Kakadu: natural wonder

It is a single word that symbolises Australia's beautiful remoteness, a vast landscape filled with nature's most extraordinary secrets and an area that has been home to indigenous culture for tens of thousands of years. That's not to mention its wild creatures - crocodiles in particular - that have long left people agape in wonder and fear. Kakadu.

But now television viewers can go beyond the mythology of the word and see the real workings of the Kakadu National Park, in an extraordinary ABC series created by producer, director and cinematographer Nick Robinson.

The four-part series shows the wilderness that is so famed and revered but not often seen up close by those in other parts of Australia. But it also reveals the people of Kakadu, those who work and live in the region.

That includes longtime park ranger Garry Lindner, who says working in the park is an "extraordinary privilege".

Kakadu will show the work being done to protect one of Australia's most important wilderness areas, he says.

"There is a mosaic of people here, from the commercial fisherman and tourism operators to the traditional owners," Lindner says.

"We're trying to preserve and conserve the natural heritage of Kakadu. [This series] is about the landscape but also the people who've lived here for a long time.

"They go hand in hand."

Lindner is among the rangers shown on the series, working in the park in a range of senior roles including crocodile management (an extraordinarily suspenseful thing to see on screen) and coastal management.

With regard to all the crocodiles he's come across in 27 years working in the park, Lindner says he never takes his skills for granted.

"Once you relax, you get blase and that's when things happen. You're dealing with different crocs with different personalities - and that keeps you on edge."

But the big creatures don't worry Lindner nearly as much as the small, pestering ones.

"There's plenty of flies," he says, swatting them away during our interview. "I'd take a crocodile over a fly any day - I hate them," he adds with a laugh.

Amid the incredible, sweeping vistas and intricate filming details, it's almost hard not to expect the voice of Sir David Attenborough when Kakadu comes on screen. But the wise and resonating voice of narrator Tom E. Lewis (the respected stage and film actor, who first found fame in The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) also helps make Kakadu a stand-out.

Lewis says he was proud to be involved. "I got a phone call saying, 'Come and do this job please,' and when I went there I was blown away [by the footage]. Everything I dream about was in front of me."

Lewis says an Australian documentary series such as this has been a long time coming. "It's good for the people up there and it's good for their countrymen to know what's happening in that region," he says.

"It doesn't glorify, but it says we've got to look after country - that's the message."

He compares the use of "people power" in the Franklin Dam decision (in Tasmania) to the current importance of all Australians knowing about Kakadu - and what continually protecting the area means to the entire nation.

"There's so many beautiful things coming, in the four episodes of this," Lewis says. "We've got to look after it."

Kakadu was a true labour of love for director Robinson (who was also a producer and cinematographer) but it wasn't just a one-man show. Cinematographer Luke Peterson also worked on the spectacular series.

It was produced by Screen Australia, Northern Pictures and Beach House Pictures in association with the ABC. Importantly, it also had the full co-operation of the Kakadu Joint Board of Management.

Lewis says it meant an enormous amount to the entire team involved to be documenting such an important part of Australia.

"It's about respecting country … respecting each other, working together."

Kakadu airs Sunday on ABC1 at 7.30pm.