Mal Leyland: Lifetime of Adventure

By Australian Geographic 1 November 2019
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Mal Leyland is the winner of the Lifetime of Adventure award for 2019.

Along with his late brother Mike, Mal Leyland is an icon of Australian TV.

During the 1970s the fraternal pair became famous through a series of televised adventures such as the high risk Open Boat to Adventure, in which they sailed a small dinghy through some treacherous seas from Darwin to Sydney, Off the Beaten Track and the hugely popular weekly series Ask the Leyland Brothers, which launched in 1976 and drew a weekly audience of 2.5 million people.

In each episode, the two brothers, along with their wives and children in their signature Kombi vans, explored locations suggested by viewers. The public sent them in search of lost monuments, rumoured migratory birds and ephemeral lakes, and revelled in their thrills and spills along the way as they were regularly bogged, stranded, hit by storms and encounters with kangaroos. The whole exercise was filmed and edited in the style of home video.

The British-born Leyland brothers were responsible for inspiring a generation of Australians to get out and explore their own country. They became national icons. Everywhere they travelled, punters were excited to be part of the Leyland adventure. Comedian Norman Gunston (aka Garry McDonald) described them as “the Starsky and Hutch of the dead centre”.

Friend and fellow adventurer Dick Smith was inspired by their spirit of adventure. “They did it all so inexpensively, spreading the message that anyone could do it,” he says. “They respected the landscape, were hard-working and earned their successes,” says Dick.

Today, Mal is travelling alone – his beloved wife Laraine died in 2018. After almost 50 years of marriage, so much of it spent coated in dust on unsealed roads, Mal misses her terribly. He now travels in the relative luxury of a motorhome complete with solar panels, enough water to last him three weeks and a generator so he can edit his stories on the remotest of roads. At 75, he has started a new gig for Network 10 as a travel reporter, but also hopes another Leyland series will be possible, fronted by him and daughter Carmen.


This award is sponsored by