Australian Story - Season : 18

Season 18 Episode 1 - The Light of Day

In 2004 Sam Cullen and his wife Janet bought a rare collection of photographs at a London auction. They were captivated by the haunting faces in the photos. The couple began piecing together a puzzle few thought could ever be solved. Their quest took them to the beautiful Clarence River region of NSW and into some of the most troubling aspects of our history. Now, eight years down the track, the Cullens' labour of love has turned up some astonishing and surprising results which are revealed for the first time on Monday night... Air Date : 4th-Feb-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 2 - On the Precipice

Scott Johnson was a young man with everything going for him - a maths genius with a bright future. But on a trip to a Sydney beach one sunny day in 1988, everything changed. The search for the truth of what happened that day has brought together a wealthy internet pioneer, an international super sleuth, and the NSW Police Cold Case Unit. This week, the story of their quest to solve a twenty-five-year-old-mystery. Air Date : 11th-Feb-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 3 - So Much to Say

Stevie Wright became a superstar at the age of sixteen, with the iconic 1960s rock band The Easybeats - the first Australian group to achieve chart success in the UK, US and Europe. He went on to win another generation of fans as a solo artist with hits like 'Evie', 'Hard Road' and 'Black Eyed Bruiser'. But along with the exhilarating highs, he has experienced devastating lows - which on several occasions could have been fatal. Now the legend of Stevie Wright is being rekindled with help from fellow musician and lifelong fan, Scott McRae who has created a 'rockumentary' live show of his idol's extraordinary life. Australian Story has recorded Stevie Wright's last public performance - a special poignant encore in Scott McRae's stage show. Air Date : 18th-Feb-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 4 - The First Word

This week's program is about a man who's become an international pioneer in a significant but unlikely field. A failed medical school student turned journalist, Peter Ford hit the big time in the US as a CNN anchorman. He travelled extensively and covered many big stories around the world. But beneath the telegenic exterior an 'inner nerd' was lurking. Using his self-taught computer code-writing skills, Peter developed software that enables the most severely disabled people to communicate. His invention has even attracted the interest of Professor Stephen Hawking... Air Date : 25th-Feb-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 5 - The Chosen One

This week, the story of three young Australians and their mission to rescue an orphaned elephant calf on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. Sumatran elephants are officially listed as critically endangered, driven out of their habitat by encroaching industries – in particular, palm oil production. It is estimated that there are now only two or three thousand left in the wild. But against all the odds, one Sumatran elephant calf has become a symbol of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. The program has the heart warming story of 'Bona' and three friends mobilising to save her. The three are all ex employees of the late Steve Irwin, who had a particular interest in the plight of the Sumatran elephants. As this episode reveals, some of those closest to the 'Crocodile Hunter' played a key role in the saga... Air Date : 4th-Mar-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 6 - Suddenly Last Summer (1)

This week's program has the untold personal story of an Australian cricket captain through the eyes of those closest to him. The cricket captaincy occupies a unique place in the national consciousness. When Ricky Ponting, the first Tasmanian to lead the team, retired from international cricket last December, grown men cried, parliamentary business was interrupted and a gaping hole was left in the once all conquering Australian cricket team. The episode reveals how a prankster from a tough housing commission background in Launceston made the transition to one of the most decorated cricketers of all time and the nation's best batsman after the mighty Sir Donald Bradman. Wife Rianna is credited with being a major influence in the transformation. In Monday's program she provides her first ever extended interview with some surprising, highly personal and candid insights. Air Date : 11th-Mar-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 7 - Suddenly Last Summer (2)

Monday night's program has the emotional conclusion to our story about former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting and his family. This episode has the inside story of a series of dramatic highs and lows on and off the field. On the cricket pitch, Ponting's triumphant century in the 2003 World Cup final, losing and regaining the Ashes, and the PR disaster of 'Monkeygate'. While at home, unfolding behind the scenes, there was a long and private struggle to parenthood, disclosed here for the first time by Ponting and his wife Rianna. When Ponting suddenly decided to retire last year, it was front page news around the nation and even Federal Parliament stopped briefly to mark the occasion. In this program, Ponting, his parents, and wife Rianna tell the full inside story behind the decision... Air Date : 18th-Mar-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 8 - On the Warpath

