The Secret River v Banished: a tale of two mini-series

Oliver Jackson-Cohen, left, and Trevor Jamieson, far right, in a scene from The Secret River.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen, left, and Trevor Jamieson, far right, in a scene from The Secret River. Photo ABC TV

AUSTRALIA'S early history as a penal colony is in the spotlight in several new TV dramas.

The second half of the ABC's mini-series The Secret River airs tomorrow.

The well-acted drama is adapted from author Kate Grenville's best-selling novel about the white settlement of the Hawkesbury River.

One of The Secret River's most powerful aspects is its central theme of cultural conflict between the British colonists and the Aboriginal people of the region.

Trevor Jamieson leads a fantastic cast of Aboriginal actors and brings a wealth of knowledge to the drama after starring in the play.

Trevor Jamieson in a scene from the TV series The Secret River. Supplied by ABC TV.
Trevor Jamieson in a scene from the TV series The Secret River. Supplied by ABC TV.

Not surprisingly, the first half of the mini-series delivered the ABC's biggest Sunday night audience for the year, winning the competitive 8.30pm timeslot.

Compared to The Secret River, Foxtel's upcoming series Banished has one glaring omission.

The series, the first co-production between Foxtel and the BBC, has not one Aboriginal character or actor.

While the storyline follows "a group of convicts, the marines that guard them and men who govern them", the failure to in any way address or include the existing indigenous people seems like a missed opportunity.

It's like ignoring one of the major, if not the biggest, challenges of Australia's early colonial history.

Co-producer Jimmy McGovern, who was a story editor on Redfern Now, has defended the choice of an all-white cast to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The two-week timeframe of the drama wasn't sufficient time to develop indigenous character, he said.

It's still a shame as, like The Secret River, there is some great acting in Banished.

It stars David Wenham (as Governor Arthur Phillip), Ryan Corr, Russell Tovey and MyAnna Buring.

Banished is still definitely worth a look though, as long as you keep in mind it's a fictional historical drama, and one very narrowly focused on the early challenges of the First Fleet.

Topics:  australia series television

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