OPINION

Miriam Margolyes tests Australian values of mateship, reconciliation and a fair go in her road trip documentary.

DOCO DOWN UNDER: Miriam with MK Turner in the three-part documentary Almost Australian.
DOCO DOWN UNDER: Miriam with MK Turner in the three-part documentary Almost Australian.

The face of Miriam Margolyes is famous all over the world. The variety and breadth of the roles she plays constantly delights and surprises, but it could be argued that she's at her most powerful when she's being herself.

In her latest documentary, Almost Australian, she sets out on a road trip to discover what being Australian really means.

She undertakes the journey with a clear and unsentimental eye, ready to challenge and test those ideals of which we are all so proud; mateship, respect and a fair go.

Margolyes became an Australian citizen herself in 2013; she already has the prerequisite sense of humour and ability to laugh at one's self down pat.

As she travels the lonely stretches of our vast highways, she fixes the same steady and frank gaze on everyone she meets.

There is no gushiness, no cajoling, no flattery. She tells her subjects what she thinks about things, and expects the same candour in return.

This approach has resulted in an incredible collection of stories; a farming family coming through the darkest days of drought, the unimaginable loss behind the smiling face of a refugee op shop worker, the larger than life characters who populate the remote outback.

Fittingly, the three part documentary is airing over the period of Reconciliation Week. We find her chatting to an Indigenous drag queen in Darwin and swapping stories around a campfire with female Aboriginal elders near Alice Springs.

This doco doesn't focus solely on the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, but it's clearly one of the contradictions of Australian life that Margolyes finds most jarring.

The part time resident of Robertson in the NSW Southern Highlands is the first to say how much she loves her adopted country.

She told Geraldine Cardozo of The Senior during a recent interview; "One of the joys was seeing so many different parts of this amazing country. It was bloody hard work, but also awe-inspiring. I slept under the stars and I was struck dumb - for once."

Psychologists note that people consistently over-rate themselves in personality tests when it comes to qualities such as generosity, tolerance and inclusiveness.

Australia comes off a bit like that in Almost Australian.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to come in and interrogate our long held myths that we cling to so tightly.