Australian Story

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If you haven’t already noticed by now, Australian Story tells a story about an Australian, so that person would be the focus of the press release obviously.


Thanks for pointing out the bleeding obvious.

So why make this assertion when clearly Cummins is the focus?

I stand by my original point. She’s in a position to draw attention to the issue without being the subject of an Australian Story.


She has actually been doing that exactly. If you haven’t seen or noticed then that method hasn’t been as effective, at spreading the message, as this will be.


It’s not exactly breaking news that Talitha is an alcoholic. She conducted a lengthy interview with a newspaper 3 years ago.

Good on her for being open about her troubles in order to raise awareness.


I must’ve been reading real news stories that day.


Here’ an idea, how about watching the show FIRST before passing judgement on who or what it’s going to be about.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


The media release is worded to gain maximum interest in the story, not supply actual facts about the interview.
As with newspaper headlines, the story that follows may or may not have anything to do with the headline supplied.


###When Plans Change (Sally Faulkner)

An EXCLUSIVE two-part special airing Monday 17 & 24 October at 8pm

Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner reveals in detail for the first time the story behind a desperate attempt to get her children back from Beirut, which landed her in jail along with a 60 Minutes crew and a recovery team.

The CCTV footage of two children being snatched from the streets of Beirut was startling.

News reports filtered in of a desperate mother, an Australian television crew and a child recovery team, all detained in a Beirut jail.

The woman behind the headlines was Sally Faulkner.

She was found by police with her children, six-year-old Lahela and three-year-old Noah, hiding in a safe house in a poor part of Beirut.

Ten months earlier, her estranged husband Ali Elamine had requested to take the children back to Lebanon for a holiday. He then called Sally to say the children would not be coming home.

What had begun as a custody battle now turned into an international incident.

Just who is the woman behind the headlines and how did it come to this?

Australian Story traces the relationship between Sally and Ali from its romantic beginnings through a rocky path to its bitter end. Surprisingly, this was not the first time Ali had separated Sally from one of her children.

When Plans Change goes to the heart of the question of what went wrong.


###When Plans Change – Part 2 (Sally Faulkner)

An EXCLUSIVE two-part special, Part 2 airs Monday 24 October at 8pm

This compelling final episode of Sally Faulkner’s story reveals what went wrong in the 60 Minutes child abduction fiasco

The plan to “snatch” Sally Faulkner’s children from the streets of Beirut seemed always destined to fail.
And locals say it could have ended tragically for Sally and her children.

Dr Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Beirut, has told Australian Story the plan was fundamentally flawed because the area where the children were taken was tightly controlled by Hezbollah.
“I was very surprised the abductors took the risk to get into this area,” he says. “This was insane. You are putting the kids in a very dangerous situation.”

Part 2 of When Plans Change looks at what went wrong on the ground in Beirut and hears from key players including Khaled Barbour, the Lebanese driver of the abduction car, and Yasmine Hamza, the woman who sheltered Sally Faulkner and her children in her apartment (the “safe house”), as well as Lebanese police.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Yasmine Hamza says. “I can’t throw a woman with her kids out onto the street. Our hands were tied.”

Sally Faulkner details the harrowing account of trying to retrieve her children and what happened in the 24 hours between the abduction and her arrest, her time in a Lebanese jail and her heartbreaking farewell to her children.

“I was beside myself, I can’t even describe to you how beside myself I was,” she says. “I felt I couldn’t breathe at some points, just at the thought of having to give my children back.”

The Brisbane mother made headlines earlier this year when she was jailed in Beirut, along with a 60 Minutes crew and a child recovery team.

What began as a custody battle had now turned into an international incident.

Ten months earlier, Sally Faulkner’s estranged husband Ali Elamine had asked to take their two children, then five-year-old Lahela and two-year-old Noah, to Lebanon for a holiday. He later called Sally to say the children would not be coming back to Australia.

Sally Faulkner, who now lives back in Brisbane, is facing kidnap charges in Beirut which carry a potential penalty of between three and seven years.


###The New Black

Monday 31 October at 8pm

Introduced by Michelle Payne

On the eve of the race that stops a nation, Australian Story looks back at the career of one of this country’s most loved horses, Black Caviar, and introduces her first offspring, a promising two-year-old filly called Oscietra.

Australian Story had unparalleled access to Black Caviar, her owners and trainer for much of the legendary mare’s career, and was the only media team allowed behind the scenes when she was retired in April 2013.

Born in August 2006 and sold for $210,000, Black Caviar was undefeated throughout her four-year racing career, earning almost $8 million in the process. Her record-breaking run of 25 wins from 25 starts began in 2009 and she also holds the record for the most Group 1 wins.

In June 2012 Black Caviar raced overseas for the first time, in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Although it was one of her weaker performances, she won by a head in front of a crowd of 80,000 and a live television audience in Australia.

