Professor Steve Simpson presents Great Southern Land on ABC TV

17 September 2012

Explore the amazing landscapes of Australia from the air, when Professor Steve Simpson, from the School of Biological Sciences, presents Great Southern Land - a four part documentary series on ABC TV starting on 23 September.

Taking to the sky in gliders, helicopters, hot air balloons and anything else that will carry him, Professor Simpson takes us on a unique journey across Australia looking at how we humans interact with this great continent.

Professor Simpson presents Great Southern Land on ABC TV
Professor Simpson presents Great Southern Land on ABC TV

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 we move people, goods and data around the continent, and show how the Australian population is concentrated on the coastal fringes of the continent in sprawling metropolises.

"Filming Great Southern Land was an amazing experience - this land of ours is truly remarkable," said Professor Simpson, from the School of Biological Sciences and Director of the University's Charles Perkins Centre.

"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 our 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. Like 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. It's a remarkable journey!"

Professor Simpson was chosen to present the series as his biological research also takes a big picture approach, having discovered the significance of protein in our diets from work that began with examining why locusts swarm. Professor Simpson's warmth and charm on screen, paired with his scientific expertise, lends the series a real sense of discovery and exploration.

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.

"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.

"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 to create rain and lots more people. These intriguing and insightful personal stories for me are the highlight of the documentary series."

Produced by Cordell Jigsaw, with Executive Producer, Steve Bibb, and award winning Series Producer, Ivan O'Mahoney, Great Southern Land provides a visually spectacular and unique view of our continent.

View Australia like never before when Great Southern Land takes flight, from the top of the Snowy Mountains to the tropical wilds of the Gulf of Carpentaria, from the irrigated farms of the Murray Darling Basin to the red heart of Uluru, and from the ancient forests of Tasmania to the bustling major cities.

Great Southern Land on ABC1 TV:

7.30pm Sunday 23 September, Sunday 30 September, Sunday 7 October, Sunday 14 October.