ABC Upfront 2023: Everything you need to know


Leigh Sales returns to the broadcaster in a new role

ABC has announced its 2023 programming slate. 


Leigh Sales returns to host Australian Story
• Audio description will be introduced to the network
The Newsreader is back behind the desk
Kitchen Cabinet and Working Dog’s Utopia make returns after a hiatus
Matt Okine and Denise Scott team up for Mother and Son
• Aunty Donna debut with Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe

ABC managing director David Anderson says “In 2023 the ABC will bring to our audiences everywhere more of the brilliant and compelling programs they love and rely on. No other network or streaming service features Australian stories and voices as much as the ABC, ABC iview and ABC News.

“l am also pleased to announce that ABC content will be accessible to even more Australians as we introduce audio description to our network and continue to find even more ways to connect with audiences.”

ABC acting director of entertainment and specialist Jennifer Collins says “In 2023 we’re proud to offer audiences, of all ages, shows that are unique, thought provoking and entertaining. As the single largest commissioner of Australian content, working with the very best creatives, the ABC in 23 will continue to showcase a diverse range of Australian stories that will delight our audiences across all our platforms, free and accessible to all Australians.”


Bay Of Fires
Showcasing Tasmania’s rugged west coast, Bay of Fires, tells the story of Stella (Marta Dusseldorp), who is unexpectedly dropped into a small community with her children. But it’s not the kind of place they put on postcards – it is instead rife with simmering feuds, crime and sometimes, murder.

House Of Gods
Created by Osamah Sami and Shahin Shafaei, House of Gods is a tale of faith, family, secrets and lies that takes audiences behind the walls of an imam’s family and the community he leads, exploring the personal cost of power and ambition.

The Messenger
Based on Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel of the same name, The Messenger, follows Ed Kennedy (William McKenna) – just another stupid human, until one day he isn’t. That day, he stops an armed robbery and becomes an accidental hero. The next day, he starts getting messages…Four playing cards – the ace of diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts. Each with their own set of tasks. Who’s sending them? And what the hell is a hopeless, cab-driving, guy like Ed meant to do with them? Ed has been chosen to care. He stumbles this mysterious path, helping and hurting, completing the cards, until he comes to see the real message has been for him. Being The Messenger has brought Ed back to life.

The Newsreader S2
The Newsreader season two travels from election night 1987, through the shocks of the Hoddle Street shootings and the Stock Market Crash, the complexity of the heroin crisis, towards the protest and pageantry of the 1988 Bicentenary. As a nation grapples with its identity, its past and future, Helen (Anna Torv) and Dale (Sam Reid) reach a crossroads, and must settle on who they want to be, to each other, and to the world.

Comedy and Entertainment

Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe
Starring Aunty Donna’s Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, the high octane and unpredictable series follows the story of three best mates running a trendy cafe down one of Melbourne’s less-than-iconic laneways.


The six-part comedy explores the story of best friends Charlie (Ryan Corr) and Nate (Bob Morley) as they’re faced with how hard it is to let go of those we love – especially when they’re taken too soon. And when they come back to haunt you. Literally.

Mother and Son
When his widowed mum, Maggie, sets fire to the kitchen, recently single Arthur Gbeme moves back into the family home. As he tells it, he has “put his life on hold” to care for his mum, but the truth is, there isn’t much to put on hold. A former nurse, Maggie used to be a firebrand – a renegade. But since the death of her husband, Maggie has been… a little off.

A bold re-imagining of the long running and successful ABC comedy, Mother and Son is a show about ageing, migrant upbringing, changing family roles, and caring for someone you love even when they’re driving you up the wall.

Re-created by Matt Okine with collaborators, Sarah Walker, Tristram Baumber and the show’s original creator, Geoffrey Atherden, Mother and Son is an 8 x 30 min comedy series starring Denise Scott as Maggie and Matt Okine as Arthur.


No Stupid Questions (Working Title)
How do I join the Illuminati? Do fish feel pain? When can I make a citizen’s arrest? Are other animals ticklish? Is social media addictive? Should we be worried about ancient viruses being unlocked from melting permafrost? Is there a new show on the ABC in 2023 that lets the audience ask questions like this? Is there a new show that will go and find the answers to these questions in an entertaining and thought provoking fashion? There is! Does this show have a name? Not yet, let’s move on. Who’s on it? Chas Licciardello, Kirsten Drysdale, Lawrence Leung, Alex Lee, Cameron James, and Louise Wall.

