Australian Story

A Matter of Minutes

Monday 23 November at 8pm

Introduced by John Eales, former Wallabies Captain

It was Christmas Day 2018 and father-of-two Mick O’Dowd was experiencing muscle pain in his glute.

By Boxing Day, he was fighting for his life in intensive care.

Mick was diagnosed with sepsis, a little known but life-threatening illness that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs.

To save his life, doctors were forced to amputate all of Mick’s limbs.

This is the incredible story of determination and love in the face of an incomprehensible situation.

Lest We Forget — Australia and the Spanish Flu

Monday 30 November at 8:00 pm

Introduced by ABC’s Dr Norman Swan

As the nation begins to emerge from the grips of COVID-19, Australian Story explores the Spanish Flu of a century ago and the eerie similarities to today.

Until COVID-19 struck, very few had ever spared a thought for the “forgotten flu” and the up to 15,000 Australians who died from the brutal pandemic that swept the globe during 1918-19.

Despite the topic being memorialised extensively in the northern hemisphere, Australia’s experience of Spanish Flu was largely overlooked, perhaps because it was buried in the trauma of World War One which had just ended.

In this episode, Australian Story delves into the archives and hears from the country’s top expert historians to uncover just how this outbreak changed our society and what we can learn for the future.

This program was first broadcast on 1 June, 2020.

Cradle of Life / To Russia with Love

Monday 7 December at 8pm

For our season finale, we bring you two very different stories.

Cradle of Life tells the story of 81-year-old inventor Professor John Grant-Thomson who designed a space age capsule to retrieve extremely premature babies from the bush.

By chance he met one of his Neocot’s first patients, leading to a lifelong friendship.

And we check in with the “fake Russian” choir known as Dustyesky that took the world by storm when they first featured on Australian Story in May.

Now they’re working out how to deal with their newfound fame — there have been three movie offers and an invite to the Russian Embassy in Canberra — while still staying true to their values.


Monday 8 February at 8:00pm

Celebrating 25 years of putting the ‘real’ back into reality TV. Award-winning series with no narrator and no agendas – just authentic stories told in people’s own words.

Immerse yourself in the life of an extraordinary Australian.

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Surviving Turbulence

Monday 8 February at 8pm

Teenage pilot Bob Bramley takes to the skies to break a solo flying record and shine a light on youth mental health, galvanised by the desperate struggles of his two friends.

Sisters in Arms

Monday 15 February at 8.00pm.

Introduced by radio broadcaster Fifi Box

There’s a hidden danger lurking in every home. Meet the two mothers who’ve achieved a world first to protect our children.

Button batteries lurk inside many seemingly harmless household items from musical birthday cards to remote controls to stuffed toys.

To an adult they’re just a battery but to a small child their shiny appearance can be fascinating and potentially lethal.

When Andrea Shoesmith and Allison Rees lost their children to button battery accidents, they channelled their grief into lobbying to make the industry more accountable.

What they’ve achieved is remarkable and their passion for change will ultimately protect children around the country.


The Tipping Point | Veena Sahajwalla

Monday 22 February at 8.00pm.

Introduced by War on Waste host Craig Reucassel

Scientist Veena Sahajwalla is a recycling superstar with some bold new ideas about how to save waste from landfill.

As Australia’s collective garbage guilt builds alongside the tonnes of plastic piling up in recycling depots, her innovative inventions may offer some exciting new solutions.

Inspired walking the streets of her Mumbai neighbourhood as a child, Veena observed almost everything was reused and “nothing was wasted”.

This can-do attitude shaped her engineering career and sowed the seeds for some ground-breaking ideas, including making steel from car tyres.

Now she’s unveiling her latest invention, a “micro factory” that creates building materials and tiles from dumped clothes and glass.

It’s a revolutionary concept. But will it work outside the lab?

I Dream of Jeanne

Monday 1 March at 8.00pm

Introduced by entertainer Marcia Hines

In the 70s and 80s, scores of women would arrive at Channel Nine’s Sydney studios each day to see flamboyant entertainer Jeanne Little on The Mike Walsh Show.

Though never a favourite of the comedy cognoscenti, viewers loved her and she won the Gold Logie award for Most Popular Television Personality in 1976, just two years after her first TV appearance.

But behind the funny lady and outrageous costumes was an illness long kept secret, a husband with a surprising background, and a daughter searching for answers.

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Fish Out of Water

Monday 8 March at 8pm

Introduced by ABC senior reporter Tracey Holmes

Shayna Jack has worn the label of “drug cheat” since she tested positive for a banned substance in 2019.

The 22-year-old swimmer maintains she did not knowingly take the drug and is fighting to clear her name and get back in the pool.

Jack had her sights on the Olympic Games, but a positive tested meant she was banned from competition for two years.

As an appeal looms to increase her ban, she’s found herself at the centre of a much larger debate about world anti-doping rules that some say are railroading athletes.

