Australian Story

Returns Monday February 27 8:00pm


Leigh Sales joins the Australian Story team in a brand-new role, presenting the award winning program with no narrator and no agendas.

This season, we go behind the scenes with actor and producer Claudia Karvan, hear changemaker Saul Griffith’s clean energy vision for our homes, and take a deep dive into the incredible story of underwater filmmaker and shark advocate Valerie Taylor.

Immerse yourself in the life of an extraordinary Australian and their authentic stories, told in their own words.

In this series return episode: Saul Griffiths - inventor, author, scientist and changemaker – shares his vision and contagious passion for renewable future energy in Australia.

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The Transformer | Saul Griffith

Monday 27 February 8:00pm

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

Saul Griffith is a prolific inventor, an engineer and a successful entrepreneur.

His bold ideas on energy caught the eye of the US president and helped shape the ground-breaking climate legislation that passed there late last year.

Now he’s returned home after two decades in the US and has joined with his community near Wollongong, south of Sydney, in an ambitious project to electrify homes in his suburb and power them with renewables.

If successful, the pilot project will prove that household electrification is a potential solution to an urgent problem.

Game Changer

Monday 6 March 8:00 PM

Many parents will tell you they’re worried their children are spending too much time playing video games and are desperate about what to do.

Wayne Warburton, a plumber-turned-psychologist, reckons he can help.

Together with German researchers, Dr Warburton, from Macquarie University, has devised a three-month program to help the minority of teenagers who are gaming excessively.

Australian Story has gained exclusive access to follow two teenage boys as they embark on the program, the first of its kind in Australia, and try to take control of their gaming habits and their lives. But will it work?

Diving in Deep | Valerie Taylor

Monday 13 March 8:00 PM

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

Underwater explorer and trailblazing conservationist, Valerie Taylor’s life has been one big adventure.

The woman in the pink wetsuit burst onto our TV screens in the 1960s, stunning viewers with rare images of the ocean world.

Valerie’s work with sharks is legendary and her advocacy relentless. She’s swum with the most feared sharks in the world and on the rare occasions she’s been bitten, has dived right back in.

With her cinematographer husband, the late Ron Taylor, Valerie famously worked with director Steven Spielberg on the blockbuster film Jaws, capturing thrilling images of great white sharks in the wild.

This two-part special takes a deep dive into Valerie’s remarkable life, revealing precious home movies from Valerie’s childhood and behind the scenes footage from her most influential films.

20 March 8:00 PM

Continuing the story of the remarkable life of Valerie Taylor, the celebrated underwater filmmaker and shark conservationist.

By the 1970s, Valerie and her cinematographer husband, the late Ron Taylor, had an international reputation for filming with dangerous sharks and were hired by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to film great white sharks for the blockbuster, Jaws.

Behind-the-scenes footage tells the story of how Ron captured dramatic pictures of a great white and how the film’s stuntman came close to dying.

But Jaws’ mega success was bad news for sharks and threatened to undo Valerie’s message that they weren’t the enemy.

Even after her first serious shark bite, which we see on film, Valerie stepped up her campaign to protect the grey nurse and other marine animals.

Now 87, Valerie is still fighting to protect the marine world and her work is inspiring a new generation of ocean lovers.

Making a Scene | Claudia Karvan

Monday 27 March 8:00 PM

At 50, actress and producer Claudia Karvan is at the peak of her powers.

She’s currently getting rave reviews for her first stage performance in 25 years and is working on a new season of the award-winning TV show Bump, which she co-created, co-produces and stars in.

Karvan has been in the public eye since her first movie at the age of ten.

But behind the scenes of her long and successful career, Karvan has also been managing an often chaotic family life.

A remarkably candid Karvan talks about growing up around her mother and stepfather’s King Cross nightclub and her transition from childhood actor to adult star.

She also reveals the mental health issues in her family and speaks publicly for the first time about her difficult relationship with her biological father, who died last year.

“The way I evaluate and understand my life is putting it into drama,” she explains. “We’re telling each other stories all the time about our own lives, about each other’s lives. That’s what storytelling is all about.”

