classics such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" "I'll Take You There" and "What a Man" for the GIs. But as much as we need to applaud the musical talent in the film, we must also appreciate the conversations it sparks around identity, and of course its themes of love and family.
Watch The Sapphires trailer below: