• The Family Law episode 1 (SBS)Source: SBS
Some of my friends jokingly refer to the Sunshine Coast school I attended as “fame school”. It’s partly true.
Benjamin Law

12 Jan 2016 - 4:24 PM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2016 - 11:13 AM

Sure, it wasn’t one of those selective performing arts schools where you have to cry-audition to get in, but somehow we ended up with bona fide celebrity alumni anyway: Olympic athletes; recording artists; several published authors (HAI GAIZ); a Best New Talent Logie nominee; a model who became the face of Yellowglen mid-price sparkling wine; and a former soldier suspected of links with Al Qaeda which I think we can all agree is the most exciting kind of alumni to have.

Like most Queensland schools, most of its emphasis was on sport, but there was this unexpected streak of showbusiness and razzamatazz too. We put on big school plays and musical productions, and once won a Rock Eisteddfod award for a large-scale interpretive dance on drought. By the time I was a senior, we’d even ditched the prefects system and replaced it with three sets of captains: House (popular kids), Sports (jocks) and Cultural (freaks; gays). Needless to say, I was elected Cultural Captain. I won the gig on the back of an impeccable CV that included being a member of the orchestra, symphonic band, photography club and lone male member of the school clarinet ensemble – the clarinet being the sexiest of all woodwind instruments.

My adorably monocultural school thought it’d be great to deck a bunch of six-year-olds in black face

But like any school, the high point of the cultural calendar was always the horrendous talent shows. I was first exposed to their majestic horrors in Year One, when my adorably monocultural school thought it’d be great to deck a bunch of six-year-olds in black face and body paint (N.B. none of us were black) to sing Rolf Harris’s Carra Barra Wirra Canna. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realise this was wrong on several levels. 

What I really love about talent shows most though, is the high-stakes drama. They’re so intense. There’s something camply gladiatorial about them, and the fact they involve vulnerable minors is exquisite. In what other environment is it acceptable – or legal – that a crowd of adults can cheer on young girls grinding to Nicki Minaj, or an entire hall can boo off a child not yet emotionally ready for failure? It’s glorious. School talent shows are like Game of Thrones: you either win, or you die … of embarrassment. There is no middle ground. What better place to kick off The Family Law, really.


The Family Law Thursdays 8:30pm on SBS or anytime at SBS On Demand