ABC indigenous telemovie Mabo posted a lacklustre audience of 544,000 viewers on Sunday night.

The multi-million dollar tale about about Eddie and Bonita Mabo (played by Jimi Bani and Deborah Mailman), and the fight for indigenous land rights, was directed by Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae, First Australians) and written by Sue Smith (Bastard Boys, Brides of Christ).

Other recent indigenous films screened on the ABC have fared better including Perkins's Bran Nue Dae, which averaged 720,000 viewers in January last year, according to The Australian, while Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah was seen by about 1 million viewers when it first aired in 2010. However, Samson and Delilah was strongly supported by the ABC at an early stage of production, which allowed the broadcaster to skip the usual DVD release window, elevating its audience.

ABC managing director Mark Scott took to Twitter, saying: "I think #Mabo will grow a large, devoted audience over time – through iview, DVD and in schools. Important Australian storytelling."

Mabo was supported by the ABC, Screen NSW and Screen Queensland.

Check out the next issue of IF Magazine for a cover story on Mabo.

Join the Conversation


  1. A wonderful story and great acting from the two leads. Can’t believe I neally didn’t watch it and a real shame more didn’t see this important and enjoyable piece of recent Australian history.

    Wouldn’t it be great if Australia day was changed to instead celebrate this landmark decision for indigenous land rights.

  2. Why did the ABC screen this on the Sunday of the Queen’s Birthday weekend? People had the day off on Monday and many probably decided to do something else other than staying in for a (very well made and entertaining) history lesson. It wasn’t even the anniversary of the Mabo rulings, that was two weeks ago I think.

  3. If only all Australian features were watched by so many people. The rating of 544,00, which does not include anything other than capital city viewers on the night i.e. no regional figures and no time shift viewers, represents a box office of approximately $5.5m in Australia. So, Mabo performed better on it’s one screening than Legends of the Guardians, A Few Best Men, The Quiet American, Two Hands and Strange Bedfellows. And that’s before the regional numbers and viewers who recorded Mabo are counted.

    So, a really pretty good result and only disappointing given the depth and range of positive critical response. And by the way, I think you’ll find that Mabo was financed by Blackfella Films with the ABC as its major partner plus support from both state agencies. NOT Screen Australia as your own related article announced last year. You should read your own mag occasionally perhaps?

  4. Hi – I do not think we can compare “free To air” heavily promoted television programming with the complexities and costs in relation to theatrical distribution and box office figures?

    If you Compare that prime time slot, with what a “cutting edge” slot documentary would have achieved it is a very, very disappointing figure; despite what they head of the ABC or other “Investment” rationalists will pretend.

    Look at the “bang to buck” effect of the limited industry funds into a high rating documentary-television drama to a multimillion dollar production?

  5. Why can’t the comparison be made? Mabo was as “heavily promoted” as an Australian theatrical release of a similar size. My guess would be that the P&A of Animal Kingdom would approximate the promotional cost of Mabo. As for your contention that the value of investment in a “high rating documentary” vs a tv drama I guess that depends on which documentary vs which drama. The depth and range of editorial and critical coverage of the Mabo telemovie ensures a very long revenue producing life for this project across all platforms and, with the excellent international trade reviews, the prospect of international sales.

  6. still out rates the lying dutchmans ratings, no wonder his done an article attacking the great man Mabo, he even had to use the old man propaganda blog quadRANT, education evolves, to bad the outdated oldies dont do refresher training as they desperatly need it, I meant the whole country need re-education, at least teach history and politics so the simple masses can make an informed decision, wait that means our leaders would have to serve us the people not the rich, cant have that can we

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