Ernie Dingo co-hosts the TV series DNA Nation.
Ernie Dingo co-hosts the TV series DNA Nation. SBS

Ernie Dingo's DNA surprise

ACTOR and TV personality Ernie Dingo has a strong sense of identity as a proud Yamatji man.

But he found out some surprising things about his ancestry in the new documentary series DNA Nation.

"I thought wait until I get home to my mob and tell them I'm a distant cousin to Ian Thorpe, no one's going to believe me," he tells APN's The Guide.

Dingo, Thorpe and RocKwiz and Eurovision host Julia Zemiro star in the three-part series, which uses their DNA, analysed by geneticists, to travel thousands of years into the past.


Ian Thorpe, Julia Zemiro and Ernie Dingo in a scene from the TV series DNA Nation.
Ian Thorpe, Julia Zemiro and Ernie Dingo in a scene from the TV series DNA Nation. SBS


"These guys know what they're doing; they've done all the research and the hard work," Dingo says.

"They say 'spit in here and I'll tell you where you come from'."

Scientists traced their maternal and paternal family lines, with some surprising results.

"On my father's side I'm Scandinavian, so there you go. That explains my hard head," Dingo says with a laugh.

"I knew my father's father's father was English, but then again you hear the stories of the Vikings coming down into Scotland.

"On my mother's side we only knew four generations, so to then have these guys go back more than 40,000 years in the same spot is very, very enlightening.

"My family is in genetic group M15. There are only two other M15's in the world and both of those are in Western Australia. That's pretty awesome in a lot of ways."

But the geneticists don't stop there, using mitochondrial DNA to trace humanity's origins back 8,000 generations to Africa.

Dingo, Zemiro and Thorpe travel to Tanzania to meet the people who are believed to most closely follow the hunting and gathering lifestyle of our common ancestors.

"I've been to Africa a multitude of times and I often joked 'well I'm home'; that was years ago," Dingo says.

"We're not all that different at all. We are all of the same. Our ancestors were coming out of Africa in search of better pasture."

The documentary also presents a genetic census conducted using DNA donated by everyday Australians from six distinct ethnic groups - Greek, Chinese, Anglo-Celtic, Indian, Lebanese and First Nations Australians -- representing more than 90 per cent of Australia's population.

Alongside DNA Nation, 'SBS Explores Identity' will offer a range of related content across programs including Insight, SBS World News, The Feed, NITV and SBS On Demand.

DNA Nation premieres tonight at 8.30pm on SBS.