ABC’s new fact series First weapons can start each episode with a cultural lesson but also be prepared for a playful twist.
Episode one of Australia’s most iconic fledgling series showcases the origins of the boomerang, but ends with a spirited ride between a boomerang and a drone.
“Maybe it’s a little contrived. But I think it’s really important when you’re watching Indigenous content,” says Kelrick Martin, head of ABC’s Indigenous division TV tonight.
“It’s 2023 for God’s sake. We need to present these things in a fun and engaging way. It’s not enough to just be black content. It has yet to entertain, it has yet to reach an audience.
“It’s not just ‘Is a boomerang better than a drone?’ It’s just about having some fun, really.
Over six episodes, host Phil Breslin travels to Australia to meet with arms manufacturers and scientific experts, uncovering the genius and science of Australia’s oldest, most innovative and deadliest weapons.
In the first episode he travels to Kaurna Country in South Australia to investigate the Returning Boomerang with arms manufacturer Moogy Sumner (pictured above)
“The format is very much, as with any TV show in this sort of vein, about highlighting a particular gun, but also the country that gun comes from, the traditional keepers of that gun, and the people who hold the knowledge to make it and sustain it, and keep it alive for future generations.”
Both Phil and Moogy go up against FAI Drone Racing World Champion Rudi Browning.
“You take it off the museum shelf and dust it off and have some fun and enjoy it for what it is.”
Further episodes will also feature a Kodj, a traditional ax from Southwest WA, and the Amerr, the spear or Woomera as it is more commonly known. In Victoria’s Wadi Wadi Country Phil meets arms makers Brendan Kennedy and Trevor Kirby to learn more about fighting hand weapons – the Leangle Club and the Parrying Shield, while in Central Australia he learns about the Wartilykirri.
“The ‘Number 7’ boomerang, or the non-returnable boomerang of the Katherine region, is a truly formidable weapon, not only to throw but to fight. So there are all kinds, but each one has its own unique science, what it looks like, what properties it’s made of, how it works,” Martin explains.
“We put spear throwing against weapons that date from the colonization period to the early 20th century and how it performs in terms of rate of fire. It actually performs really well. If you were using an early 19th century musket against someone with us with a handful of spears and an Amerr, you wouldn’t be able to fire a shot when they’ve already put three or four spears in you.
The series is produced by Blackfella Films (Total Control, Redfern Now, DNA Nation, First Contact, Deep Water, Mabo, The Australian Wars) with host Phil Breslin who previously starred in ABC ME’s Built to Survive (2022), NITV’s The Lost Diamonds (2020) and National Geographic’s international series Wild Survivor (2015).
“Phil Breslin is an absolute star. He’s such a wonderful, committed character with a genuine love for the work that he does. He is a science teacher by profession and a very nice guy. Some of the early projects he worked on, like NatGeo Discovery, he would go out and take his shirt off,” he recalls.
“It’s a very broad show. When I was looking at the rough cuts, my 10 year old was just hanging over my shoulder, loving all science and all guns.
“This show celebrates the origins of these things and the ingenuity behind them, and reassures audiences that yes, it may be First Nations heritage, but it is also part of our Australian history.
“I think it’s really important for us all to accept that.”
First Weapons screens Fridays at 7:30pm on ABC.