TV HITS CLOSE TO HOME
Natalie Imbruglia says her return to the Australian small screen for First Contact was emotionally and physically exhausting
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