• Ian Thorpe, Julia Zemiro and Ernie Dingo (SBS)Source: SBS
Ian Thorpe, Julia Zemiro and Ernie Dingo are three high-profile Australians from very different backgrounds who set off on this intrepid journey into their genetic history with the help of high profile human geneticist and series consultant Dr John Mitchell.
26 Apr 2016 - 6:13 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2016 - 3:15 PM

The three adventurers of the epic genetic journey that is DNA Nation, might be familiar faces, but they all come from very different backgrounds. As the series will show though - perhaps they're not so different afterall.

Meet the participants and read more about their backgrounds below.

Julia Zemiro

French born-Australian Julia Zemiro is an acting graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts (1993) and a trained improviser (Theatre Sports Inc, Flying Pig Theatre Co 1988-99).

Arguably best known for her work as host of the SBS hit TV program RocKwiz, now in its 13th series, Julia’s theatre, film and television work spans all genres from drama to comedy, improvisation to hosting.

Julia’s hosting success continues with her own show (which she also co-produces) Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery now in its fourth series for the ABC, and her annual co-hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ian Thorpe

Affectionately known to many as ‘Thorpedo’, Ian Thorpe is Australia’s most decorated Olympian, and one of Australia’s favourite sons.

Ian started swimming when he was eight years old, and first grabbed world attention when he won the 1998 world 400m freestyle title in Perth, at 15 becoming the youngest ever swimming world champion. From that point onward Ian dominated middle distance swimming, and in the process has become one of the most prolific
athletes the sport has even seen.

“Thorpey” broke 22 world records and won five gold, three silver and one bronze Olympic medals. Ian has also collected 11 World Championship titles, 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals and nine Pan Pacific titles.

Ian’s sporting achievements have also given him international celebrity status. Ian has hosted and appeared on an abundance of television shows and has been the face of international events and the recipient of dozens of awards worldwide.

Ernie Dingo

Ernie Dingo has earned enormous respect as a performer capable of extraordinary versatility. His talents as an actor, television host, reporter and comedian have made him one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers.

Ernie is a passionate advocate for his people and vigilant about the portrayal of Indigenous people in film and television. He has won numerous awards and accolades, and in 1997 was declared one of Australia’s Top 100 “National Living Treasures”.

He has had numerous prestigious roles in film and television, and is perhaps most affectionately known for his role top rating Seven Network program The Great Outdoors. 

In 1990, Ernie was awarded the General Division of the Order of Australia by Her Majesty the Queen. In 1994, he was voted “Aboriginal of the Year” by the NAIDOC Committee, and “Personality of the Year” by the Australian Caption Centre. In 2004 he was again recognised for his work when he was awarded the Deadly Award for
‘Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television’. He was also awarded the 1999 People’s Choice Award for ‘Favourite TV Presenter’.

Dr John Mitchell


Dr John Mitchell has been studying aspects of human genetic variation ever since he graduated from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, in 1968. His initial research was on the genetics of various regional populations of the British Isles, including those on the Isle of Man, Cumbria and Ireland.

After 2 years of postdoctoral research at the University of Newcastle (UK) he moved to the Australia and joined the Genetics and Human Variation Department at La Trobe University, Melbourne. For 40 years he has taught at every undergraduate level and supervised many Masters and PhD students.

Dr Mitchell is our series consultant and will act as a guide to the intrepid adventurers throughout the show.


DNA Nation starts Sunday 22 May, 8.30pm on SBS.

DNA Nation will be released on DVD on Wednesday 8 June 2016. To pre-order your copy, click here.

DNA Nation: About the show
Ian Thorpe, Ernie Dingo and Julia Zemiro are about to become some of the first people in Australia to use DNA to go on a journey tracing their ancestry back through more than 200,000 years.