Rob Collins is particularly proud of RFDS for addressing First Nations medical issues to a broad audience in an authentic way.
In its second season the series not only weaves bush medicine into its storylines, but it does not shy away from the very real concerns faced by Indigenous communities.
Collins returns as Senior Medical Officer Wayne Yates in the second season on Seven.
“I’m really excited for people to see Wayne’s journey in this because it raises some serious questions about the intersection between Aboriginal people and the medical profession,” he tells TV Tonight.
“We don’t shy away from that conversation”
“We know anecdotally, that Aboriginal people are over-represented, when it comes to fronting up to hospitals, and suffering chronic diseases. We don’t shy away from that conversation in the series. I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done and of the show for going there. I think it’s going to start conversations that I don’t think we’ve had, in such an unapologetic way on Aussie telly before.”
Collins maintains that the storylines draw from lived experience.
“Certainly in my personal experiences, I can see moments in the script, and think ‘Oh yeah. I’m familiar with this moment. I’ve felt this way before. I’ve got family where this has happened to.’ That’s the best drama, isn’t it, where you can draw on your own experiences in such a way? But more than that, I mean, the show had real ambitions, not to water that stuff down and to represent it and to honour it,” he continues
“We confront things like poor mental health among Aboriginal men, chronic disease”
“We confront things like poor mental health among Aboriginal men, chronic disease, relationships between men…. I think as Australian men, we don’t tend to talk about our inner world much. We’re known for being stoic and suffering in silence. It shows that in stark relief and the consequences of not dealing with that stuff.
“It talks about racism in a really open, unapologetic way, but also in a way that is human. It’s not placarded. These are real situations and it does it in such a way that it’s not teaching anyone a lesson. It’s not precluding anyone. It’s inviting, I think, everyone into this messy world of contradictions, and questions ‘Where do we go from here?’”
Collins is reminded of historic storylines on shows such as A Country Practice when activist Gary Foley, in 1989, played a pastor seeking a permanent doctor at his settlement.
“I think paved the way for characters like this, in a real way,” Collins recalls.
“At the time it was kind of groundbreaking.”
“He talked about the systemic institutional racism that Aboriginal people face when they interact with organisations like medical or law and order. At the time it was kind of groundbreaking. I couldn’t believe he was saying that on commercial television!
“I think in the spirit of that, this season has taken that and we’ve run a step further. I’m just so proud to be able to be part of telling that kind of story this season.
“It’s a real tribute to (co-creator) Ian Meadows and the writing team, director Adrian Wills. There’s a real desire to tell those stories in a genuine way.”
Jack Scott as Matty Harris
He also credits the series dor its wider diversity including LGBTQIA+ characters, which he believes reflects the community of Broken Hill where the show is filmed.
“There’s nothing token about those characters, but that’s Broken Hill. There’s a big drag culture there that’s ingrained in the very heart of the place. You can’t have a story in Broken Hill without without featuring The Palace and the local mob. That’s one of the wonderful things about the show, that representation is authentic, because that’s part and parcel of the life there.”
“There’s the same warmth and heart in all the episodes”
This season Wayne faces new challenges on the home front, trying to reconnect with son Darren (Thomas Weatherall) and dealing with news of Mira’s pregnancy (Ash Ricardo).
“He’s at that real turning point between feeling like he’s professionally in a place where he’s questioning his greater purpose in terms of his mob, as well,” he explains.
“There’s the same warmth and heart in all the episodes but we’ve dug deeper in terms of the Indigenous story, but also stories in the region, with a particular focus on mental health.
“Everyone was really adamant to get stories right, in terms of a medical drama. Of course, there’s corners you have to cut because it’s not a documentary. But as far as we could, we went to great pains to make sure that if a medical professional was watching the show they would approve of the procedures in the way that we’re executing them.
“Some of the stories they tell like, people would think ‘That’s just been scripted for television!’ I mean, the stories that they come back with are just amazing. They’re such an exceptional bunch of human beings that do this incredible job. If we could, we’d include all their stories, but some of them are stranger than fiction.”
RFDS continues 9:15pm Tuesday on Seven.