Set inside the offices of the “Nation Building Authority”, a federal government organisation responsible for overseeing major infrastructure projects, Utopia explores that moment when bureaucracy and grand dreams collide. It’s a tribute to those political leaders who have somehow managed to take a long-term vision and use it for short-term gain.

Factual and Culture

Australia’s Wild Odyssey
Australia’s Wild Odyssey follows the flow of water across the Australian continent to uncover the incredible connections that link all creatures on earth: from ants, to eagles to us. Over three episodes, this wildlife series sets out on a journey across the driest continent on earth – following the rain, rivers and underground aquifers as they transform and connect distant ecosystems. Each stop on the journey reveals a new piece of the ecological puzzle that connects organisms and ecosystems, creating a planet just right for us.

Back in Time for the Corner Shop
Back in Time for the Corner Shop looks at how Australian society has changed through the lens of the corner shop. Annabel Crabb will once again be on hand to help Carol and Peter Ferrone, and their children Julian, Sienna and Olivia, learn the highs and lows of being shopkeepers through 150 years of Australian history.

The Australian corner shop was an institution for millions of Australians. More than a simple shop, it was the centre point of a neighbourhood, supplying essential daily needs and tasty treats. Over the decades the role of the corner shop has evolved from a community hub and the main provider of groceries to the grab and go chain stores we know today.

Better Date than Never 
Better Date than Never is a character-led, multi-part docuseries following a diverse group of single love seekers as they take a huge step in anyone’s life – into the dating world. Each participant has a unique story, and a different reason for a later start to their dating journey. But they all share a common goal – to step out on their first date. With a little help from the producers, they launch into a world they’ve always wanted to explore, on a journey that takes them on the sometimes rocky road to finding love. Better Date than Never explores the world of dating and relationships from the creators of Love on the Spectrum.

The Black Hand
Anthony LaPaglia, delves back in time to explore an Australian Italian community’s struggle against hard times, extreme politics, looming war and the mafia in their midst. A personal journey from Queensland cane country to Calabria, Italy seeking answers to a question faced by all those who remake their lives in a new place what comes with us from the old country, what do we leave behind?

Designing A Legacy (S2)
In Designing A Legacy (S2), comedian and architecture tragic Tim Ross travels around Australia to see buildings and meet people that help reveal a new story of what it means to be Australian, hidden in the architecture around us. If buildings shape our lives, he asks, can the story of what it means to be Australian be told through our buildings? And if so, is this the story we expect? Tim explores how well-designed buildings can leave a legacy of respect, for people that use them, for our environment, and for the ancient history of our land. 

Dolphins: Is Our Love Too Deep?
Dolphins: Is Our Love Too Deep? is a ground-breaking, investigative, environmental film that explores the impact humans are having on wild dolphins through hand feeding tourism programs in Australia at Monkey Mia and Bunbury in Western Australia, and Moreton Bay and Tin Can Bay in Queensland.
The film investigates and challenges our insatiable need to interact with wild dolphins, questioning how deep our love really is, for these amazing marine animals. Ultimately the film uncovers the tenuous balance between our all- consuming desire to get back to nature and the stark reality, that we could be loving some dolphins to death!

First Weapons
Host Phil Breslin sets out an action-packed adventure across Australia, visiting Country he meets weapon makers from Wadi Wadi lands to the Central Desert. From Adelaide to Tasmania and Menang Noongar country. He learns through the inherent knowledge how each weapon is sourced and crafted before facing a crash course in combat. A celebration of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and bravery.

With the weapon makers, Phil meets scientific experts who reveal how First Nations peoples have mastered the principles of aerodynamics, flight dynamics, chemistry, biomechanics, and kinetic energy for over millennia and still thrives today.

Great Australian Stuff
Presenter Tony Armstrong unpacks the surprising, strange, and sometimes dark history behind our most iconic Aussie stuff. From the pioneering Boomerang, hills hoist and Victa lawnmower, to One Day Cricket, Sherrin footballs and the humble meat pie. And of course, some of our most questionable fashion staples, including speedos and stubbies.

Featuring Ben Law, Nazeem Hussain, Jenny Kee, Nornie Bero, Richard Glover and Jean Kittson, Tony digs deep into the ABC archives to uncover what makes something “great” – what stuff we should celebrate and what he can reveal in new lights.