We first profiled official war artist Ben Quilty last September as he worked on portraits of Australian soldiers who'd served in Afghanistan. Quilty spoke then of the strong bonds he'd formed with many of his subjects, including some of the elite special operations troops who he says revealed a depth of emotional distress that shocked him to his core. Six months later, Quilty's exhibition is now on tour and attracting much interest. In the intervening time, his own journey from artist to angry advocate has led him to argue for better treatment for returned soldiers who he says continue to suffer from their time in the war zone. Air Date : 25th-Mar-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 9 - Letters to the Editor

This week we're returning to Cunnamulla in outback Queensland and the story of a newspaper, an unlikely romance and a grazing property. James Clark left the bush and found success in the city. But he was drawn home and then chased a new dream of running the local paper. In the process, he divided the town. As you'll see, there've been a number of significant arrivals down on the farm since we last visited. Air Date : 1st-Apr-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 10 - Down by the Sea (1)

If you are a certain age chances are you remember exactly where you were in the early hours of September 27 thirty years ago. It was the day an Australian yacht ended the longest winning streak in sporting history, grabbing the legendary America's Cup from the grandees of the New York Yacht Club. Unprecedented and spontaneous celebrations broke out all around the nation from the coastal fringe and deep into the Outback. In this thirtieth anniversary year, with many of the key players now advanced in age, Australian Story revisits those euphoric and nation defining events. There are surprising and entertaining new insights from all the main players, including then Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Alan Bond and his former wife Eileen and skipper John Bertrand. Also interviewed are Australia II crew member Grant Simmer, London Olympics gold medallist Tom Slingsby and Sydney born 2010 America's Cup winning skipper James Spithill. Air Date : 8th-Apr-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 11 - Down by the Sea (2)

This week's program concludes the story of Australia II's epic quest to win the America's Cup and end the longest winning streak in sporting history. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of those nation defining moments. The victory has been listed alongside the Moon Landing and the assassination of President John F Kennedy as one of the events that Australians regard as most memorable. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Syndicate Head Alan Bond and skipper John Bertrand are among those who provide intriguing accounts of what was really going on behind the scenes. We also examine the legacy of the win, and discover what's happened to some of the key players in the decades that have followed. Air Date : 15th-Apr-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 12 - Fade to Black

Monday's Australian Story provides new insights into a saga that's captured the imaginations of all kinds of people all around the world. On Saturday, Melbourne staged a final farewell to Black Caviar. It's been two years since the champion mare first featured on Australian Story. Since then her story has gone global and now rivals that of Phar Lap in terms of regard and recognition. Air Date : 22nd-Apr-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 13 - Call of Duty

In a 35-year career, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has forged a reputation as an officer who goes out of his way to look after victims. He rose to national prominence late last year when he defied police rules and disclosed explosive allegations that the Catholic Church had consistently covered up the crimes of paedophile priests in the Newcastle-Hunter region of NSW. The decision to speak out occurred on the spur of the moment during an emotional public forum. Fox says he thought at the time that the consequences would be 'fairly heavy'. But he walked onto the public stage anyway, and addressed hundreds of abuse victims and their supporters. Other appearances followed and within weeks, the Prime Minister announced a far-reaching Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children in institutions. Fox, along with others, is credited with helping to trigger it. Call Of Duty features exclusive footage of Peter Fox at the meeting that changed his life. Air Date : 29th-Apr-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 14 - Know Thy Enemy (1)

This week's program is about a woman who provided some of Australia's most memorable moments at the last Olympics. Anna Meares, the unflinching 'coalminer's daughter' from Central Queensland, has dominated cycling for nearly a decade. The story of her triumphant return to the track after a catastrophic accident has been well documented. What is less well known is the detail of the psychological struggles she navigated on the road to the London Olympics. Her ascendancy in her sport came at some cost to personal and family relationships. As a consequence of Anna's rise, her sister's dreams were crushed. And then there were her famous on and off track battles with the British favourite Victoria Pendleton which soon became the stuff of tabloid legend. From the UK, Pendleton provides candid new insights into the intense rivalry with Meares. And for the first time, Anna Meares reveals her own inside story. Air Date : 6th-May-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 15 - Know Thy Enemy (2)

