'The Disposables' puts a sci-fi spin on life on a temporary visa

October 8, 2023
The Disposavles stars Sumi Gunaratnam. Watch it on iview.abc.net.au

The Disposables
Directed by Sonia Whiteman and Renny Wijeyamohan
ABC, 2023

A new ABC production has put a science fiction spin on the struggle for refugees living on a temporary visa, climate change and the importance of community. The Disposables stars Sumi Gunaratnam as 16-year-old Priya, a young Tamil refugee living in Western Sydney with her dad Sri, played by Rajan Velu.

Priya already has a lot to deal with — the uncertainty of her visa status, her dad’s health issues and the loss of her mum — and when her dad mysteriously disappears, she enlists close-friend Obi (Lakota Johnson) to help investigate.

The search brings her head to head with the department of immigration, racist immigration minister Bruce Carterson (Nicholas Cassim) and a mysterious blue ooze that seems to be spreading across Western Sydney, making people sick.

The more than 10,000 refugees still languishing on temporary visas across the country will be able to relate to Priya’s struggles.

Aimed at a teen audience, The Disposables is the ABC’s first TikTok series, released both on an ABC iView as an hour-long special and in short segments on TikTok, aiming to draw in younger audiences.

The show uses this as a clever device, with the majority of the show filmed as if it is being live-streamed on the characters personal social media accounts. As the story develops, more and more people tune in to Priya and her friends' live recording of their investigation.

The show is also unique in that its star, Gunaratnam, is the first Sri Lankan Tamil woman to play the lead in an Australian TV show.

As well as exploring how Priya and Sri are impacted by their temporary visa status, the show also reflects the trauma of their experiences, including an anti-Tamil chemical attack back in Sri Lanka.

Immigration minister Carterson, who is determined to deport Priya and her dad back to danger, could be a stand-in for a litany of right-wing politicians from Pauline Hanson to Peter Dutton.

The show touches on environmentalism, with the storage of plastic waste in warehouses leading to a sickness that is spreading across Western Sydney.

The show highlights the community spirit in diasporic communities in Western Sydney. As the story comes to a head, Priya calls on her community to come together and gather their plastic waste.

She uses the rallying call #UnmuteUs to draw attention to the way poorer communities are ignored and sidelined by governments, eventually saving the day with the help of her friends, family and neighbours while the police and immigration department hunt her down.

The tackling of these important contemporary issues, backed by a strong cast and creative direction makes The Disposables worth checking out.

[Watch The Disposables on ABC iView.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.