Kitchen Cabinet
Kitchen Cabinet is back. In 2023, Annabel Crabb will be cooking and eating with some of the new Parliament’s most fascinating and powerful figures, hailing from across the political spectrum.

The premise of the show is simple. Annabel visits the home of a prominent politician; they cook their favourite meal and Annabel brings dessert. Along the way, they have the kinds of conversations that are never ordinarily possible in the frenetic pace of the daily news cycle.

It’s amazing what you can cover in a half hour of Kitchen Cabinet. With a whole new crop of politicians in the parliament since the last series in 2016, it’s time to head back to the kitchen.

Knowing the Score
Knowing the Score is the up close and personal story of one of classical music’s most unlikely trail blazers.

Filmed over twenty years, Knowing The Score charts the struggle and rise of conductor Simone Young. Born to a non musical family in a country far away from the major concert halls of the world, Simone defies the odds and breaks down the barriers in the male dominated world of classical music.

Simone was the first female conductor to appear on stage at the world’s most renowned Opera houses; Sydney Opera House; Met New York Opera; and the Vienna Opera House. 

An outspoken perfectionist at the top of her game, the film follows Simone as she prepares for the most important concert of her life on home soil.

New Leash On Life 
Mental health issues and loneliness in Australia are on the rise and so are dogs on death row. Joel Creasey has a solution: a mutual rescue.

New Leash On Life is a feel-good, family friendly documentary series with our love of dogs at it’s core.

In each episode, Joel meets an Australian in need of unconditional love from a dog, then works with canine behaviourist Laura Vissaritis to rescue a suitable unwanted dog on death row, guiding them with behavioural modifications, before introducing them both and transforming two lives at once. 

The series will confront head on the culture of dog ownership – good and bad – that has developed in Australia and hold up a mirror to us all, forcing us to consider how our lives intersect with our dogs and how we shape each other’s worlds.

Ningaloo Nyinggulu
Celebrated author Tim Winton takes us on a lyrical and passionate exploration of Ningaloo, on Australia’s North West Cape – a haven for unique and endangered species and one of the last pristine suite of ecosystems on the planet. A remote and ‘living ark’ of biodiversity where the forces of nature are still the most powerful shaping influence. Ningaloo has been a long-time inspiration for Tim’s life and his work, and on this very personal journey he seeks to learn more about how this unique place came to be, how its local and global connections combine to create such a rare island of biodiversity as well as what such a place might tell us about our future. 

From Cook to convicts to the ANZACS – most of us who’ve sat through primary school think we kinda know Australian history. But there’s another, hidden history – one of gay diggers, lesbian convict gangs, trans entrepreneurs and cross-dressing bushrangers. Colonial Australia was essentially founded on homophobia.

Queerstralia, a landmark documentary series hosted by award-winning comedian Zoë Coombs Marr, sets out to redress this imbalance. It will wipe away the straightwashing and look into the untold and fascinating Queer history of Australia. 

Take 5 with Zan Rowe
You can learn a lot about someone from their mixtape. What if you asked extraordinary people to share 5 songs that made them who they are today? Take 5 with Zan Rowe is back by popular demand for a second series! What began as a segment on Zan’s much loved radio show 15 years ago, evolved into the award-winning podcast and a hit 5-part ABC TV series.

Take 5 with Zan Rowe

The ABC Of S2
Returning in 2023, The ABC Of is an interview series that brings prominent Australians face to face with their earlier selves. Each episode is built around a one-on-one conversation with host David Wenham, with questions inspired by the content of the video clips, all of which are drawn from the vast ABC archives.

Before they sit down, the guests are unaware of the clips that have been chosen. And these video memories often travel past the choices you’d expect, the obvious markers of the guest’s CV, wending their way down delightful and surprising paths to footage that has not seen the light of day for decades.

Steering each interview is David Wenham, a globally successful film and TV actor whose own ABC career dates back to early 1990s programs such as Simone De Beauvoir’s Babies, Come In Spinner, Police Rescue and G.P. as well as more recent series The Code and Les Norton. 

The Platypus Guardian
Pete Walsh is a Hobart local who enjoys the outdoor life. That life, however, is turned upside down when his health takes a turn for the worse. As he contemplates his future Pete finds solace along the banks of the picturesque Hobart rivulet.

