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Australia's First Indigenous Teen Drama Tears Down Stereotypes

Ready For This is creating a new generation of role models.

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When Majeda Beatty, 17, was growing up there was no-one that looked like her on Australia television.

Actor Majeda Beatty (Simon Cardwell / ABC TV)

Beatty, who is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, dreamed of watching TV with actors that looked like her and her family.

Beatty tells BuzzFeed News that she' hoping to redefine the monoracial TV landscape of her childhood after landing a leading role on ABC3's new teen drama Ready For This.

"People are messaging me from the Torres Strait and Cairns and north Queensland in general and they’re like, 'it is so good to see someone like me on television,' and that just makes me feel so good because when I was younger there was no-one on TV that I could look up to," says Beatty.

The 13-part-series centres around a group of talented teenagers who move to Sydney to pursue their dreams, where they live together at student hostel Arcadia House.

Ready For This is the first Indigenous teen drama in which five of the actors in the six-member ensemble cast are Indigenous.

All of the characters are elite in their own fields including a track and field star and a talented footballer.

Beatty, who had never acted before, plays Ava the quietly spoken pianist and singer who leaves the Torres Straits to study at a prestigious music academy.

"I was thrown into the deep end and it was a sink or swim situation, luckily I had amazing actors around me showing me the way and some really great people," Beatty says.

The show is a co-production between the teams behind the hugely successful teen drama series Dance Academy and the critically acclaimed series Redfern Now.

The cast of Ready For This (ABC TV)

"whilst we do deal with some complex issues, the series is inherently positive and aspirational," says Joanna Werner from Werner Film Productions.

Werner told BuzzFeed News that she was given a mandate to counterbalance negative media portrayals of Aboriginal youth.

"Ready For This is unique in that it is Australia’s first teen drama that features coming-of-age stories from the perspective of Indigenous lead characters, so our stories are both specific to their experience and also universal."

"This was a conscious decision that we made from the very early stages of development of the series – we wanted to show teenagers striving to achieve their dreams," Werner said.

Where the show deviates from standard teenage fare is its infusion of Indigenous culture into the storyline. In one scene, the teenagers take part in a traditional smoking ceremony led by the hostel manager Vee, played by Christine Anu, to get rid of bad spirits.

In one scene, Ava commiserates with another character about missing home in Yumplatok, Torres Strait creole. Beatty says she relished being able to speak a language she grew up with on screen.

"My mum speaks creole at home with us and it is awesome to see it on television and to be the one sharing it with Australia, I feel immensely proud."

Ready For This airs on Monday at 6.20pm on ABC3.

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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

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