Australian Story

The Getting of Wisdom | Hugh Van Cuylenburg

Monday 19 June 8pm

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

Confronting family secrets can be difficult but for Hugh can Cuylenburg, it was the key to setting him free.

Hugh is known as the founder of the Resilience Project and co-host of the highly successful Imperfects podcast.

For years, he’s helped students and sports people learn simple strategies to prepare them for life’s ups and downs – currently he’s keeping spirits high for the Queensland State of Origin Team.

His simple message of positivity and self-deprecating humour have won him a legion of fans.

“Hugh is a very funny dude,” says friend Hamish Blake. “What he does is very close to comedy because, you know, the best comedy is honest.”

“He doesn’t pretend to be a guru,” says friend and Imperfects co-host Ryan Shelton. “He’s mainly just telling his own stories and then using those stories to help other people.”

Motivating Hugh’s interest in mental health was his sister Georgia’s experience with an eating disorder. Her story became central to his presentations, but more recently he had to examine their complex relationship and face some uncomfortable truths. As Hugh tells Australian Story, it has allowed him to reflect on his work in a new light.

“I was 28 when I started the Resilience Project and I’m 42 now, so a lot’s happened,” he says.

“I think especially early on I felt like I needed to know everything, have the answers to everything but life is so complicated. Now I realise there is so much that I don’t know, so much I’ll never understand and that is a much more freeing mental space to be in.”

A Voice From the Heart

Monday 26 June 8pm

Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

When Megan Davis was 12 years old, her mother brought home a second-hand book with a copy of the Constitution at the back.

The Indigenous girl in the housing commission home fell in love with the document.

30 years on, Megan, now a lawyer, is one of the driving forces behind the Voice referendum, a proposal to enshrine in the Constitution the right of First Nations’ people to have a say on laws that affect them.

Megan believes having a Voice to Parliament will give her people the power to improve their lives.

As the campaign picks up pace, she knows the stakes are high.


How one woman’s family history inspired her to use the law to try and change the nation

A Voice From the Heart with @mdavisqlder Monday on @ABCTV + iview #TheVoiceVote #VoiceToParliament

— AustralianStory (@AustralianStory) June 22, 2023

Australian Story returns August 28th

Australian Story is back on August 28th with a great line up of stories for the second half of 2023.

We kick off with the larger-than-life Gina Chick, winner of hit SBS TV series Alone Australia. Gina has lived her life outside the mainstream but now her unconventional approach to bush survival is inspiring a new way of connecting with nature.

The normally private Erica Packer goes public about her family’s deadly inheritance of breast cancer and why she wants more research into the mystery genes that may be causing the disease.

We meet two members of the hit rock band Silverchair rarely heard from. Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou divulge how they survived their meteoric rise to international stardom and rebuilt their lives after the band fell apart.

Actor Sam Neil speaks about facing his own mortality and how his cancer diagnosis has spurred him on to new feats.

Former foreign correspondent Dean Yates reveals the years of turmoil he lived through after his Iraqi staff were gunned by the American military. Now he’s spreading the word about how to better understand and manage PTSD.

Fashionista-turned-farmer Sam Elsom leaves the high streets of London for the oceans off Tasmania unveiling an unexpected career move – growing a special seaweed as cow fodder to help slow climate change.

And comedian and broadcaster Sami Shah reveals he never trusted himself to fall in love again…until he met academic and former hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert.

Don’t miss these stories and more from August 28th on ABC TV and iview.


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Force of Nature | Gina Chick (season return)

Monday 28 August 8pm
Introduced by presenter Leigh Sales

Gina Chick spent 67 days alone in the Tasmanian wilderness and didn’t want to come home.

Winning a survival contest on the SBS TV series Alone Australia has given Gina, 53, the chance to tell the world about the power of connecting with nature.

“Every time we turn off our phones for five minutes and lean against a tree or go outside and hear those kookaburras we’re remembering how to be plugged in to the battery of wild nature. And the more comfortable we are with the wilderness outside, the more comfortable we can be with the wilderness inside,” she says.

Growing up in Jervis Bay south of Sydney with two younger sisters, her teacher parents always encouraged them to spend time outside.

But Gina felt like an outsider and was bullied for the sticks in her hair and sick birds she carried in her pockets.

“I’ve always had this sense of I’m too big. I felt like I’ve got three people’s personalities that got squeezed into one body”, she says. “I’ve been having to figure out how to be with that my whole life. “

She found a community in Sydney’s gay scene in the early 90s before dropping out of university and heading overseas to learn survival skills, where she met her ex-partner Lee Trew.

