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Safe Harbour

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Safe Harbour TV Poster Image
Tense, timely refugee drama has drinking, smoking.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Highlights the ambivalence and sometimes bigotry felt toward refugees in Australia and throughout much of the Western world. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Five Australians struggle with guilt, other feelings. The Al-Biyati family places blame on them for things they may not have done; Ismail Al-Biyati takes these feelings to the next level. 

Violence

People are shown screaming for help, sick, crying. Some yelling and pushing. A child dies. Stalking behavior is visible. 

Sex

Some mild innuendo. Pregnancy discussed. 

Language

Curses like "f--k" audible. 

Consumerism

Social media like Facebook and Instagram are referenced or briefly shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer, hard liquor consumed. One cast member is an alcoholic. Smoking visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Safe Harbour is an adult-oriented drama inspired by Australia's (and the world's) ongoing refugee crisis. The consequences of helping (or not helping) asylum seekers is central to the series, and the death of a child plays a major role. There's also some cursing (including "f--k"), drinking, smoking, and sexual innuendo. Social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook are shown or referenced. Older teens should be able to handle it, but given the subject matter, chances are that most of them won't be clamoring to see it. However, those wishing to learn more about the refugee experience could learn something from this series. 

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What's the story?

SAFE HARBOUR is a dramatic Australian miniseries about what happens when a group of people unexpectedly come face to face with a refugee crisis. Brisbane yacht owner Ryan Gallagher (Ewen Leslie), his wife, Bree (Leeanna Walsman), his sister, Olivia (Phoebe Tonkin), her partner, Damien (Joel Jackson), and friend Helen (Jacqueline McKenzie) are sailing in Indonesian waters when they come upon a stranded boat full of desperate asylum seekers trying to get to Australia. The group must decide whether to call Indonesian authorities, thus putting the refugees at risk of getting sent back, or to help them get to Australian waters, which potentially puts them at risk. What transpires during the course of that night isn't clear, but the long-term consequences of their actions are both complicated and tragic.

Is it any good?

Relevant and insightful, this tense series explores the complex feelings people have about the plight of refugees. The story, much of which is told through a series of flashbacks, is told from the point of view of Ryan Gallagher and the other Australians, whose lives were markedly changed after the event. But it is also told from the point of view of Iranian refugee Ismail Al-Biyati (played by Hazem Shammas) and his family, who survived the boat trip and made it to Australia, but at a horrific cost. As the narrative seamlessly swings back and forth from past to present, each side reveals its version of what happened, and who they think is to blame for the things that went wrong. 

It’s a work of fiction, and one that leaves viewers with many unanswered questions. But Safe Harbour successfully offers some strong social commentary about Australians' real attitudes toward the refugees coming to their borders. However, it's easy to parallel the attitudes being underscored with those of other Western countries, and acknowledge the underlying bigotry that serves as the motivation to turn one's back on non-Caucasian or Muslim asylum seekers. As a result, while it's an excellent series, it may force some viewers to face difficult truths.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the status of refugees around the world. What are some of the different reasons people leave their homelands to seek refuge in a foreign country? 

  • What are some of the stereotypes that exist about refugees around the world? How has the media perpetuated these generalizations? How much do these stereotypes impact the ability of an asylum seeker to receive sanctuary in the United States? 

  • Safe Harbour is an Australian show, and addresses refugee-related issues in that country. If it had been produced in the United States, would refugees be portrayed any differently? How?

TV details

For kids who love drama TV

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