Off Country: meet the Indigenous students at Geelong Grammar School

NITV's new documentary series follows the lives of seven Indigenous boarding students over a year at the prestigious school.

A documentary series following the lives of seven Indigenous students over a year at the prestigious Geelong Grammar School will premiere on NITV next week.

The four-part series, Off Country, was shot in 2020 as the pandemic hit and schools were thrown into chaos.

Every year, thousands of Indigenous children leave their families to attend boarding schools around Australia. Supported through partnerships between scholarship organisations, private schools and the government, competition for these scholarships is fierce.

We see the students wrestle with their identities as they move between boarding life and home life, grappling with family tragedy, mental health and identity issues. As such, the series offers complex portraits of what it is to be an Indigenous child in Australia today.

Driven by the students’ stories and told entirely in their own words, Off Country combines personal observational storytelling and features intimate perspectives of contemporary First Nations youth alongside their personal educational experiences.

‘We are thrilled to bring Off Country to audiences across Australia next week,’ Denning-Orman, a proud Birri and Guugu Yimidhirr woman and Director of Indigenous Content at SBS, said. ‘This important documentary series tackles important questions around identity and belonging, and it’s an honour to share these compelling stories with all Australians.’

Series directors Rhian Skirving (GoodThing Productions) and John Harvey (Brown Cabs Productions) said: ‘As filming progressed, it became clear that these young people not only walked proud in the path set out by their Elders, but were also navigating the impacts of colonial policies across generations. Each family story highlighted the impact of one or more government policy, be it stolen generation, forced removal from country, the mission system and intergenerational trauma. 

‘The impacts from these policies are present in the childrens’ lives before they enter the school gate, and, as we discovered in the making of the film, for many it ultimately affects their ability to make the most of the education opportunity before them.’

The series will be available to stream on SBS On Demand with subtitles in five languages: Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.

Off Country forms part of SBS and NITV’s 2022 NAIDOC programming line-up, which includes the new four-part crime drama True Colours, SBS Radio sharing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in-language for Australia’s diverse communities, and more.

Off Country airs weekly from 8pm, Thursday 7 July on NITV.  

Brown Cabs Productions, Letterbox Films, and Goodthing Productions production for NITV. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Premiere Fund and VicScreen.