Press Centre

Martin Clunes Islands of Australia

  • Episode: 

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 10 Jan 2017
  • TX Confirmed: 

    Yes
  • Time: 

    8.00pm - 9.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 02 2017 : Sat 07 Jan - Fri 13 Jan
  • Channel: 

    ITV
  • Status: 

    New
The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing into the public domain until Tuesday 3 January 2017.
 
Series Synopsis
 
Martin Clunes is on a quest to explore the islands of Australia in this three part documentary series for ITV. 
 
With more than 8,000 islands to choose from, Martin visits sixteen which provide a fascinating insight into the diversity, history and challenges of island life in Australia.
 
“I’m on an 8,000 mile odyssey right around the continent, to discover what these far-flung places tell us about Australia and its people,” Martin explains. 
 
“Each island is a microcosm that tells us something different about our world. Australia’s islands have it all: exotic creatures, spectacular marine life, and of course the different people who inhabit them. 
 
“Whether they’re relative newcomers or they’ve lived there for generations, these are the resourceful, extraordinary people who call these islands home. This is my voyage around the adventure playgrounds, the best-kept secrets and the astonishing surprises of the Islands of Australia.”
 
Episode 1
 
Martin begins his odyssey by flying 600kilometres east over the Pacific Ocean to Lord Howe Island. It’s his first experience of Australia’s remote island communities: the pace of life is slow and the population is a steady 350. Jack Shick introduces Martin to the treasures of a place that was untouched by humans until Europeans accidentally stumbled across it in 1788, just three weeks after the first mainland colony was founded where Sydney is today. 
 
Lord Howe Island is home to several species of flora and fauna that occur nowhere else on earth. Proud locals call it “the Last Paradise”. Jack shows Martin how to shimmy up the Kentia Palm, the island’s most famous and only export, and one of the world’s most popular indoor plants.
 
Martin says: “Lord Howe Island matches many people’s idea of a dream island, and landing on it is like discovering a hidden garden of Eden. A place where you can imagine what it must have been like before mankind arrived.”
 
Norfolk Island is Martin’s next stop. It is Australia’s most easterly territory, and the remotest island on Martin’s journey; nearly 1,500 kilometres from the mainland in the middle of the Pacific. Martin arrives in time for the annual Foundation Day ceremony, when islanders re-enact the landing of the First Fleet boatload of convicts in 1788. 
 
Though to all appearances it’s a serene island paradise today, Norfolk’s past is darker and more colourful than Lord Howe’s – a past that lives on in Norfolk’s unique customs, culture and language. In the early 19th century it became a byword for the worst horrors of exile: one of the most notorious prison islands in the British Empire, where convicts could expect to end their days in a living hell.
 
Like many of the island’s modern day inhabitants, Sarah Randall traces her ancestry back to Norfolk’s next wave of settlers: the descendants of the legendary Bounty mutineers, who took Tahitian wives and lived on Pitcairn Island until they outgrew it and relocated to Norfolk Island in 1856. As a result, the distinctive Norfolk dialect is a fusion of 19th century English and Tahitian. 
 
The younger generation also take pride in their roots. Under the enthusiastic tuition of Maree Reynolds, the Baunti Byuutis learn to perform Tahitian dances to ukuleles and drums. 
 
On Restoration Island Martin meets Dave Glasheen who is a modern day Robinson Crusoe. He was a high-flying businessman with a big mansion in Sydney. Then the stock market crashed, and Dave was ruined.
 
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In 1993 Dave decided to transform his life utterly by leasing an island and giving up all the trappings of high-powered urban life for self-sufficiency and solitude. His partner persuaded him to move to Restoration Island, but after six months she couldn’t hack it and left. 
 
Dave decided to stay on, and has been there for 20 years. Martin learns how Dave survives off the land and gets to swim in crocodile infested waters, which he’s reliably informed by Dave are safe at the right time of day.
 
Dave says: “I was the chairman of a public company and lost it all. I had properties and debts and mortgages and all those normal things which the bank took, and the family walked. 
 
“I met a new bird and she wanted an island so here I am, and that was the dream.
“I grew up, as a kid, on the beach and we grew up with simple life like this. You know all I needed was an oyster bottle and a stale bit of bread and a hook and a line and I’d be out all day. “I wish I was born here and didn’t know about the city, that would be even better.”
 
At the heart of the Torres Strait, Thursday Island is a true Ocean crossroads with a cultural mix all of its own; influences come not only from mainland Australia but also nearby Papua New Guinea, ancestral Melanesian settlers, and Japanese pearl divers.
 
From the cultural mix comes a love of music. Martin meets Seaman Dan, an 87 year old former pearl diver who late in life shot to international fame with his gently lilting music that draws heavily on Torres Strait calypso. Martin finds Dan sitting outside a record shop on Thursday Island’s main street, where he sits every day. They’re accompanied by Dan’s grandson Patrick Mau, who inherited Dan’s music gene and fuses hip hop with Torres Strait themes.
 
From Thursday Island Martin takes a boat to Friday Island where he meets Kazu Takami, a former pearl fisherman, who now runs the only remaining cultivated Pearl Farm in Queensland. It’s a reminder of the days when these islands were the centre of the world trade for pearl shell, attracting a generation of Japanese divers to settle here and make a living. Martin is shown how pearls are formed with surgical precision in farmed oysters.