After surviving breast cancer in pregnancy, Gina gave birth to her daughter Blaise. Tragically Blaise died at the age of three from a neuroblastoma.

Gina says that being in nature has given her the strength to survive life’s darkest moments.

Now her message is striking a chord with the public.

For the past 10 years, Gina has run wilderness retreats for families and adults. Australian Story documents a mini ‘Alone’ , where 6 women spend days by themselves in the bush with water and bedding and nothing else but their thoughts.

“I’ve spent my whole life gathering these tools and now there’s a chance for me to share this, I’m super excited,” she says.

A Family Inheritance | Erica Packer and Jo Hunter

Monday 4 September 8:00 PM

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

Erica Packer reveals a mystery plaguing her family – will she be the next woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer?

Doctors say Erica is right to be worried. A family tree highlights the majority of women on her mother’s side have died from the disease, but no-one knows the cause.

Her sister, Jo Hunter, was diagnosed at the age of 39, the same year their mother died after 12 years of treatment for breast cancer.

She also lost her aunt and grandmother and many cousins in the older generations.

The ex-model is the former wife of James Packer, one of Australia’s richest men and they share three children.

Erica and her sister are supporters of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which funds scientific research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. There, scientists and doctors are looking at pinpointing the hereditary genes responsible for breast cancer plaguing thousands of Australian families.

Australian Story goes on the road with the sisters, from their birthplace of Gunnedah to Sydney, Melbourne and London as they explore the deadly mystery at the heart of their family.

Airs Monday September 4, 8:00pm, on ABCTV and ABC iview.

Atonement | Dean Yates

Monday 11 September 8:00 PM

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

Foreign correspondent Dean Yates had a reputation for being indestructible.

But reporting from war zones came at a personal cost, and his own family became collateral damage.

When two of his Baghdad staff were gunned down by American soldiers in 2007, Dean’s robust exterior started to crumble.

In the years after Wikileaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video exposed the truth about the men’s death, Dean’s mental health deteriorated.

He was diagnosed with PTSD and a “moral injury”, the harm caused when there’s a moral dimension to a person’s trauma.

Dean is now determined to share his experience of trauma in the workplace to raise awareness and bring about a permanent change in attitudes.

Airs Monday September 11, 8:00pm, on ABCTV and ABC iview.


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A Silver Lining | Part 1

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

When three Newcastle schoolboys became overnight rockstars in 1994, their world exploded. And Silverchair, one of Australia’s most successful bands, was born.

At the age of 15, best mates Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou were living the dream — touring the world, topping the charts, winning awards.

The band played for more than 15 years and won more ARIA awards than any other Australian band. Five albums reached number one.

But their fame and success came with intense pressure and scrutiny. Old friendships became strained.

Until now, much of the spotlight has been on former frontman Daniel Johns.

In this first of two parts, Ben and Chris tell the Silverchair story as they see it.

Airs Monday September 18, 8:00pm, on ABCTV and coming soon to ABC iview. Part 2 airs September 25.


News Corp reports today that the ABC has been forced to pull part 1 of A Silver Lining from iView due to rights issue. An industry insider said Daniel Johns and his music industry veteran brother Heath, who oversees his business affairs, had given clearance on Silverchair tracks to be used on the “terrestrial” broadcast on ABC on Monday. But it is understood they would not extend the rights to the digital broadcast of the documentary.

UPDATE 25/9: Daniel Johns posted on his Instagram regarding the music rights to the 2-part episode.

Sea Change | Sam Elsom

Monday 2 October 8:00 pm

Introduced by Australian Story presenter Leigh Sales

Five years ago, Sam Elsom shocked his friends and family when he quit his job as a fashion designer to set up a seaweed farm in Tasmania, inspired by the potential of a special strain to radically reduce methane emissions in livestock.

Two weeks ago his company was named as a finalist in one of the world’s most prestigious environmental prizes, Earthshot, founded by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough.

The dividend, a year’s mentoring by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and the chance to compete for the big prize in November.

And the global recognition has come at just the right time.

Having built a state-of-the-art lab, trialled his special seaweed-based feed and had it adopted by a national burger chain, Sam has now reached a crunch point.

With a million doses on the shelf, can he generate enough interest to get farmers and government on board?

Airs Monday October 2, 8:00pm, on ABCTV and ABC iview.