Australian coastline in the spotlight

COVERING more than 66,000km of coastline was always going to be a big ask for Neil Oliver.

The host of the hit British series Coast spent 12 weeks traversing the country for the first Coast Australia series, travelling from The Kimberley and Great Barrier Reef in the north to Tasmania in the south.

The archaeologist said no amount of research for the eight-part series could prepare him for the scale and diversity of Australia's coastline.

"I'd never been in Australia before this year, but having said that, obviously the Brits and Scots have a strong connection to Australia because of immigration," he said.

"We think we know Australia, but my experience of being there was mind expanding."

To say Oliver had a warm welcome when he landed in Sydney with his family would be a massive understatement.

"The day we arrived it was the hottest day ever recorded in Sydney," he said.

"It was 45 degrees or something. I've been in some hot places over the years, but in Australia it was the first time I'd felt my skin seeming to cook, like the feeling when you're standing too close to the fire, not sunburned but actually burned."

Despite the heat, and his fear of snakes, sharks and spiders, Oliver said he felt right at home during his three months Down Under.

"One of the over-riding things I felt about being in Australia was how welcoming it was," he said.

"Although we were 12,000 miles from home, it felt like a hot version of home. Things about it were unfamiliar like the heat and the landscape but the people, the culture, the way people talked was just like being at home but far from home."

Not surprisingly, the Scotsman felt a special connection to Tasmania's south-eastern coastline.

"That southeast coastline profoundly reminded me of home," he said.

"That level of moisture and rain obviously made the landscape greener, which reminded me not just of Scotland, but this specific part of Scotland near Galloway.

"I had a deep sense of homesickness when I was in Tasmania because it was so familiar."

The setting of the first episode, The Kimberley, was a not-so familiar setting for Oliver who was invited by traditional owners to view sacred rock art and watch as it was maintained.

"An area of particular interest for me is in deep prehistory and I have a preoccupation with the early inhabitants of my own island," he said.

"So I did feel a particular draw towards understanding the story of the Aboriginal colonisation of the Australian continent 50,000 years ago.

"No other place on the planet can you be side by side with people whose reach of memory and understanding goes back a quarter of the way back into the human story."

Joining Oliver on Coast Australia are presenters Brendan Moore, Xanthe Mallet, former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery, marine scientist Dr Emma Johnston and arts and culture specialist Miriam Corowa.


Coast Australia - The History Channel - Monday at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW.

Topics:  neil oliver

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