Family Rules is a reality series following the lives of nine sisters: Angela 29, Shenika 27, Helen 26, Kelly 23, Kiara 22, Sharna 20, Aleisha 17, Jessica 14 and Hannah 12.
The program explores the everyday triumphs and misfortunes of these young women as they balance their aspirations with the values of their mother. Daniella Borg is raising them on her own after the tragic death of her husband following a one-hit "coward punch" in 2004.
Filmed over nine months, with no shooting scripts, this series provides an exclusive look into a contemporary Indigenous Australian family and the familiar problems of adolescence, young adult life and parenthood.
Ms Borg, a Noongar woman says it's been a surreal experience and she wants people to listen and learn about her cultural heritage and grassroots.
"It's about being given an opportunity and basically as a whole group it was a collective decision, it was about making sure everyone was happy to do it - be followed by cameras at family functions and personal times," she says.
"It was a privilege to be asked, even though we couldn’t understand why - this is just our normal life."
The mother of nine says she's excited to show Australia a bit about her culture.
"Whether you're a teen, parent, or grandmother - people go through all sorts of crazy things in their life and we hope we show that family has the strength to keep you together and support you through all kinds of things."
“What makes the Rule children so intriguing is that they are representative of young Australia, and that they allow us to see this aspect of our society from the perspective of Indigenous Australians."
"Everyone has culture. Every Aboriginal person in Australia has culture, it doesn't matter what part you're from, we all have similarities and differences. This is about acknowledging that we are all Aboriginal but we are uniquely different and that's what we're proud to show."
Executive producer Renee Kennedy says this ob-doc series aims to change the national conversation about the first people of this land.
“I hope that the series contributes positively to the discussion about how Indigenous Australians are represented in the media and that it adds to the cultural fabric of our nation by demonstrating how alike we all are at a time when society seems increasingly divided along the lines of race and ethnicity.”
Ms Kennedy hopes it will entertain not only an Indigenous audience, but also non-Indigenous viewers.
“I was interested in dispelling negative stereotypes about Indigenous people in Australia such as not caring for their children, being on welfare and uneducated."
“The size of this family, the fact that they are all girls - all born to the same mother and father - is a rarity in a society filled with nuclear and broken families,” Kennedy says.
“What makes the Rule children so intriguing is that they are representative of young Australia – aspirational, media savvy, tech literate, opinionated and thoughtful – and that they allow us to see this aspect of our society from the perspective of Indigenous Australians. They are proud of their Noognar and Ngadju heritage and always mindful of supporting their community in their daily endeavours.”
Ms Kennedy says she hopes this series will mark an important milestone for Australian television.
“Rarely has an urban Indigenous family opened their doors to Australia in this way. This is not Redfern or Western Sydney; it is not the remote Northern Territory or the Kimberley, but an unassuming suburb 12 kilometres east of Perth. So what happens here, with this family, is all the more important because this story has never been told.”
Co-ep and Field Director Karla Hart says the Rule family was made for television.
“Not only were they a unique family of nine sisters, they were real, funny, hardworking, strong, crazy and proudly Aboriginal and had a love for each other and their family that is just so beautiful.”
“The Rule family’s domestic dramas are so similar to those of other urban families in Australia, but it’s more fascinating to observe through the eyes of strong Aboriginal women.”
One of the unique elements that set Family Rules aside from other series is how it highlights the power of inter-generational caring and the importance of this for an Aboriginal Australian. Daniella, her nine daughters, five grandchildren, Nan, friends and family all in one place at times provided an exclusive insight into the modern Indigenous family balancing culture and contemporary life.
Ms Hart says sometimes it was heartbreaking to share their trauma, deep sadness and everyday stress of life with the family. However one thing always found was fun and laughter.
“For me the resilience of this family represents so many of our mob doing things hard, carrying heartache yet making the best of what they have for their futures and their children.”
Each episode of the show focuses on the lives of particular sisters as they give an insight into the challenges common to many young women. However, navigating life in a family of nine presents its own unique challenges and when the rules are broken, everyone has something to say.
The three eldest girls:
Angela, Shenika and Helen all live within a five kilometre radius of their mother’s house with their own families. These young women are juggling the challenges of having young children and their own career ambitions.
The three middle girls:
Kelly, Kiara and Sharna are trying to live independent lives free from their frustrating but lovable younger sisters.
The three youngest girls:
Aleisha, Jessica and Hannah live at home with Mum and are consumed with adolescent dilemmas. All the while, mother of nine, Daniella, traverses a tricky landscape of endless conflict - and risks calls of favouritism - in order to keep her family together. But keeping all her daughters happy is difficult, especially when she is doing it on her own and in the shadow of a shocking past trauma.
Family Rules is heartwarming and life-affirming television; it is a series providing an intimate snapshot of modern family life.
Wodi Wodi woman and Series producer Gillian Moody endured stereotypes whilst growing up on the east coast of Australia and says this program shows your ‘typical’ Aussie family.
“I was interested in dispelling negative stereotypes about Indigenous people in Australia such as not caring for their children, being on welfare and uneducated, she said.”
"To be the ones to tell the stories is not a pleasure, but a privilege."
“They share universal values have desires and dreams of happiness for their children: to own a home, to find love, but mostly to nurture good family relationships with love and support.”
One of Moody’s early Indigenous film and television mentors once told her that ‘to be the ones to tell the stories is not a pleasure, but a privilege’, and she says this was true when working with the Rule family.
“My hope is that we have created a series that brings 10 strong Aboriginal voices to our screens, as they live day to day, dreaming big for their futures with each other’s love and support.”
Family Rules is not only breaking down barriers for Indigenous people but it is facilitating fabulous, fun and incredibly strong Indigenous women in the spotlight to be role models for the next generation.
Family Rules airs on Monday 9 January, 7.30pm on NITV Ch. 34
Catch a sneak peak of Episode 1 On Demand .