Here Pete ‘meets’ a platypus he names Zoom, after the way she seems to zoom over to him whenever he sits quietly by the water. Pete helps Zoom untangle from a plastic band. For Pete the convergence of his medical condition and his encounters with this cheeky female platypus, leads to an epiphany. Suddenly he is overwhelmed with a profound inspiration to give back, to save what urban habitat the platypuses have left and ultimately save them too.

War on Waste 
In War on Waste (S3), ABC will put the critical issue of waste back on the agenda and highlight the connection between waste and climate change. At the helm, passionate planet advocate and prankster Craig Reucassel will look at the mindset change we need to fix the problems. He’ll champion our waste heroes and hold the villains to account, and set new challenges for corporations, councils and communities. Alongside new large scale public installations to show the shocking impact of our consumer habits. the series will conscript entire communities as part of a national plastic audit to vividly highlight the problems lurking in our own homes.

Whiteley on Trial
Whiteley on Trial (In Films) interrogates the biggest case of alleged art fraud in Australian history. When Melbourne dealer Peter Gant and conservator Aman Siddique find themselves accused of forging and selling three paintings as authentic works of modern art royal Brett Whiteley, the pair are convicted by a jury in what at first appears to be an open and shut case. 

But with the judge himself rendering the verdict ‘unsafe,’ the conviction is quickly overturned on appeal, leaving art observers in disbelief. By interviewing key players in the trial and with access to original case materials, this two-part series follows the captivating twists and turns of a monumental saga, asking what price our cultural heritage paid in the process.

ABC Kids and ABC Me

Crazy Fun Park
Chester dreams of being a world-famous graphic novelist, living the high life surrounded by the cool kids, far away from the boring limits of his small town, Asphodel Heights. But Chester is starting to believe his biggest obstacle to fitting in isn’t his own shortcomings but his best (and only) friend – Mapplethorpe. Once upon a time, the two boys were inseparable until Mapplethorpe stumbled into the abandoned theme park on the edge of town, Crazy Fun Park, and died in a tragic accident.

Chester is grief-stricken without his soulmate until he ventures to Crazy Fun Park one night and discovers the soul of his mate may not be alive but is still very much kicking. He’s become part of the undead and now “lives” in Crazy Fun Park – a Netherworld with all the other undead Fun Kids who died in gruesome theme park fatalities when the park was operational. It’s run by the moody alpha, Remus, and is a place where they never have to grow up. So every night, Chester can visit Crazy Fun Park to hang with the dead kids in an all-night party land when the pain of living get too much. But there is a delicate order between the worlds to be maintained and there are horrific and hilarious consequences when the balance is upturned.

Gardening Australia Jnr
Gardening Australia Junior is a factual entertainment show inspiring young people & their families around Australia to roll up their sleeves and get growing, with gardening tips, tricks and creations that kids will totally dig.

Grab your spade and get ready to dig in as our hosts, The Buds and surprise guests take on wild and wonderful challenges at Gardening Australia Junior HQ.

The Disposables
The Disposables is a creature feature generating pivotal story points around the refugee crisis, our undervaluing of our immigrant populations, microplastics within our bodies, warehouses full of forgotten recycling and the betrayal of everyday people doing their best to sort their recycling, to do their bit.

A mysterious sickness is sweeping through Western Sydney and showing no signs of slowing down. A terrifying creature prowls the suburbs at night. The cries of the immigrants and blue-collar workers who call it home are being ignored and panic is building.

The whole place feels like a powder keg waiting to explode. But outspoken, sixteen-year-old, social justice warrior and aspiring rapper, Priya, has her own problems. Between the jingoistic rhetoric of Immigration Minister and local MP Bruce Carter, authorities who treat her as an undesirable, a seemingly indifferent Australian community, and the question mark hanging over her Temporary Protection Visa renewal, the strange goings-on in her neighbourhood are the least of her worries.

The PM’s Daughter S2
Cat’s finally found her groove as the PM’s daughter, but her school and home life are upended when she discovers an unexpected crush, begins a feverishly competitive internship, and outs a shocking parental secret – all leading to the unmasking of a brand new conspiracy. 

Series 2 will see Cat and her friends grappling with the idea of the truth. From knowing your parents, to knowing your heart, everything is way more complicated than the adults like to admit… especially when you’re growing up in the Lodge. Cat has always been determined to speak truth to power and her pursuit of a future in journalism will take this to the next level. Set against the backdrop of an election, whether it’s personal or political, Cat’s about to discover the truth can hurt just as much as it helps.