This week's program concludes the dramatic story of Olympic cyclist Anna Meares. Meares has dominated women's cycling for nearly a decade. Her first big rival was her own sister and then came fierce battles on and off the track with British favourite Victoria Pendleton. The program reveals details of the audacious victory plan devised by the Australian team in the lead up to the London Olympics and the surprising aftermath... Air Date : 13th-May-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 16 - Listen to Me

This week's program is about a man recently named by The Australian newspaper as the most influential broadcaster in Australia. He's Radio 2GB 'shock jock' Ray Hadley and his top rating morning radio show is heard all along the East Coast. Hadley was driving taxis when a chance encounter gave him the break he'd dreamed of since he was a kid in a working class suburb. It wasn't long before he toppled John Laws from the number one spot in the notoriously tough Sydney radio market. Ray Hadley is loud, opinionated and controversial. He's a tireless worker for charity. And he's merciless towards politicians. In this program Ray Hadley opens up and reveals some uncomfortable truths about the past and about the temper that's been getting him into trouble. Air Date : 20th-May-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 17 - The Hazel Effect

Australian Story on May 27 will feature an updated edition of the Logie awarding winning episode on former First Lady Hazel Hawke, first aired ten years ago. There will be new interviews and other material from those closest to Mrs Hawke in her final days. The death of the former First Lady is generating a huge groundswell of public affection and mourning. She has been described as Australia's Eleanor Roosevelt. With close cooperation from the family, Australian Story will showcase the highlights of a courageous, groundbreaking and sometimes tumultuous life, marked by public service as well as personal triumphs and hard knocks. Air Date : 27th-May-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 18 - A Life Laid Bare

When Lisa Poulos stepped into a Melbourne taxi six years ago, she had no idea how her life was about to turn upside down. To that point she appeared to her friends to be the woman who had everything. But when her taxi was involved in a minor accident that day in Melbourne, it set off a dramatic series of events, eventually revealing a dark truth that nobody knew was there. It gave Lisa Poulos the idea to turn her bad fortune into something positive. As a prominent player in the fashion world, she decided to use her contacts to create a project which would help other women facing the same difficulties. But first she had to get used to the idea of laying her life bare... Air Date : 3rd-Jun-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 19 - Northam Exposure

Sami Shah has been in Australia for less than one year but he's already making a name for himself on the stand up comedy circuit in Western Australia. Shah was fronting his own groundbreaking satirical show on TV in Karachi; a dangerous line of work in the political environment of Pakistan. After a narrow escape from a devastating bomb attack he and his wife and small daughter applied through the official migration process to settle in Australia. Under the terms of their migration visa they were obliged to settle in a rural area and ended up in the small town of Northam. When Sami Shah took to the stage with his cutting edge stand up routines, not everyone was amused... Air Date : 10th-Jun-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 20 - When Blood Runs Cold

Monday's Australian Story centres on a crime that has been described as one of the 'top five' unsolved murder mysteries in Australian history. Twenty years after the heyday of the Ned Kelly gang, the nation was shocked by the brutal deaths of three siblings on a bush track. A young farmer Michael Murphy and his two sisters were bludgeoned to death near the town of Gatton, 100 kilometres from Brisbane in 1898. The trio were returning from a Boxing Day outing. The savagery of their deaths was all the more puzzling because of the absence of any apparent motive. Retired dentist, turned author Stephanie Bennett has spent years painstakingly trawling through archival evidence and she now believes she's cracked the case. Others are less convinced. But some Murphy descendants are grateful for her efforts. They say the crime scarred the family down the generations, and believe that Stephanie Bennett may indeed have delivered 'the truth'... Air Date : 17th-Jun-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 21 - The Men Who Fell to Earth