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An Unlikely Match

Monday 15 March at 8pm

Introduced by actor Sam Neill

Devastated by the 2020 bushfires and determined to do something to help, actor and writer Magda Szubanski joined forces with an unlikely partner, teenager Will ‘Egg Boy’ Connolly.

Will had been struggling with unexpected fame after footage of him cracking an egg over a former politician’s head went viral.

Magda took him under her wing and together the odd couple raised nearly $200,000 which after careful research they directed into art therapy classes for bushfire survivors in the Snowy Mountains region.

Australian Story joins them both on the road as Magda shares her own experiences of family trauma — and lots of laughs — with the Snowy Mountains locals.

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Raising the Bar Jennifer Robinson

Monday 22 March at 8pm

Introduced by actor Amber Heard

From small town public schoolgirl to the International Court of Justice, Jennifer Robinson has had a meteoric rise to the top of her field.

In a “full on” few months last year, the human rights lawyer was involved in two of the most high-profile court cases in the world. She represented Amber Heard in Johnny Depp’s defamation action against The Sun newspaper in the UK and helped fight attempts to extradite long-term client Julian Assange to the US.

At just 40, Robinson has achieved more than most lawyers will in a lifetime. Now she is giving back to the public school system — a cause close to her heart.

Chamber of Silence

Monday 29 March at 8pm

When former Federal Labor Minister Kate Ellis left politics in 2019, she was troubled by just how sexist her experiences inside Parliament House had been.

When she reached out to other female politicians to compare notes, a disturbing picture of systemic misogyny emerged.

In this Australian Story, a group of current and former female politicians from all the parties break their silence about Canberra’s toxic culture, saying the institution is at “crisis point”.

With revealing interviews from across the political spectrum Kate Ellis shows what it’s really like to be a woman in politics.

Kate Ellis also features in a story in this week’s Stellar magazine. Her episode is also on the same day her latest book, Sex, Lies and Question Time (Hardie Grant) is released.

Sophie’s Choice | Li family

Monday 12 April at 8pm

Introduced by Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin

When the daughter of Mao’s Last Dancer Li Cunxin was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, his wife made an enormous sacrifice.

Mary Li gave up her international ballet career to devote herself to teaching Sophie to hear and speak by way of cochlear implants.

But when Sophie became an adult, she began to question her parents’ earlier decisions.

As she embraced the deaf and signing community, Sophie had a choice to make — did she still want to be part of the hearing world of her family?

Birds of a Feather | The Twinnies

Monday 19 April at 8pm

Introduced by wildlife conservationist Bob Irwin

Identical twins Brigette and Paula Powers are so close they live and work together and even speak in unison. After a chance meeting with wildlife warrior Steve Irwin, they now use their unique connection to save injured seabirds.

Forever Young | The Ursula Barwick case

Monday 26 April at 8pm

Introduced by Loren O’Keeffe, founder of Missing Persons Advocacy Network

Australian Story revisits the case of missing teenager Ursula Barwick, after evidence at a coronial inquest revealed a litany of errors and blatant lack of investigation by NSW Police.

The bubbly 17-year-old Ursula vanished without a trace in 1987. Her family dropped her to the train station on the NSW Central Coast, where she was headed to Sydney to start a new job. But they never saw her again.

The Barwicks first raised their concerns about how her case had been handled on the program in November 2019, but the truth has been far worse than they ever imagined.

Children of the Brush - Part 1 The Olsen dynasty

Monday 3 May at 8pm

Monday 10 May at 8pm

Introduced by comedian and TV presenter Tim Ross

An intimate look inside the life and career of a family driven by a passion for art.

John Olsen is one of Australia’s most successful and acclaimed painters. At 93, John still heads into his studio every day to paint.

But while John became the “darling” of the art world, and each award celebrated his genius, his “obsession” with work also often cast a long shadow on his family.

Daughter Louise Olsen would move into the design world and co-found an iconic company and son Tim Olsen would find his place in the art world as a dealer and gallery owner. But Tim’s complex relationship with his father fuelled an addiction to alcohol that would almost bring his life and work undone.

Children of the Brush is the first of a two-part story offering an inside look at one of Australia’s great art dynasties and the complex cost of fame.

Part 2

Introduced by comedian and TV presenter Tim Ross

Concluding the inside look at one of Australia’s greatest artistic dynasties, the Olsen family.

John Olsen is one of Australia’s most successful and acclaimed painters. At 93, he still heads into his studio every day to paint.

But while John became the “darling” of the art world, and each award celebrated his genius, his “obsession” with work also often cast a long shadow on parts of his family.

In this episode, trouble emerges from another side of the family that leaves John Olsen reeling…and leads all the way to the Supreme Court.

This two-part Australian Story explores the complex price of success and fame

A World of Their Own | The Seekers

Monday 17 May at 8pm

Introduced by radio announcer Myf Warhurst

Australian Story is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an encore screening of one of its most popular programs. The Seekers blazed a trail for Australian music in the 1960s with a number of chart-topping international hits.

But fame led to fallout and they split at the height of their success. The group reunites to reminisce about their ride to the top and to reveal the pain behind their famous split.

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