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Australian Story: April 3

One for fans of nostalgia…

Monday’s Australian Story devotes an episode to the legendary Leyland Brothers.

Mal and Mike Leyland were pioneers of outback documentary-making, first setting off to Central Australia in 1960. Mal was just 15 and Mike 19.

They were the first to film Uluru in the Wet, the first to drive across Australia from its western-most to eastern-most points, and the first to travel the length of the Darling River in a small boat.

Their television shows in the 1970s and 1980s attracted some of the highest ratings of the time, and their theme song, “Ask The Leyland Brothers”, remains familiar to millions of viewers.

The program format included an invitation to viewers to write in and suggest topics for the show – at the time an innovative way of encouraging audience participation and a generation or more before the invention of social media.

But when Mal and Mike decided to branch out into the tourist industry by building their own theme park, Leyland Brothers World, disaster struck. By the time the project collapsed in 1992, they had lost more than six million dollars and both brothers were bankrupted.

They then had a falling out and went their separate ways.

Sometime before Mike Leyland’s death in 2009, the brothers reconciled but Mal Leyland continues to have regrets.

Sourcing rich archival footage, this program tells the inside story of the Leyland’s rise and fall, and of their final days together.

Mal Leyland now lives in northern Tasmania, where he is writing a novel and completing a new documentary. He and his wife Laraine will spend several months of this year revisiting outback Australia.

8pm Monday on ABC.

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