In addition to Karvan, the episode features daughter Audrey Karvan-Sparks, former partner Jeremy Sparks, stepfather Arthur Karvan, friend and actor Justine Clarke and producer and collaborator John Edwards.

Today, Karvan says she’s never felt calmer or happier.

“If only I could go back in time and just talk to my 20-year-old self, “she tells Australian Story. “There was so much talk when I was younger about how the roles for women dry up after 35. It’s not been like that at all.”

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After the Fall

Monday 3 April 8:00 PM

When the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in 2021, a mother and son in suburban Sydney embarked on an audacious and improbable rescue.

Mahboba Rawi and her son, Sourosh Cina, were desperate to evacuate children and staff from the orphanages they founded in Afghanistan.

They were certain their association with Australia and their advocacy of women’s rights would make them a target of the Taliban.

Australian Story was on the spot to record dramatic scenes in the family’s lounge room, as the pair’s attempts to remotely engineer a high stakes rescue collapsed at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Finally, more than a year after the Taliban victory, they’ve managed to successfully transfer almost 100 children and carers to Australia.

A Matter of Minutes | Mick O’Dowd - Updated

Monday 10 April 8:00 PM

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

Mick O’Dowd has survived the unthinkable. Four years ago, he contracted a sepsis infection and nearly died. He paid a high price to live: the amputation of his limbs.

Three years since first speaking with Australian Story, Mick O’Dowd and his family reveal how far they’ve come: Mick is gradually gaining some independence, chaperoning the kids to their after-school activities and learning to drive again.

And he’s back doing some of the things he loves - swimming, scuba diving and even sailing!

Charting Her Course | Jessica Watson

Monday 17 April 8:00 PM

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

When Jessica Watson sailed back into Sydney Harbour in 2010 after completing her solo non-stop voyage around the world, she was still only 16 years old.

But the huge public attention her feat attracted would change her life forever.

Not entirely comfortable with fame, Jessica worked hard to create a normal life away from the spotlight and built a new career as a management consultant.

Meeting her partner Cameron while sailing the Sydney to Hobart yacht race meant she was no longer travelling solo and the couple built a life together in Melbourne.

But in 2021 tragedy intervened and Jessica had to negotiate the rough seas of grief by drawing on the resilience that helped her circumnavigate the world alone as a teenager.

She speaks frankly to Australian Story about how she survived losing the love of her life and how lessons learned at sea helped sustain her during her worst moments.

“I really learned how bad and how scary your head can get,” she says. “I was definitely really struggling.”

“I have this sense of having lived a lot. So much pain. But also, there’s so much that’s extraordinary.”

Call of the River | Kate McBride

Monday 24 April 8:00pm

From accidental activist to Parliamentary liaison, young farmer Kate McBride has come a long way in four years.

In 2019, Kate alerted the world to mass fish kills in the Darling River via a video she filmed of her distressed father holding a dead Murray Cod.

To Kate’s surprise, she soon became the face of efforts to save the Darling River and was tipped as a future leader.

Now aged 25, Kate McBride has left her family farm near Menindee in western NSW and taken a job with a public policy think tank in Canberra where she’s an advocate for the bush.

Kate has also been dealing with a personal dilemma – questions around the succession of her family’s property. It’s been brought on by generational differences over how best to manage the land in a time of climate change.

Taking The Lead | Heather Mitchell

Monday 1 May 8:00 PM

At 64, acclaimed actor Heather Mitchell is enjoying some of the biggest roles of her career.

She recently reunited with friend and long-time collaborator Hugo Weaving in the successful TV series Love Me.

Mitchell’s performance as the late US Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in the play RBG: Of Many, One was a sell out and won her standing ovations.

But behind the scenes, as Australian Story found out, Heather’s life has taken many dramatic twists and turns.

She’ll always be Ashka from Spellbinder.

After the Storm | Beth Heinrich

Monday 8 May 8:00 PM

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

One woman’s decades-long quest for justice. Beth Heinrich was permanently changed by what she experienced as a teenager.

Now in her 80s, she’s spent almost half her lifetime chasing the Anglican Church to right past wrongs.

Labour of Love

Monday 15 May 8:00 PM

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

It’s not every day a mother volunteers to give birth to her daughter’s child. But that’s the gift 52-year-old Jasmina offered to her daughter Michelle and husband Jono.

