Legendary drama writer / director / producer James Davern, best known for A Country Practice and Bellbird, died on Monday, aged in his 90s.
Davern’s success as a producer of Australian Drama led to a Logie Hall of Fame induction and an Order of Australia Medal for service to television as a writer, director and producer.
His career began in the 1960s as a writer and script editor with ABC Television. He was later employed in the areas of drama and music programmes as both producer and director, and is widely regarded as establishing the the Australian scriptwriting team process.
In 1967 he was director and producer of the very first Bellbird episode, staying with the series in a number of positions for seven years.
He created A Country Practice, one of the most popular drama series in Australian television history. The series ran from 1981 to 1993 with 1,058 episodes. It was briefly remade by Network 10 in 1994 which ran for just 30 episodes.
In 2021 Davern told A Country Podcast, “There was a lot of opposition to it when it first started. Up til then Australian television drama had been, in the main, detectives chasing baddies, shoot-outs and chase sequences and all that sort of thing. But we didn’t have any chase sequences, and we didn’t have anyone shooting anyone. We just had a lot of people working away together, trying to make their lives work.
“One of the statistics that really heartened me was that 1/3 of the audience was over 60, 1/3 was between 20 and 60, and 1/3 was under 20. Three generations of a family could sit down together. Now that’s heartening.”
In addition to memorable characters and drama moments such as Molly’s death, ACP in 1989 featured an Indigenous activist who helped found the Canberra Tent Embassy.
Actor Gary Foley once told the Guardian, “Jim Davern rung me up and asked me if I was interested. I said I was only interested if I could write my own character and my own dialogue. The character I wanted to play was an Aboriginal Christian pastor who advocated land rights.”
Davern’s prolific career as writer also included Homicide, Alpha Scorpio, Rush, Patrol Boat, Warming Up and as a producer and/or executive producer on Barnaby and Me, No Room to Run, Queen of the Road, Hector’s Bunyip, Land of Hope, Whipping Boy, The Hostages, Reprisal and Without Warning.
Photo: A Country Podcast