The Circuit: articles

SBS series to explore Aboriginal justice

The idyllic location of Broome will do nothing to hide the serious issues of Aboriginal justice raised by a new TV series, its producers say.

The Western Australian tourist mecca has for three months been the location for 50 cast and crew filming the SBS drama series The Circuit, which stars actors Gary Sweet and Aaron Pederson.

Close to 1,000 local Aboriginal extras have also been employed for the production and more than five locations, including the court house, drop-in centre and picturesque Cable Beach have been used.

With a budget of more than $4 million, The Circuit is a six-part drama series which centres around Drew Ellis (Pederson) the latest lawyer to join the challenging world of the Kimberley Circuit Court.

Magistrate Peter Lockhart (Sweet) and an entourage of court officers and lawyers embark on a regular five day, 2,000 kilometre round trip to dispense justice to the remote communities of Western Australia's north.

Co-producer and writer Dot West, a Broome local, says the program will help educate white Australians about Aboriginal justice issues.

"This story shows the underbelly of the legal system, showing the underlying issues of why indigenous people have high incarceration rates and it also puts a personal factor on all the reports that white Australia get about the high incarceration rate, the deaths in custody or abuse."

The stories aren't sugar-coated, West says.

"It's not hiding the story, it's putting it out there, but humanising it rather than Australia getting facts and figures.

"This year in Australia we (indigenous Australians) have been slammed for various issues, but mostly in reaction to the sexual abuse side of things and our customary law issues.

"This particular series can help to explain some things."

The Circuit wraps in three weeks and Sweet, who has been living on location for 12 weeks, says his ignorance of the Aboriginal culture is gone.

"I have got an awareness of Aboriginal culture and the law now, a political and social awareness of things I have neglected or been ignorant of before," Sweet said.

"It's been a little awakening in Broome and I feel like I am a better person for it."

West encourages other commercial networks to take The Circuit's lead.

"I hope to see the rest of Australian broadcasting society and the media landscape take up the call now and start to look at the cultural and social depth of the stories we have in indigenous Australia and go 'We shouldn't be scared of portraying indigenous Australia'."

Meanwhile shooting of The Circuit has pumped an estimated $1.2 million into the Broome economy.

"Just consider the employment of all the extras this series has ... it's sharing the love around," said West.

"It's not just putting the money back into the white coffers, meaning the businesses, hotel accommodation and trade that occurs, it's also employing local people which is fantastic."

August 17, 2006