Airdate: What Does Australia Really Think About…

Kurt Fearnley, Noni Hazlehurst and Casey Donovan hear what people really think about disability, old people & obesity.

Upcoming SBS documentary series What Does Australia Really Think About will explore how stigma and prejudice impact the lives of millions of Australians.

Hosted by Kurt Fearnley, Noni Hazlehurst and Casey Donovan, the three-part from Joined Up Films eavesdrops on what people really think about disability, old people and obesity.

SBS Director of Television and Online Content, Marshall Heald said: “SBS is focused on creating compelling documentaries that can open up important public discussion around stereotypes and raise awareness of important issues, What Does Australia Really Think About… is a reflection of this, exploring the topics of disability, ageing and obesity with the aim of breaking down barriers, misconceptions and reducing the stigma that exists in society.”

Kurt Fearnley said: “I hope that when somebody watches this, the dream would be for them to look around at their own environment right now, and ask, is disability represented in my workplace? In my kids’ school? Is it represented in my local sporting club? 20 per cent of the population are out there with disabilities wanting to be a part of the community. Why aren’t they in yours?”

Noni Hazlehurst said: “It’s way past time for us to be recognising and celebrating our similarities, rather than focusing on our differences and making assumptions about each other based on appearances. Everyone deserves kindness, respect and support.”

Casey Donovan said: “I want people to have conversations. I want people to talk. I want people to listen. I want people to understand that people of all different shapes and sizes have struggles. And I want people to know that they are enough. At the end of the day, you are enough.”

Screen Australia Head of Documentary, Alex West said: “What Does Australia Really Think About… is a thought provoking and compelling series that aims to move and challenge viewers. We are proud to support this documentary and Joined Up Films as they shine a light on these important contemporary issues, providing awareness and ultimately leading to social change. I encourage everyone to catch this significant series when it airs.”

Five-time Paralympian Kurt Fearnley believes that people with disability are not disabled by their bodies, but by society. Noni Hazlehurst, who first graced our screens over 45 years ago, is disturbed by the stereotypical portrayal of old people in the media. And Casey Donovan, who shot to fame at the tender age of 16 when she won Australian Idol, has had to put up with comments about her weight ever since.

This new series uses surveys reviewed by the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and La Trobe University to reveal where Australians stand on disability, old people and obesity. The results paint a clear picture of how stereotypes and misconceptions are still incredibly prevalent in Australian society.

Some of the key findings from the three surveys into attitudes towards disability, old people and obesity include*:

72% of respondents without disabilities said they felt sorry for people with a disability.
72% agreed that people sometimes make fun of people with disability.
31% of Australians over the age of 55 sometimes feel invisible to society.
72% agreed that older people are often lonely.
42% of obese people have experienced some kind of harassment because of their weight.
37% of people think it’s ok to tell someone to lose weight if they need to.

Once this true picture of the national psyche is revealed, the documentary series explores how that opinion can be tested, hardened or challenged using a series of hidden camera experiments. The results are at times shocking and confronting, but there are also many inspiring instances of ordinary Australians who stand up when witnessing discrimination.

What Does Australia Really Think About… will be also be available to stream on SBS On Demand with subtitles in five languages: Simplified Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Traditional Chinese and Korean, allowing more Australians to engage in these important topics

This new program will be supported by a range of other stories, discussions and programs exploring disability, old people and obesity across the SBS network, including on the SBS Guide, SBS Voices, SBS Radio, news and current affairs, on NITV and SBS On Demand.

What Does Australia Really Think About… is a Joined Up Films production for SBS. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with SBS. Financed with support from Screenwest and Lotterywest.

8:30pm Wednesday, 18 August on SBS.

* The three separate surveys were conducted with three different sets of participants. The surveys were carried out by Dynata.
‘What Does Australia Really Think About Disability?’ – Research conducted in collaboration with, and findings reviewed by, Professor Anne Kavanagh from the University of Melbourne, a social epidemiologist who is well-known for her work on health inequalities. She is the inaugural Chair of Disability and Health and Head of the Disability and Health Unit in the Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. She is also the Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute, and the Director and Lead Investigator on the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health. More information here: credh.org.au. The national survey was conducted by DYNATA. The data was collected from a stratified sample of 2000 Australian adults, 1600 living without disabilities and 400 living with disabilities. There were 1026 female, 953 male, 11 non-binary and 10 respondents who preferred not to disclose their gender, an even spread across age groups, and a proportionate amount of people from each state relative to that state’s population. The data was collected over January and February 2021.

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