Incredibly, Jono’s sister Sophie, a mother of three, also stepped up to be a surrogate for the couple, who’ve battled with infertility for years.

They resolved to help after Michelle lost a baby boy at 19 weeks, and nearly died during childbirth.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia meaning it’s only possible if somebody volunteers.

Michelle and Jono, both 31, are now the proud parents of two baby boys, who were born within 6 weeks of each other. They want to share their story in the hope of opening up a conversation about infertility and the trauma that goes with it.

Changing Minds

Monday 22 May 8:00 PM

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

A remarkable look behind the scenes of Australia’s first psychedelic-assisted therapy trial.

Lindy Bok is one of 35 participants in a Melbourne study looking at whether psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy, can relieve mental anguish in the terminally ill.

Lindy, who has stage four breast cancer, is filmed as she undergoes an intense psychedelic experience under the care of two therapists, Dr Margaret Ross and Dr Justin Dwyer.

For Lindy the experience was confronting, emotionally exhausting but ultimately life changing.

Ross and Dwyer explain why they believe psilocybin is so effective but caution that this treatment must be managed carefully.


A Brilliant Canvas - John Olsen

Monday 29 May 8:00 PM

On Easter Saturday, 95-year-old artist John Olsen made the final touches to four paintings and feeling unwell, laid down his paintbrush for the last time. A stroke had finally felled the old master and, surrounded by his family, he died peacefully at home shortly after.

On the day of his state memorial, Australian Story revisits the Olsens, a family forged by John Olsen’s passion and drive for painting. As John became a darling of the art world in the 60s and 70s, his ruthless dedication to his art often cast a long shadow on those he left behind.

“Everything in his life was for his genius to be protected, and he was ruthless about that”, says art historian Barry Pearce. “And he would walk away from a relationship if it meant to preserve better his genius.”

Daughter Louise forged her place in the design world, founding an iconic company and his son Tim established his own gallery and became an art dealer. But Tim’s complex relationship with his famous father fuelled an addiction to alcohol that would almost bring his life and work undone.

“Parents can cast shadow and great light. Even though he casts great light for me, it became a shadow”, says Tim. “That I would never be as interesting as him.”

Even after his death, Olsen is still making a splash. His art is being projected on the “greatest blank canvas on earth” – the sails of the Sydney Opera House – as part of the Vivid Festival of Light.

His children will be there to marvel at his work and celebrate the life that has shaped them.

“We were there able to watch him in the studio create some of these paintings over the years, and to see them come alive and projected on the sails of the Opera House is an incredible dream.” Louise Olsen.

The state memorial for John Olsen will be held at the Art Gallery of NSW on Monday (May 29) at 10.30am AEST. More details can be found here

Blind Leading the Blind

Monday 5 June 8pm

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

Mick Curran and Jamie Teh are lifelong friends who share a love of music and technology. They’re also blind.

Both computer programmers, the pair saw an injustice they wanted to fix: vision-impaired people have to buy expensive screen-reading software to access computers and the online world.

Their screen-reader is now used across 175 countries and has been translated into 50 languages.

And despite the potential to cash in on their innovation, they’ve kept it free for all.

Watch Blind Leading the Blind on Australian Story, Monday 8:00pm, on ABCTV, ABC iview (AD option available) and YouTube (AD option available)

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Fight for Freedom | Kathleen Folbigg

Monday 12 June 8pm

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

Once dubbed Australia’s worst female serial killer, Kathleen Folbigg has now been set free after a decade-long campaign by friends, lawyers and scientists.

She has always claimed her innocence.

Australian Story has followed the twists and turns of Folbigg’s story since she was convicted of killing her four children in 2003.

In 2004, in a two-part series we spoke with the two detectives who investigated her case and with Folbigg’s friends and family.

In 2018 Australian Story produced a program which helped kickstart the scientific research which ultimately freed her.

After numerous appeals and two independent inquiries, former NSW Chief Justice Thomas Bathurst this week found that a ‘reasonable possibility that three of the children died of natural causes’. She was pardoned.

Monday, 26 June 2023 is a midseason final.