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Features / Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  8 Jul 2024

Little J & Big Cuz – the much-loved First Nations Australian kids' animation made in Victoria – has just released its fourth season following the escapades of cousins, five-year-old Little J, and 9-year-old Big Cuz.

Premiering at the beginning of NAIDOC week, Little J & Big Cuz embodies this year’s theme – Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud – and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across 10 new episodes. 

Season four is full of ups and downs as Little J and Big Cuz navigate life at school with their teacher Ms Chen, mischief in the playground, as well as the everyday familiarity of their own backyard with Nanna and Old Dog. The gaps in their Nanna’s ramshackle fence lead to saltwater, desert, and freshwater country; promising unique explorations and stories to uncover at every turn.

Proudly written, directed, and voiced by First Nations talent, season four introduces two new Australian First Nations languages to the series, Yalanji and Kalaw Kawaw Ya. Director Tony Thorne explains the show has been translated into many Australian First Nations languages (17 and counting) and these translations have gone on to become significant teaching tools for preserving and restoring language across the nation. “The show’s creation is another step in the empowerment of Aboriginal people to represent their contemporary lives from their perspective…[it] captures the joy and excitement of Aboriginal children discovering their world,” Tony said.
Voiced by some of Australia’s most lauded actors, Deborah Mailman AM (The New Boy) voices Big Cuz, while her former co-star from The Sapphires, Miranda Tapsell (Top End Wedding) voices Little J. 

“To have young black Indigenous animated characters on Australian screens, that's a first.” Deborah said. “I don't think we can underestimate how important that is.” The translation of the show into 17 Australian First Nations languages makes the series accessible, she explains. “It's not only maintenance of culture, it's celebration of culture. And it's really important that kids in remote areas get the same opportunities.”

“English is sometimes mob’s third, fourth language and it's not their first language. I love that the show doesn't assume that all kids speak English, because they don't; they're speaking multiple languages.” 
For Miranda Tapsell the show embodies a version of what it means to grow up as a First Nations kid in Australia today. “It's about identity, it's about pride. It shows that kids understand that their lives and experiences matter…Black kids actually get to be proud of what their old ones, like Nan, are passing down to them.” 

Both Miranda and Deborah were attracted to the show because of the star writing talent at the helm, hailing from Broome (Rubibi), Darwin (Garramilla), Alice Springs (Mparntwe) and Launceston (Kanamaluka). In season four, Dot West, Erica Glynn, Samuel Paynter, Adam Thompson, and Danielle MacLean made up the writing team. 

“The show has grown in confidence and it's really great that we've got more writers from different areas,” Deborah said, “different communities that we're expanding those stories within the show.” 

“I’m really excited by the fact that these talented First Nation writers are taking some of the stories that they grew up with, and that means so much to them, and they get to put it in this wonderful gem of a show,” Miranda added. 

Ultimately the show is all about connection to culture, community and country, Director Tony says. “It was my job to create this as a coherent, cartoon world, both recognisable and magical in its broadness and diversity…It is humbling to think a child in a community in the Top End or Tasmania can look at Little J & Big Cuz, made only of a few curving lines moving across a screen, and recognise themselves.” 

With season four now airing, there are 50 episodes of Little J & Big Cuz in total since the first episodes premiered on NITV and ABC Kids in 2017, all of which have been supported through VicScreen’s Victorian Production Fund. 

Little J & Big Cuz will premiere on both ABC Kids and NITV at 6:05pm on 8 July 2024, screening every weekday for two weeks, whilst also being available to stream on ABC iView and SBS On Demand from 8 July.