Returning for a third season in May, documentary series Untold Australia continues to unearth some of the most fascinating and unreported stories from Australia’s diverse and sometimes eclectic communities. This year, four new stand-alone broadcast documentaries and an online interactive documentary will each tell stories that will entertain, educate and make you question why you’ve not heard about them before.
From forgotten islands 3000 kms north-west of Perth trying to claim their rightful place in the multicultural tapestry of Australia to a pair of rabbis and their wives on a mission to bring Jews together in remote locations across our country, the four-part series will uncover surprising stories, and insights from often elusive and close-knit cultural groups within our nation.
The series will launch on Wednesday 16 May with Lebanese Beauty Queens that goes behind the scenes of Australia’s most controversial beauty pageant. For 16 years, the pageant has attracted the who’s who of Sydney’s Lebanese community, as the daughters of proud families compete to be crowned Miss Lebanon Australia.
The documentary is seen through the eyes of the contestants and the pageant’s "glam squad", who create the perfect beauty queen over a five-week period. The winner will go on to compete in the prestigious Miss Lebanon Emigrant Beauty Pageant in Beirut, with a history of past queens going on to achieve international stardom in the Middle East.
The following week, on Wednesday 23 May, Orthodox Chabad rabbis hit the Aussie bush on a road-trip like no other. Dressed in their traditional black suits and fedora hats, the Outback Rabbis embark on a journey filled with surprising and emotional encounters with Aussie outback characters.
Leaving the comfort of city life, the two rabbis and their families head into the heart of Australia, travelling the country in a campervan emblazoned with their Jewish mission and rattling into remote Aussie towns in their search for "lost Jews".
From lush islands and rainforest in North Queensland to Uluru and the Red Centre, this often humorous and touching documentary travels to some of the most spectacular sights in Australia, discovering the hidden world of the Australian Jewish community in the bush.
Also launching on Wednesday 23 May is Nobody Loves You More Than Me: Finding Margarete a text-based interactive documentary, available at sbs.com.au/margarete. This beautiful and poignant story explores the untold life of Margarete Back, the grandmother of one of Australia’s most respected photo-media artists, Anne Zahalka. It is written by Anne’s friend, and one of Australia’s most original and provocative writers, Charlotte Wood.
Told through a series of unseen letters and photographs, the doco will invite viewers to join Anne as she sets off on an emotional journey of discovery to March 1938, Vienna, where 55-year-old Margarete and her teenage daughters are living together in a comfortable apartment when Hitler’s army marches into the city.
Broadcasting the following week on Wednesday 30 May, Australia’s Forgotten Islands is a documentary chronicling a little-known part of Australia – the Cocos Keeling Islands – where Muslims outnumber Christians by more than five to one, and the Southern Star and the Islamic crescent moon sit side by side on the islands’ flag.
The documentary captures the community at a time when external forces threaten to disrupt the island’s unique way of life forever. As Australian strategists eye up the value of the Cocos as a military outpost, the locals are forced to confront the fact their lives are in the hands of a government almost 6000 kms away in Canberra, and they are part of a country that barely even knows they exist. The Cocos Islanders respond by formulating a plan that will ensure they have a voice in determining the future of their homeland. All it requires is for the man who expected to become the next "King of the Cocos" to collaborate closely with the Malay people his ancestors treated virtually like slaves. What could possibly go wrong?
Untold Australia will conclude on Wednesday 13 June with Behind the Blue Line, an intimate, unflinching look at how the police operate in one of Australia’s most multicultural suburbs: Mirrabooka, in the northern suburbs of Perth.
Told through the experiences of its frontline cops and the specialised Multicultural Unit, this documentary explores how you police a community which is home to 70 percent of Perth’s new migrants and 62 different nationalities, and speaks 102 different languages. The delicate and serious issues officers encounter over a 10-hour shift are astounding. How do you navigate so many complexities, enforce the law, break down cultural barriers, start to build trust – and deal with obscure conundrums like finding a marijuana-laden skip bin in a carpark?
SBS Head of Documentaries Joseph Maxwell said, “SBS is known for commissioning bold and fascinating documentaries about Australia’s diverse and multicultural communities. The aim of Untold Australia is to shine a light on some of the people we don’t get to see on our screens so often and hear their amazing stories.”
“All of the documentaries in this season are unique; sometimes hilarious, often poignant – but all of them will make you look at the world with a slightly more quizzical and questioning outlook. They take you to places you may never have been before and help to paint a picture of an Australia you may never have discovered before.”
Lebanese Beauty Queens (produced by iKandy Films) airs Wednesday 16 May at 8:30pm on SBS
Outback Rabbis (produced by Unicorn Films) + online interactive Nobody Loves You More Than Me: Finding Margarete (produced by the SBS online team) airs Wednesday 23 May at 8:30pm on SBS
Australia’s Forgotten Islands (produced by Chemical Media) airs Wednesday 30 May at 8:30pm on SBS
Behind the Blue Line (Periscope Pictures in association with Joined Up Films) airs Wednesday 13 June at 8:30pm on SBS
Untold Australia is a commissioned documentary series produced for SBS with funding from Screen Australia, and assistance from Film Victoria (Outback Rabbis and Australia's Forgotten Islands) and Screenwest (Behind the Blue Line)