A version of the following appeared in a recent edition of The Big Issue Australia, which is an excellent publication you should immediately go and buy from your friendly local vendor (who is, at this stage in the year, probably much colder than you are). By way of catching up, however, here is a recent column of mine written from inside an airport:


Airport TV

I was at the airport recently and it occurred to me that for some people – stopping over on their way somewhere else – their entire experience of Australian culture consists of whatever is on the telly in the airport during the couple of hours they’re hydrating between flights. What was on TV the day I was in Gate Lounge 12? A news story about a rogue wombat on the loose in Melbourne.

I’m concerned about the impact airport televisions might have on our tourist industry. Firstly, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but people watching Australian TV in airports probably think Australia is an American colony. The Australian accent is a surprise rather than the norm on television, with the notable exception of voiceovers in advertisements for hardware stores.

Not only that, but you’d be forgiven for believing Australia contains only of white people. Some of them think they can dance, some of them are waiting for a panel of judges to taste their marinade, and some of them are breaking up with each other on Home and Away, but if it’s cultural diversity you’re after, it’s usually left to SBS or Border Security to teach tourists what multiculturalism looks like in Australia. Unless you’re American, in which case: welcome home.

Soaps don’t help. It has rained in Erinsborough a handful of times in more than twenty years, which, as we all know, would usually lead to strict water restrictions and lawns that look like the bottom of a woolshed after a bush dance. But Neighbours isn’t about reality. That’s what the evening news is all about.

Someone who hasn’t met a real-life Australian might watch the news and deduce that every sentence spoken by an Australian is concluded with a word made up – no matter how it’s spelled – of four syllables. On the news recently, I was informed by the white Australian lady who came on in between the American TV shows that an Australian sporting team was “this evening heading ho-wo-wo-oe-ome”. The team was, I suspect, heading home, but the word had been extended in order to signal that the sentence had come to an end. At least, I think that’s what it meant. Either that or there is a place called Howowoeme somewhere in the world that’s currently hosting an Australian sporting team.

The one factor that sets my mind at ease in relation to the Australian airport-television viewing experience is that most of the people in Gate Lounge 12 that day were asleep. What this says about Australian television, I will leave for another day.