Considered Australia’s greatest sprinter, Black Caviar captured the public’s imagination like no other horse since Phar Lap.

Since retiring, Black Caviar has delivered three offspring. The first of these, Oscietra (named after a rare type of caviar), was born in September 2014. Currently in pre-training with top trainer David Hayes, she is already showing promise.

“Oscietra is a lot smaller than Black Caviar was but she’s a lovely, easy mover and every stage she’s gone through she’s doing it with flying colours, as I imagine Black Caviar did,” David Hayes told Australian Story.

“She’s got massive shoes to fill – her mother is the best sprinter ever – and hopefully she can fill one of them.”


A Field of Dreams

Monday 7 November at 8pm

Introduced by Barnaby Joyce

A year ago the small rural community of Mingoola on the New South Wales-Queensland border was facing a bleak future. The population was in decline and there were so few children that the primary school was about to be closed.

Local woman Julia Harpham vowed to save her community and sought inspiration from the region’s rich history of migration. But she had no idea where to find new settlers.

Meanwhile in Western Sydney, refugee advocate Emmanuel Musoni was facing problems with his community, who came from Rwanda and neighbouring African countries.

Most of them had rural backgrounds but on arrival in Australia they were settled in cities. This often led to unemployment, a feeling of alienation and depression.

“Most of the people from my community are really grateful to live here in Australia,” Emmanuel told Australian Story. “But many of them find it really difficult when they get here.”

When Julia and Emmanuel were put in contact with each other late last year, both saw an answer to their problems.

The local community began renovating several abandoned farmhouses and Emmanuel started looking for an initial two families willing to make the move. Within a week 50 families had registered their interest.

The first two families moved to Mingoola in April and the school re-opened days later.

Meanwhile, another farmhouse was renovated and Australian Story followed a third family as they made the move from Adelaide to a new life in the tiny but growing community.

Emmanuel describes it as a meeting of dreams. For the Africans it’s a return to their rural roots; for the farmers it’s an injection of life into their community.

“We’ve both had a win out of it,” says local woman Christine Denis. “We’ve got this mishmash of people and somehow we fit beautifully together.”

Emmanuel now has a database with more than 100 families who want to move to the bush but Mingoola is a tiny community and can’t sustain more new arrivals.

All those involved, however, hope that what has been achieved in Mingoola can be a model for struggling communities across rural Australia.


Final for 2016 is Monday 21 November


###Out of the Water

Monday 14 November at 8pm

Introduced by SBS journalist Melissa Hamilton

With summer fast approaching, the experience of the Keough family is a timely warning of a hidden danger that can lurk in warm, fresh waters of regional Australia.

“It’s rare but it’s deadly, and it’s something that rural Australia needs to be aware of.” Dr Robert Norton, clinical microbiologist.

Jodi Keough traded in a journalism career for love and a life on the land, never imagining she would find herself at the centre of a devastating and alarming story.

But then the unimaginable happened.

Her precious one-year-old son Cash died after playing with a garden hose on the family’s cattle station.

Jodi and her husband Laine were shocked to learn that the untreated water from the hose was carrying a rare but deadly amoeba, Naegleria fowleri.

“It causes severe inflammation, it causes brain destruction and we have no immunity to this.” Dr Greg Wiseman, paediatric intensivist

Grief-stricken, the Keogh’s first appeared on Australian Story last year in the hope that their experience would be a warning to others.

“It is exhausting reliving our story, but as temperatures soar we know the message of awareness needs to be fresh in the minds of all Australians. Since losing Cash, we are relieved that there have been no other reported cases of people dying from this in Australia, however sadly we have seen cases of adults dying from this horrid disease overseas. … I do feel that it is my responsibility, I do feel like it’s up to me to prevent our nightmare becoming someone else’s reality.” – Jodi Keough

Though not as well-known as many other potential dangers in the bush, Naegleria fowleri is one of the most lethal. Doctors say the chance of survival is next-to-none once the amoeba enters the brain. They also stress that the danger arises when the amoeba enters the brain through the nose, and does not occur from drinking, cooking or clothes washing.

Like most rural families, Jodi and Laine Keough had believed the water on their property was clean and safe.
They had no idea that two other children had previously died from the disease just 100 kilometres from their homestead.

Authorities supported the family by rolling out a warning campaign in regional hospitals across north Queensland.
With no proven medical cure, prevention is the key message and the Queensland Government is recommending rural properties treat their house water.

