TV HITS CLOSE TO HOME

Natalie Im­bruglia says her re­turn to the Aus­tralian small screen for First Con­tact was emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - COLIN VICKERY

Natalie Im­bruglia is back on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion for the first time in six years and she is a world away from Ram­say Street. The for­mer star is stand­ing in front of Ray Martin at Uluru pre­par­ing for a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Im­bruglia, also an in­ter­na­tional chart top­per with her sin­gle, is one of six celebrities tak­ing part in the sec­ond sea­son of First Con­tact.

The 41-year-old, along with ex-One Na­tion politi­cian David Old­field, TV judge Ian “Dicko” Dick­son, co­me­dian Tom Bal­lard, for­mer Miss Uni­verse Aus­tralia Re­nae Ayris and ac­tor Nicki Wendt visit remote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties dec­i­mated by drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion and high rates of sui­cide.

Im­bruglia, who spends most of her time bounc­ing be­tween Lon­don and Los Angeles, ad­mits she’s a novice.

“I haven’t had a con­ver­sa­tion with an Abo­rig­i­nal per­son,” she says.

“I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen them in the distance on the street.”

Im­bruglia also con­firms re­ports that she re­cently bought a prop­erty in the Coora­bell hin­ter­land above By­ron Bay.

But other than this, Im­bruglia has been off the grid. So what has she been up to?

“I am song­writ­ing ac­tu­ally and I’m see­ing what kind of an al­bum that’s go­ing to turn into,” Im­bruglia says.

“I also have a cou­ple of busi­ness ven­tures I’m work­ing on. I tend to keep quiet un­less I’ve got some­thing to talk about. I don’t self-pro­mote be­tween jobs. I just get on with life. As far as act­ing, at the mo­ment I don’t have any plans. But who knows. I haven’t been ac­tively pur­su­ing it (act­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties) but I’d love to do an­other play at some point. I’m cer­tainly not say­ing ‘no’.”

Im­bruglia ad­mits that she needed some re­as­sur­ances be­fore say­ing ‘yes’ to First Con­tact. She hadn’t seen the first se­ries, which fea­tured six or­di­nary Aus­tralians who spend 28 days in remote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

“I wanted to be sure what the tone of the show was go­ing to be … that things weren’t go­ing to be set up in such a way that they were con­trived,” Im­bruglia says.

“I wanted to make sure that it was go­ing to play out in a real way.”

In episode one, the group goes to Ku­nunurra, in West Aus­tralia’s Kim­ber­ley Re­gion, to spend a night at the town’s sober­ing-up shel­ter. They learn that the Kim­ber­ley has one of the high­est rates of sui­cide in the world. In episode two, they visit the tiny town of El­liott – half way be­tween Dar­win and Alice Springs, where up to 20 peo­ple live in a fourbed­room house.

“There were sit­u­a­tions where I clashed with David,” Im­bruglia says.

“When you’re walk­ing into peo­ple’s homes, sometimes he de­liv­ered opin­ions (to Abo­rig­i­nals) that made me re­ally un­com­fort­able. It (Old­field’s con­fronta­tional style) was dif­fi­cult be­cause it dom­i­nated and got in the way of us (celebrities) hav­ing our ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Im­bruglia’s most emo­tion­ally af­fect­ing ex­pe­ri­ence came when she, Ayris and Wendt trav­elled to Cot­ta­mundra to hear first­hand from women sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies as chil­dren – the stolen gen­er­a­tion.

“It is one thing to know that it (chil­dren snatched from their fam­i­lies) hap­pened but to sit there with peo­ple that ex­pe­ri­enced it was a lot,” Im­bruglia says.

“Some of them were still strug­gling with the trauma but so many of them were look­ing to the future. I found that incredibly in­spir­ing. They (women) spoke to Re­nae and Nicki and my­self about being am­bas­sadors. I’m ex­cited to see what will come of that.”

“It ( First Con­tact) was quite emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing,” Im­bruglia says.

“We did a lot in a short space of time. I would have liked to have stayed in each place longer, it was a lot to di­gest. I would like to get back to some of the places we vis­ited in my own time, that is a prom­ise I made to my­self.

“In life, if there’s some­thing you care about, you owe it to your­self to get out there and find out.”

Right now Im­bruglia is back in Los Angeles con­cen­trat­ing on song­writ­ing. It would be her first al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial since 2009’s Come to Life.

“In this in­dus­try, you turn into a bit of a gypsy and it is very hard to give up,” Im­bruglia says. “I like to keep mov­ing. What would be sti­fling for me, es­pe­cially cre­atively, would be to get stuck some­where.” First Con­tact, SBS, tonight 8.30pm

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