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‘Alot of peo­ple had no idea that so re­cently … [be­ing gay] was crim­i­nal. You were a crim­i­nal. Just as Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were flora and fauna,” Noni Ha­zle­hurst, star of the Fox­tel se­ries A Place to Call Home says. “It’s just un­be­liev­able what we have hid­den about how White Aus­tralia came to be dom­i­nant. But those days are num­bered.”

With the fourth sea­son of A Place to Call Home set to air from Sun­day, Ha­zle­hurst says it’s the show’s tack­ling of ho­mo­pho­bia that has struck her most on a per­sonal level.

“I find this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where so much money is be­ing spent in or­der to ap­pease the peo­ple whose hearts beat in the 1950s, it’s be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional em­bar­rass­ment,” she says. “So I think the fact we can talk about those is­sues is re­ally pow­er­ful for a se­ries.”

Set in the pe­riod fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War, A Place to Call Home evokes a by­gone era when class and sta­tus were ev­ery­thing, when race, reli­gion and pol­i­tics were cer­tainly not ap­pro­pri­ate din­ner ta­ble con­ver­sa­tion, and when women were firmly squared away in their corsets and chastity belts.

Re­move the suited and booted cos­tumes and the shadow of con­scrip­tion though and the is­sues the pro­gram tack­les are just as rel­e­vant to­day as they were in 1954.

“Peo­ple are the same through­out his­tory. No mat­ter what colour we are or what coun­try we come from, we all have peo­ple who we love and ter­ri­ble cir­cum­stances that be­fall us,” Ha­zle­hurst says. “What’s dif­fer­ent now is that we’re not in­ter­act­ing with each other and fam­i­lies are frac­tured. There’s very lit­tle glue that holds us to­gether now. You see it po­lit­i­cally, you see it on a per­sonal level, you see emo­tions be­ing de­rided as some­thing un­nec­es­sary. So I think that one of the joys of this show is that it is unashamedly emo­tional.”

We last saw Ha­zle­hurst’s char­ac­ter, ma­tri­arch El­iz­a­beth Bligh, hav­ing a heart at­tack just me­ters from where her love in­ter­est, Sir Dou­glas God­dard, stood. The pair were set to travel abroad to­gether, yet as El­iz­a­beth lay gasp­ing for air and clutch­ing her chest, Ge­of­frey, played by Robert Coleby, be­lieved he’d been stood up, and con­tin­ued on their jour­ney solo.

“With all these things you never know re­ally where it’s go­ing to lead,” Coleby says. “It all de­pends on the whim of [the writ­ers].”

Coleby, who’s starred in other TV smashes such as All Saints, McLeod’s Daugh­ters and House of Han­cock, does of­fer up some in­ter­est­ing tit­bits that may pro­vide food for thought.

“Ev­ery­body’s got a se­cret life in A Place to Call Home and I think Dou­glas has got one too. There are in­di­ca­tions of that. He’s just been pe­ter­ing along but I think it’s prob­a­bly headed to things be­com­ing re­ally potsy. He’s ap­par­ently got this son who died two days be­fore the war ended in Borneo. So who knows, maybe he’ll turn up and some­thing funny hap­pens.”

Both Coleby and Ha­zle­hurst are Gold Coast lo­cals, grav­i­tat­ing to­wards the hin­ter­land and the tran­quil Talle­budgera Val­ley while film­ing isn’t tak­ing place in Syd­ney. Ar­eas such as The Rocks, Warunga, Cam­den and Lane Cove were cho­sen as lo­ca­tions to shoot, thanks to their old-world charm.

Each episode’s au­then­tic feel is also thanks to the metic­u­lous cos­tume de­sign.

“There were no elas­tic waist­bands in the 1950s!” Ha­zle­hurst laughs. “When you put ev­ery­thing on, the char­ac­ter’s there. Es­pe­cially El­iz­a­beth, she’s very ma­tri­ar­chal and for­mal. And when you put those clothes on there’s no way you’re go­ing to slouch in your seat.

“I find [El­iz­a­beth] such a per­son of the time; so many se­crets, so many lay­ers of pro­tec­tion so many ideas about how to pre­serve and main­tain the sta­tus quo.”

Sea­son four will re­veal some “dra­matic de­vel­op­ments, but not dra­matic changes.”

“The char­ac­ters don’t stay still. They do learn from their mis­takes. They do try to be bet­ter peo­ple. Some­times suc­cess­fully and other times not,” she says. “There are some happy sto­ries and some sad sto­ries. If I say any­more [our pub­li­cist] will kill me. But I do sur­vive!” A Place to Call Home, Sun­day, Fox­tel

Pic­ture: Mike Bat­ter­ham

Gold Coast­ers Noni Ha­zle­hurst and Robert Coleby are the stars of Fox­tel's A Place to Call Home.

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