“For young toddlers around the home just make sure that the water that they’re playing and washing in is disinfected and filtered if possible and we’ll reduce the risk, but we won’t get rid of it.” – Dr Steven Donohue, Director Public Health, Townsville

The Queensland Government is urging doctors to be on alert as temperatures rise – creating a favourable environment for the deadly parasite – and people turn to fresh water sources to cool off. Health authorities advise people against submerging their head in dams, lakes and rivers, or at least blocking their nose while under water.
“I just want to empower people with the knowledge. I do believe it would just simply be a matter of time that someone else will lose someone they love and statistically it’s probably most likely going to be a child and a small child.” – Jodi Keough

In February this year the Keoughs welcomed their fourth child. Kennedi was born a ‘micro-premmie’ at 25 weeks, weighing just 750 grams. After 3½ months in hospital, Jodi and her new daughter returned to their family on the cattle station.
“Nothing can take away the pain of losing Cash but our tough little girl brightens every day.” – Jodi Keough


The Road From Damascus

Monday 21November at 8pm

Australian Story follows the journey of Syrian nurse Khaled Naanaa, who nine months ago was creating international headlines inside a warzone and is now making a new life with his family in Perth.

Khaled Naanaa, 31, could hardly contain his excitement about coming to live in Perth with his wife Joumana and four-year-old daughter Ayaa.

“I’m like a man who’s left hell and is going to be rewarded with heaven. This is how I feel going to Australia.” – Khaled Naanaa

Just nine months earlier Khaled Naanaa caused an international outcry when his images of civilians being intentionally starved to death in a town called Madaya were splashed over news bulletins around the world.

The Assad Government had besieged the rebel-held town six months earlier, completely sealing it off to the outside world and denying any food or medical supplies to the 40,000-strong population.
Now for the first time, Mr Naanaa tells the inside story of what happened during the siege and why he risked his life to make a difference.

As a trained anaesthetics nurse, Mr Naanaa became the most qualified person in Madaya and found himself performing complex procedures like amputation and open-stomach surgery, which he learnt how to do by watching operations on YouTube.

“He did amazing work. I really admire this guy.” – Dr Ammar Ghanem, Syrian American Medical Society

But then when patients began to die in front of him, purely because of a lack of food, he was driven to do something about it.

“We tried to report this to the UN or the Red Cross in Syria, but without results.” – Khaled Naanaa
With no action from the United Nations, Khaled Naanaa turned to the media. Immense public pressure followed, and the UN was finally granted access to deliver life-saving aid to Madaya. But at the same time, Mr Naanaa received death threats from supporters of the Assad Government, which was responsible for the starvation siege.

He fled for his life. Then, thanks to an unlikely connection with an Australian journalist he’d never met, Mr Naanaa and his family were offered humanitarian visas to come to Australia.

This is the final episode in Australian Story’s 20th Anniversary season. The program returns on Monday 6 February 2017.


Caroline Jones, which presented Australian Story since it began 20 years ago, will leave the ABC after more than 50 years. She said in a statement via the broadcaster:

This is not an easy decision for me. The ABC is in my DNA. So is Australian Story, and that will not change.
I’m far too busy to retire, but now there are some other loyalties claiming my attention, and I move on to the next phase of my life with gratitude.

When the program returns next year it will not be introduced by a presenter.


###Caroline Jones announcement

Caroline Jones AO, one of Australia’s most respected and best-loved broadcasters and communicators, has decided to step aside from her role as presenter of the ABC’s Australian Story.

Ms Jones has been associated with the ABC for more than 50 years and has contributed to and presented Australian Story since its launch in May 1996.

“This is not an easy decision for me. The ABC is in my DNA. So is Australian Story, and that will not change,” Ms Jones said.

“It’s been a joy and a privilege to have 20-plus years with the program, with the fine team who produce it, and with the generous Australians who tell us their stories, giving profound insights into the complexity of our human condition in a speedily evolving world.

“I’m far too busy to retire, but now there are some other loyalties claiming my attention, and I move on to the next phase of my life with gratitude. There’s always another adventure ahead.

“And I’ll continue to be number one Australian Story fan, along with the rest of the country.”

Director of News Gaven Morris paid tribute to Ms Jones’ tremendous contribution to the ABC and to the Australian media as a whole.

“Caroline is simply a legend of Australian journalism, a trailblazer, an inspiration and a role model for so many women in the media,” Mr Morris said. “She is also a fine journalist and broadcaster, one of Australia’s best communicators, and a terrific human being.

“We will miss her deeply at the ABC.”

Australian Story Executive Producer Deb Masters said:
“From the beginning, Caroline helped shape Australian Story. She has a unique capacity to recognise the tone and the heart of a story.

“Caroline’s insights have been invaluable, and her enduring grace and wisdom appreciated by all. We will miss her.”

Ms Jones will not be replaced as presenter. Australian Story returns to air on 6 February.


###Adrenaline Brush – Sophie Cape

Returns Monday 6 February at 8pm

“I should have died a thousand times over” laughs award-winning artist Sophie Cape.

She is not joking.

A former elite athlete who was destined to represent Australia at the Olympic Games in two separate sports, Sophie Cape has overcome death-defying injuries and extreme physical and mental trauma to become one of Australia’s most celebrated young artists.

