When a group of Australians out on a pleasure cruise comes across a boat full of refugees, they offer to tow them to safety. But when that offer goes fatally wrong, one question has to be answered: who is responsible?
1 Mar 2018 - 4:04 PM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2018 - 9:27 AM

Right from the start of Safe Harbour, it’s clear not everyone on board the yacht Liberame is keen to help the refugees they’ve encountered. Maybe they’re concerned about safety; maybe they just don’t want to get involved. And maybe when the two boats become separated in the night it was an accident, but just maybe someone deliberately cut the rope connecting them. And if it was deliberate, who amongst the yacht’s passengers might be to blame?


Ryan (Ewan Leslie)

It’s his boat, and as the captain he’s the one in charge. Not just on his yacht, either. When they encounter the refugee boat, he’s the first on board and the first one below decks – he even makes an attempt to fix their engine. More importantly, when the five Australians hold a secret ballot to decide what to do, he’s the one who says the vote is overwhelmingly to tow them into Australian waters – a result that seems a little unlikely considering the reactions of everyone else. Add in that he seems genuinely happy the refugees eventually made it to Australia and you’d think he’d be pretty low down on the list of suspects… but he does seem pretty guilty about what happened.


Bree (Leeanna Walsman)

Wife of Ryan. She initially suggests stripping out fixtures from the yacht to make room to take on the refugees, which is a pretty generous move. But when they’re discussing what to do, she says, “We’ve got to think about the kids," and we all know what that means. Five years later, she still seems happily married to Ryan. so it's a little unlikely she’d have been keeping a secret like cutting the rope from him all these years – but then again, who knows what takes place inside a marriage?


Olivia (Phoebe Tonkin)

She works at Ryan’s business and is the one who initially spots the boat. If they were giving out prizes for looking suspicious, she’d be going home with a truckload – giving the boat the death stare is her main hobby. When they’re tossing up what to do, she asks if they “even have enough food” to help, which isn’t a positive sign. On the whole, she doesn’t say much, which is definitely the approach you’d take if you had an evil scheme in mind.


Damien (Joel Jackson) 

Boyfriend of Olivia. When we first see him, he’s gutting a fish, which isn’t usually the sign of someone bursting with compassion. He helps Ryan call the incident in and goes over to the refugee boat, but in general, he's not exactly rushing to help them out. He says trying to tow the refugee boat could burn out the engine and just trying to help them could put everyone at risk, “even them”. He’s probably the most vocal opponent when it comes to helping the refugees out.


Helen (Jacqueline McKenzie)

Neighbour of Ryan and Bree. When we meet her, she’s learning to tie a rope, which she’s surprisingly good at – could this ease around ropes mean she’s the one who cut the line? On the yacht, she’s someone who likes a drink (or five), but five years later she’s on the wagon, which could suggest a dark secret. She’s also a lawyer, which explains her fence-sitting approach to a rescue. Her plan is to mark the refugee boat’s position on a map then head back into Australian waters: “We’re not set up for rescue, so why not go to somebody who is?” But she doesn’t seem to think the refugees are a threat to their safety, so actually cutting the rope? That might be a step too far.


Ismail (Hazem Shammas)

Having him cut the rope is definitely a long shot, considering he’s one of the refugees who was on the boat. But he’s the only one of the survivors who shows anything more than hatred for the Australians who helped them; both his wife, Zahra (Nicole Chamoun), and brother, Bilal (Robert Rabiah), aren’t exactly big fans of the people who left them to die. He’s also the only one who thinks Ryan’s offer of a barbecue get-together is a worthwhile idea, so there’s always the possibility he doesn’t blame them because he’s the one who cut his own boat loose. A very, very slim possibility.

Safe Harbour airs Wednesday nights at 8.30pm on SBS. You can also stream the show anytime at SBS On Demand. Join the conversation with #SafeHarbour.

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