Country Town Rescue

Trundle is a patch of Australian dirt that just doesn’t exist anymore: a Christmas fair, a Bush Tucker Day, a pub with a few staunch regulars, crusty characters, locals recognised by their singular nicknames, and a dying breath of a White Australia policy.

And yet, Trundle, is the kind of town that exists right across the country. Looking at ABC’s new factual, Country Town Rescue, you’ll probably see much of Australia reflected in these salt-of-the-earth folk.

Trundle sits north of Condoblin and Parkes in north-western NSW. Aside from one of the widest main streets in Australia it doesn’t have much going for it. 10 years of drought sure haven’t helped. As part of a local enterprise to re-energise the population of about 400, a ‘Trundle Tree Change’ project offered run-down farmhouses at a rental of $1 a week to entice families to move in for 1 year.

5 farmhouses and their new residents have been filmed for Country Town Rescue by Zapruder’s Other Films. Starting with the open application process, this series cleverly captures both sides of the ambitious project: the city folk who uproot their lives, and the locals who hope their plan brings new life.

Brendan Cowell as narrator introduces us to some of the key players, committee members comprising a publican, farmer, grazier’s wife and teacher. Vox pops from the locals range from those who believe it’s the greatest thing to ever happen to Trundle, to those who don’t, and a teenage boy who just wants a few more girls to choose from.

Trundle gets 400 applications for 5 farmhouses -and the locals are both thrilled and overwhelmed by the response. So effective is the project’s pitch even Today Tonight gets behind the cause. Parkes may have had The Dish, but this grass-roots enterprise is about to put this tiny town on the map.

One family has a Muslim background, which creates big questions for this predominantly Christian community. Trundle tackles such social questions as a microcosm of us all…

Families are interviewed by a local panel, and like any Idol or X Factor audition, there is a fascination with this candid open-forum opportunity. Some people pour out their hearts, others over-sell, and one single mum tugs at the heartstrings with her dreams of a second chance.

Choosing the lucky five is no mean feat. One local reckons anyone who uses the word “journey” is off her list. Funny stuff.

Then there are the farmhouses: rundown ramshackles in need of renovation. Unlike The Renovators and The Block, this isn’t about competition and greed. It has a more potent purpose at its heart.

And contrasting Celebrity Apprentice and Excess Baggage, this series introduces us to ordinary Australians, most of whom look like they have a story to tell. Getting to know them will be half the storytelling charm of the series.

Later episodes suggest that not all who are fortunate enough to win a farmhouse will cope with the challenge before them. And how will these new folk impact the wider community?

It’s all such a fascinating proposition.

Country Town Rescue premieres 8pm Tuesday on ABC1.


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