Weerianna Street Media’s ‘Red Dirt Riders’ kickstarts NAIDOC Week on the ABC

The cast of 'Red Dirt Riders'.

The rich landscape of Western Australia’s Pilbara region will be showcased around Australia during NAIDOC Week as Weerianna Street Media’s Red Dirt Riders premieres on ABC ME.

Told across five 15-minute episodes, the factual series follows a group of bike-obsessed Roebourne kids aged between 10-13 on their two and four-wheeled adventures across Ngarluma country.

The riders experience Pilbara’s first traffic jam, take a trip to a coastal ghost town, discover some local history about a famous dog and hear stories of the spirits of the country, all whilst avoiding getting bogged in the bush.

Thalu stars Logan Adams, Cherry Rose Hubert, Sharliya Mowarin and Penesha Wally are joined by newcomers Isaac Guinness, Toby Cedar, Haseem May, Layne Smith, Fabian Dhu, RJ Parker and Johnita Sandy as subjects for the series.

Red Dirt Riders was written and produced by Robyn Marais and directed and co-produced by Ngarluma man, Tyson Mowarin.

The series was shot just after Easter in the school holidays with support from with support from ABC, NITV, Screenwest and Lotterywest, Screen Australia’s PEP program and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.

Marais told IF the idea for the program had come about in discussions following the completion of Weerianna Street Media’s ABC/NITV children’s series Thalu, which was about a group of Indigenous children who undertake a journey to save their country from the threat of a mysterious dust cloud and its inhabitants, the Takers.

“We had a good relationship with [ABC children’s content commissioning editor] Mary-Ellen Mullane and we were thinking about what we could do next after Thalu, which was worked up by consulting with young people that had been working on a series of comics called Neomad,” she said.

“We were talking about ways to keep the children participating and we saw what was happening in the Alice Springs with Maverix.

“This was thought of as almost a companion piece, but instead of being a drama, it was factual.”

RJ Parker and Sharliya Mowarin.

The program came together across a period of 12 weeks, including pre and post-production, with the schedule allowing for one episode to be shot per day.

Marais said she had been impressed with how the young cast had handled the “intense” production timetable.

“I hope people see there are some great little performers in Roebourne that could maybe go on to have a career, and that it is well worth visiting this place,” she said.

“Also, I think the autonomy of Roebourne kids is something to be envied.

“We’re showcasing talented children in a beautiful part of the world.”

Red Dirt Riders is one of several examples of Indigenous storytelling set to premiere on the ABC during NAIDOC Week, with the broadcaster also screening fellow children’s shows Tjitji Lullaby and Play School: Walking Together on view alongside Indigenous-led content such as The Australian Dream, FREEMAN, Mabo, Mystery Road, Total Control, Redfern Now and performances by Bangarra Dance Theatre.

There will also be the premieres of arts documentaries Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, My Name is Gulpilil, and Dubboo – Life of a Songman, as well as three five-minute documentaries, produced in Cairns and Townsville, that will be shown on the ABC’s social media channels.

The trio of short documentaries was supported by Screen Queensland’s 2020 Authentic initiative, which was delivered by Screenworks, in partnership with the ABC.

NAIDOC Week runs from July 4-11.

Red Dirt Riders premieres on ABC ME and ABC iview from 4.30pm on Monday, July 5. Find the trailer here.