The Spooky Files
The Spooky Files is a fun, spooky, adventure-filled series that tackles kids’ relationships with fear – with buckets of scares and truckloads of laughs along the way.

When spooky creatures – or ‘Spookies’ – start appearing in the regional town of Sunny Valley, an unlikely group of local kids work had to capture them and keep the situation secret. Bert and Billie are a work in progress step brother and step sister whose parents have just moved in together. Xena is a kooky and honest to a fault gadget queen, and Derek is a cool jock who lives a double life as a secret member of the Spooky Crew.

Together, they run their super secret operation, SPOOKY HQ, out of the basement of BOWL-O-RAMA 5000, a retro bowling alley run by local entrepreneurs (and 90s fan man boys) John and Jon. It’s here the Spooky Crew house the captured Spookies, trying to figure out where they’re coming from and hoping to one day return them ‘home’ – wherever that is. But as their collection grows, how long can they keep their Spooky business secret?

Turn Up The Volume
Turn Up The Volume is a live action drama series about a group of young female and gender non-conforming kids attending a weekly music camp, who decide to form a band. Disconnected, disaffected and desperately looking for their tribe, these teenagers find that, via the transformative, uplifting power of music and friendship, they can unite together to define themselves on their own terms.

The series is inspired by the documentary, No Time for Quiet, produced by Philippa Campey with directors Hylton Shaw and Samantha Dinning, which followed the first Girls Rock! Camp in Melbourne that empowered a diverse group of girls, trans and gender non-conforming young people through music and community.

Su and Pharrell, both 14, are a pair of emerging wannabe documentary filmmakers. At least Su is. She’s a naturalist in waiting. If it swims, crawls, flies or bites – Su can tell you all about it. Pharrell, on the other hand, would probably rather be making real films, you know, with scripts and emotions and actors and stuff – but for the time being shooting tree ants, frill necked lizards, thimble sized possums and the occasional dive- bombing flying fox on his 8k Canon Vixia HF G40 from the safety of a camouflaged hide, is about as close as he is going to get. But what he lacks in interest he makes up for in talent.

Thrown together by Roaring Koala, the production company they’re interning for, they make an unlikely team, as they spend their days, and sometimes nights, crammed together in tents, camouflaged in hides, behind bushes dressed in ghillie suits, or stuck up trees; sitting, waiting, watching, cajoling, bickering, and occasionally even filming the animals they’ve been enlisted to document.


Sydney Worldpride
WorldPride is a global Pride celebration and Sydney will host the celebrations in 2023, marking the first time a city in the southern hemisphere has been chosen.

The ABC is proud to be the broadcast partner for the exciting lineup of once-in-a-lifetime events. We’re set to bring audiences all the loudest, proudest and most important discussions around LGBTQIA+ rights and issues both here in Australia, South East Asia and the rest of the world.

Expect a huge two weeks of celebration, important conversations, party and protest.

Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras
Watch the live broadcast of the 45th annual Mardi Gras parade, exclusive on the ABC. As a part of Sydney WorldPride, the parade is back on Oxford Street bigger and better than ever. With 240 floats and the biggest international presence the parade has ever seen, the ABC will deliver full coverage of many crowd favourites plus heaps of new and exciting float participants.

The parade will hit the streets and screens on Saturday, February 25.

Returning in 2023

Australian Story
ABC host Leigh Sales returns to your screens in 2023 to join the Australian Story team as its new presenter. For only the second time in the program’s 26-year history, Leigh will follow in the footsteps of the late Caroline Jones as anchor to tell compelling stories about real people that illuminate, entertain and inspire.

Australian Story returns in 2023 on February 27.

Also returning in 2023 are:

• Art Works
• Back Roads Catalyst
• Compass
• Gardening Australia
• Gruen S15
• Hard Quiz S8
• Landline
• Melbourne International Comedy Festival
• Offsiders
• Restoration Australia S5
• The Weekly with Charlie Pickering S9
• 7.30
• China Tonight
• Foreign Correspondent Four Corners
• India Now!
• Insiders
• Media Watch
• News Breakfast
• Planet America
• Q+A
• The Drum
• 100% Wolf
• Bluey S3
• Good Game: Spawn Point Kangaroo Beach
• Play School
• Beep and Mort S2
• Ginger and the Vegesaurs S2
• Australian of the Year Australia Day Live Concert ANZAC Day
• New Year’s Eve Celebrations

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