This week's program is about a fatal plane crash and the disturbing facts that emerged in the aftermath. It started when a young woman called Samantha Hare surprised her partner with the gift of a joy flight off the coast of South East Queensland back in 2008. In the pilot's seat was a well known, colourful and seemingly highly reputable aviator called Barry Hempel. But unbeknownst to Samantha Hare, Mr Hempel had been stripped of his commercial pilot's license - and there were other worrying issues too. Mr Hempel and Samantha's fiance, Ian Lovell, were both killed when their plane plummeted into the sea. This week's episode tells the story of Samantha Hare and her five year quest for answers in the face of a 'smorgasbord' of baffling and worrying questions. Air Date : 24th-Jun-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 22 - No More Than a Ghost

This week, the story of a young Adelaide student and the obsession that's made her an international publishing sensation. She's 28 year old Hannah Kent and her novel on an Icelandic murderess sparked a bidding war. Now there is talk of a Hollywood movie. It started with a Rotary exchange visit to Iceland when Hannah Kent was just 17. She felt lonely and claustrophobic in the alien 24 hour darkness of the Icelandic winter. But hearing, by chance, about the execution site she became intrigued by the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, beheaded for murder in Iceland some 200 years ago, and the last woman to suffer that fate. In the program Hannah Kent tells the untold story of her decade long interest in the macabre story of Agnes and how it's taken her to strange and unexpected places. Air Date : 1st-Jul-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 23 - The Music Lesson

Singer Jessica Mauboy introduces this updated program on the life of Yothu Yindi frontman Mr Yunupingu. "Growing up in Darwin, everyone looked up to him, and it made me want to do that line of work. I wanted to be just like that," she says. Mr Yunupingu went from school teacher to school principal to international rock star when the song 'Treaty' became a hit around the world. He was named Australian of the Year in 1992. But his health deteriorated in the last 7 years due to a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and alcohol dependence. In 2009 Australian Story documented his battle with kidney failure and his reluctant acceptance of a life on dialysis three times a week. He was awaiting a kidney transplant when he passed away last month, aged 56. The updated program includes new material on Mr Yunupingu's life at his home in Arnhem Land in his final years, as well as fresh interviews with his family, friends and music industry luminaries Molly Meldrum and Michael Gudinski. Air Date : 8th-Jul-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 24 - Irons in the Fire

It's said there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come... This week's program is about a psychology student and a brainwave that became a phenomenon. As Tasmania's terrifying bushfires took hold in January, Mel Irons set up a a Facebook page... The spur of the moment decision became the start of a social media whirlwind that provided a helping hand to thousands of people isolated by the fires. From generators for oyster breeders, to tin openers for the local Food Bank and even a small armada of boats to ferry supplies to the needy, Mel Irons was at the helm. She admits she took risks and cut corners. But the essence of her approach is now being embraced by the State Government and Emergency Services. Air Date : 15th-Jul-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 25 - There but for Fortune

This week's program is about a man who's made a big name in London but is little known back in Australia. Richard Farleigh amassed an early fortune as a young gun in the financial markets and went on to star on a top-rating British television program. But what's remarkable about Farleigh is his background. He was one of a family of eleven children born to an itinerant, violent and alcoholic sheep shearer. Farleigh and several of his older siblings were removed by Welfare authorities to an orphanage and he was subsequently fostered. Initially diagnosed as 'backward', his luck changed when a school teacher recognised his abilities and became 'the first person that I felt really cared about me'. He excelled at maths and tournament chess and by his mid-thirties was a multi-millionaire business entrepreneur, moving to the UK five years ago. Now in his fifties, he has been back in Australia, retracing a past that he says continues to haunt him in ways he 'can't control'. Air Date : 22nd-Jul-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 26 - Too Good to Refuse

August marks the 50th anniversary of one of Britain's most infamous crimes – the Great Train Robbery. Ronald Biggs was sentenced to 30 years gaol for his part in the crime that he once described as 'too good to refuse'. But behind the robbery and Biggs' subsequent escape to Australia, there's an epic saga of a woman's resilience and loyalty. Disowned by her middle class parents, Charmian Biggs and their two children, followed Biggs to Australia in the hope of a fresh start. It was the beginning of a tumultuous three decades marked by discoveries, escapes, betrayals and reunions. Forced to divorce her husband to help him avoid extradition from Brazil, Charmian Biggs raised her sons on her own and studied to obtain a university degree. She became a successful book editor under the new name of Brent. Then in 2001 Biggs finally surrendered to the British authorities so he could receive medical treatment. Air Date : 29th-Jul-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 27 - Corridors of Power

