News

Steve Simpson presents 'Great Southern Land' on ABC TV


17 September 2012

Professor Steve Simpson: "From the skies, we uncover the otherwise hidden patterns, rhythms, networks and systems that keep Australia fed, alive, on the move and thriving." [Image: Cordell Jigsaw]
Professor Steve Simpson: "From the skies, we uncover the otherwise hidden patterns, rhythms, networks and systems that keep Australia fed, alive, on the move and thriving." [Image: Cordell Jigsaw]

Taking to the sky in gliders, helicopters, hot air balloons and anything else that will carry him, Professor Steve Simpson begins his journey across Australia this coming Sunday 23 September, in a documentary series on ABC TV looking at how humans interact with the landscape.

Professor Steve Simpson, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences, is presenting Great Southern Land, a four-part series exploring the amazing landscapes of Australia from the air.

The series will reveal how Australians use the land to produce food and generate electricity, and face the challenges of bushfires, droughts and floods. It will uncover how people, goods and data move around the continent, and show how the Australian population is concentrated on the coastal fringes in sprawling metropolises.

"From the skies, we uncover the otherwise hidden patterns, rhythms, networks and systems that keep Australia fed, alive, on the move and thriving," said Professor Simpson who is also director of the University's Charles Perkins Centre. "Filming Great Southern Land was an amazing experience - this land of ours is truly remarkable.

"In the series, we view Australia from above in all sorts of interesting ways, including while skydiving, while hang-gliding, from a NSW police helicopter, from the top of a crane moving shipping containers and even from the perspective of an electrical worker crawling along power lines with 500,000 volts running through them!"

With these unique perspectives on our land, the series seeks to explore how remoteness, distance and the relationship with the natural world shape the rhythm of daily life in Australia.

"The four episodes of Great Southern Land present some really startling facts and let you in on all sorts of processes that you might not normally think about but that affect your daily life. Just one example is how we unravel the network of food production by tracing the ingredients of the humble Australian burger from Roma in Queensland to Adelaide, and from Victoria's Mornington Peninsula to Queensland's Glass House Mountains.

"We set out to document the state of affairs in modern Australia - to provide an account of how 23 million of us manage to cling to the edges of this huge, dry continent and make our way in the world as a thriving advanced economy. The challenge for us as a nation is to balance meeting our needs and lifestyle aspirations, without compromising the health of our environment, or of ourselves," explained Professor Simpson.

"At the heart of the series are the fascinating human stories we uncover - the people behind the scenes who make this country what it is. We speak to an aerial fire fighter, a wheat farmer, a rice farmer, a group of coal miners, a wild dog trapper, a traffic reporter, a high rise window cleaner, a grave digger, a rainmaker who flies into storms to release iodine particles and lots more people. These intriguing and insightful personal stories for me are the highlight of the documentary series."

Professor Simpson was chosen to present the series as his biological research takes a big picture approach, having discovered the significance of protein in human diets from work that began with examining why locusts swarm.

Professor Simpson's research has been recognised with numerous awards and honours including being elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2007, awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research in 2008, named NSW Scientist of the Year in 2009, and awarded the Wigglesworth Medal from the Royal Entomological Society of London in 2010.


Great Southern Land on ABC1 TV starts 7.30pm, Sunday 23 September.


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Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au