Documentary series zooms in on safety
STANDING in the recording booth, Chris Bath felt a twinge of professional jealousy as she saw the incredible access documentary filmmakers received for the new observational series Keeping Australia Safe.
As a journalist with more than a quarter century of experience under her belt, she was blown away by the imagery camera crews managed to capture.
"As someone who has tried to get this sort of access over the years, with mixed success, I said something along the lines of 'How on Earth did you get this access?'," Bath tells The Guide.
"Cameras go inside the Crisis Co-ordination Centre, which is this hugely secretive place in Canberra you know about as a journalist but you don't think it's real. In there, they're looking at intelligence from a domestic and global front."
Keeping Australia Safe is arguably the most ambitious observational documentary series ever undertaken in Australia.
More than 24 government and private institutions granted privileged access for cameras to record their operations over the same 48-hour period.
"To have 200 cameras in 200 different locations in Australia and around the world is a pretty immense thing to take on," Bath says.
"They shot 3TB of data over 48 hours. It's actually a shame it's only six, one-hour episodes."
Bath jumped at the chance to narrate the series, which is produced by the same team behind the Logie-nominated doco series Keeping Australia Alive.
"I don't get to see a lot of TV but I just chanced on Keeping Australia Alive when it was on," she says.
"It became important viewing in our house. I knew the premise of what they were doing and I said yes without seeing a frame because I knew how good Keeping Australia Alive was."
Following everyone from the Australian military's elite "guardian angels" unit in Afghanistan to Border Force agents and police officers, Keeping Australia Safe reveals what it takes to protect our national security and personal security and at what cost (to the budget and to who we are).
"The stories are amazing and the questions this series is posing are really valid at the moment," Bath says.
"Since the days of John Howard we've been told to be alert but not alarmed. How far have we come since 9/11? The series allows viewers to make up their own minds on a number of levels. We are hammered with statistics every day on the news. This gives you some sort of insight into the humanity behind the numbers."
One story that particularly affected Bath was that of a young police officer who joins the Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team.
"His supervisor has to introduce him to some of the footage he has to see and the thing I found incredible was watching his face as he's watching this stuff," she says.
"You can see him wanting to look away; his face says it all. Then you see him exposed to the same thing with audio and it's terrible to watch. These people have a huge sense of civic duty."
But there are lighter moments as well.
"There's a husband-and-wife police team in the outback who are almost their own show. They're a hoot," Bath says.
Keeping Australia Safe airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm on ABC-TV.