Teenage pilot Bob Bramley to star in Australian Story documentary by former Advocate journalist Lachlan Bennett

AIR CRAFT: The documentary follows the story of teenage pilot from Kindred, Bob Bramley, and his solo flight across Australia in the name of mental health.
AIR CRAFT: The documentary follows the story of teenage pilot from Kindred, Bob Bramley, and his solo flight across Australia in the name of mental health.

When north west Tasmanian journalist Lachlan Bennett, of Burnie, met Kindred's Bob Bramley in 2018, the young pilot-to-be was selling carrots at a farmer's market, hoping to raise enough money for flying lessons.

Neither of them knew it was the start of a long, emotional journey that would span the entire country and end in an episode of the iconic ABC documentary series, Australian Story.

Mr Bennett, now the North-West rural reporter for the ABC, was working for The Advocate when he met then 15-year-old Bob at the market.

"A few months later he told me about his dream to become the youngest pilot to circumnavigate Australia solo and raise awareness for youth suicide," he said.

"He asked me for a bit of advice on whether The Advocate would be interested in the story - I said I'd love to write a story, but what do you think about me making a documentary on your journey?

"So I picked up the camera and started filming him ... every single challenge he met, the highs and the low.

"His story really captivated me and I thought it deserved so much attention, especially given how important the cause was."

Over the next couple of years, Mr Bennett followed Bob on his journey, carefully capturing his struggles to get his licence on time, his epic flight, and hundreds of people across Australia who had been touched by suicide.

COMMITTED: Burnie journalist and producer Lachlan Bennett has spent the last two and a half years creating his documentary. Pictures: Brodie Weeding

COMMITTED: Burnie journalist and producer Lachlan Bennett has spent the last two and a half years creating his documentary. Pictures: Brodie Weeding

Despite using all his holidays for work, spending hundreds of hours going through footage and fruitlessly applying for countless film grants, Mr Bennett "couldn't" give up.

"The more time I spent with Bob, and the more time I spent talking to people about suicide and mental health, the more I was convinced that this was an important story that needed to be told," Mr Bennett explained.

"I guess, like Bob, I was really passionate about doing something. In a way, I think he was learning how to fly around Australia solo, and I was learning how to make a documentary solo."

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His breakthrough, in the end, came through another work contact.

"I had a great co-producer, Lara van Raay," he said.

"I actually wrote a story about one of her film projects, Women of the Island ... she knew the industry speak and helped get a bit of funding, and then put me in touch with Australian Story."

RELENTLESS: Mr Bennett used every spare moment - while working full-time as a reporter at The Advocate - to work on his film.

RELENTLESS: Mr Bennett used every spare moment - while working full-time as a reporter at The Advocate - to work on his film.

He said pitching the story had been the "easy part", and that learning the unfamiliar steps of the film industry had been one of the toughest.

"Looking back it was a little nave to just pick up a camera and say, 'I can make a documentary' ... But I ended up doing it," he admitted.

"Bob taught me a lot. He taught me the power of having a dream and sticking with it, doing things yourself and of sticking to things that you believe in."

Surviving Turbulence airs February 8, at 8pm on iview and ABCTV.

This story Australian Story to feature the epic journey of young pilot Bob Bramley first appeared on The Advocate.