This week we visit a scenic valley where best selling author Di Morrissey and a determined group of rural residents have stared down a corporate giant. The setting is the spectacular Manning Valley in the mid north coast of New South Wales. When the electricity transmission company TransGrid decided to build a high voltage power line through the valley, the community elected to fight. Led by former sports administrator turned farmer, Peter Epov, and including an airline pilot, engineer and a former business analyst, they pooled their expertise and skills to tackle the seemingly impenetrable data of a complex industry. What they discovered has far reaching implications for anybody who pays electricity bills. Air Date : 5th-Aug-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 28 - A Place for Us

Award winning television journalist Sara James was living the dream as an anchor and foreign correspondent for American network NBC. She'd lived in New York for fifteen years and reported from around the world including the war zones of Somalia, Sudan and in the Middle East. Then she met and married another high flyer, Australian journalist Andrew Butcher, who worked closely with Rupert Murdoch as his corporate affairs manager. But with the birth of their second daughter came a curve ball. Baby Jacqui didn’t cry and was having multiple seizures. 'Your baby has a bad brain' said the medical specialist. A nurse took Sara aside and said 'they don’t always know you know. Your baby has bright eyes. Don't give up.' To the amazement of their friends, the Butchers abandoned Manhattan, scooped up their family and moved to the Macedon Ranges outside Melbourne. There they embraced an entirely new way of life as they started to unlock the mysteries of Jacqui's distressing and taxing condition. Air Date : 12th-Aug-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 29 - Long Walk Back

Chloe Palmer-Simpson was just 18 when she was involved in a head-on car crash near her home in Bargo in New South Wales. The accident left her fighting for her life and dealing with a severe brain injury. Although the elite swimmer was just minutes from death, the efforts of medical staff coupled with her own determination led to a recovery that stunned everyone. Now, just 16 months after the accident, Chloe Palmer-Simpson is attempting to walk PNG's Kokoda Track accompanied by the medical team who saved her life to raise funds for trauma research at St George Hospital. The track is routinely described as 96 kilometres of sheer hell and that's for the able-bodied. Asking a young woman recuperating from traumatic injuries to attempt it is not without risk. Air Date : 19th-Aug-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 30 - A Voice in the Wilderness

Retiring independent MP Tony Windsor offers a unique insider's account on Australian Story of the last three years of political tumult. After two decades in politics, both state and federal but always as an independent, Tony Windsor shocked many when he announced his retirement two months ago. He played a deciding role in two hung parliaments and helped keep Nick Greiner's NSW Liberal government in power twenty-two years ago. But it wasn't until he backed Julia Gillard's minority government in 2010 that he experienced widespread fallout – including death threats - from those who thought he'd abandoned his conservative New England electorate. From his vantage point in the Simpson Desert, far away from what he calls the 'greasy pond' of Canberra politics, Tony Windsor offers a final – and at times surprising - verdict on Canberra's political leaders. Air Date : 26th-Aug-2013  Read More

Season 18 Episode 31 - Driving Greg Norman (1)

Includes interviews with President Bill Clinton, Jack Nicklaus, Peter FitzSimons, Morgan-Leigh Norman (daughter), and Gregory Norman Junior (son) and third wife Kirsten in her first television interview. When Adam Scott became the first Australian ever to win the US Masters golf tournament earlier this year, he immediately paid an emotional tribute to his mentor Greg Norman. Norman remains a world sporting icon and is considered by many to be Australia's greatest ever golfer. But his friend, President Bill Clinton, interviewed for Australian Story, says Greg was never universally 'embraced in a way that some great golfers are.' Greg Norman was also a trail blazer off the course, parlaying sporting success into a multi-millionaire dollar business empire built around his moniker, The Great White Shark. Air Date : 2nd-Sep-2013  Read More

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