“My sporting injuries include a cracked skull, eight broken noses, two broken collarbones, a shattered shoulder-blade, four broken ribs, a broken wrist, thumb reconstructions, fractured fingers, fractured pelvis, fractured spine, two blown knees, spiral fracture of my tibia and fibular, skin grafts to repair them, broken ankles, fractured feet, several broken toes,” she told Australian Story.

“She’s a risk-taker and to be a great artist you have to be a risk-taker,” says art dealer Tim Olsen.

Sophie Cape has followed in the footsteps of both her grandmother, artist Gwenna Welch, and her highly acclaimed portrait artist mother, Ann Cape.

“Artists are born, not made,” says John Olsen, one of Australia’s greatest living artists. “She’s a voice that’s going to get bigger in Australian art.”

But for many years Sophie Cape had resisted becoming an artist, instead wanting to follow in the footsteps of her sports-loving father Bill Cape, a former RAAF fighter pilot turned Qantas captain, whom she idolised.

“He taught us pain is only weakness leaving the body, and second place is the first loser, and a bored person is a boring person,” she says.

Her brother Joel Cape says she was always driven:

“I don’t think she wants to be the best that she can be, I think she wants to be the best.”

Sophie Cape’s sporting ambitions – first as a downhill ski racer then as a track cyclist – came tumbling down after an extreme training regime while an athlete in the Australian Institute of Sport’s Track Cycling Talent Development Program, and subsequent “experimental” surgeries.

“I felt like a lab rat, a guinea pig,” she told Australian Story. “I call it body-doping…. Of course I was gonna try this… experimental surgery. I was in pain, and I wanted to go faster.”

Former AIS talent identification and development manager, Jason Gulbin, acknowledges to Australian Story that the Institute got it wrong:

“This sprint cycling project has become a very important case study about what not to do.”

When it became clear that the surgery had not succeeded, Sophie Cape’s sporting career was over and she fell into a deep black hole.

She has since turned her disappointment into challenging and confronting art.

In 2010, she was awarded the coveted John Olsen Prize for Figure Drawing while a student at the National Art School.

“My son and I … saw Sophie’s work and were immediately astonished by the sophistication of it, the drive of it. Very … very strong stuff,” John Olsen told Australian Story.

His son Tim Olsen offered the young graduate an exhibition. Sophie Cape now holds regular sell-out shows in his Sydney gallery. She has also won many other art prizes including the Portia Geach prize for a portrait of actor Dan Wyllie.

“She looked like the lead singer out of a rock band rather than a painter,” says Tim Olsen. “But… she had it.”

For Sophie Cape, her epiphany is clear:

“Art saved me.”


###The Hardest Choice

Monday 13 February 8pm

“To choose not to have a baby in your family because there’s something wrong with her; I mean it’s awful.” - Claudine Fitzgibbon

“To deal with the decision once and then to deal with the decision twice and then to deal with the decision for a third time – it was just an exhausting time” - Dave Fitzgibbon

Claudine and Dave Fitzgibbon always planned for a big family. But after giving birth to a healthy girl in 2013, those plans went terribly awry.

Over the next three years they fell pregnant three times and each time their unborn baby was found to have spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spine that can lead to serious problems with mobility and brain function.

Australian Story followed the couple over the course of their journey, capturing moments of exquisite intimacy and high emotion.

Faced with a terrible decision and with little time to make it, they chose to discontinue the first two pregnancies. Sharing a strong Catholic faith, Claudine and Dave found the decision profoundly traumatic but there was no selfishness involved; only a dreadful responsibility to not bring life-long suffering into the world.

By the time they received their third diagnosis, they were shattered. In vain, they searched for answers. How this could happen so many times? And what could they do to avoid yet another termination?

In desperation they turned to their doctor, asking: “Is there nothing else that we can do?”

They were told of a complex surgical procedure that had just been performed in Australia for the first time at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital by Dr Glenn Gardener and a huge team of surgeons. It involved operating on the baby in the mother’s womb and, while not a cure, it had been found in the US to improve the quality of life for babies suffering the condition.

Now, after hours of delicate surgery, Claudine and Dave have their desperately wanted second child, Harvey.

While they won’t know his precise condition for several years, the early signs are good, and to Dave and Claudine, he is the miracle they prayed for.


###Unchained Melody

Monday 20 February at 8pm

Critics have heralded Melody Pool as one of the best song writers in Australia. She has been chosen as the support act for recent Australian tours by the Eagles and Rodriguez, and played alongside the Milk Carton Kids in a tour of the United Kingdom and Europe.

But the 25-year-old singer from Kurri Kurri in New South Wales struggles with demons that threaten to derail her budding stellar career.

Five years ago Melody met singer Harry Hookey at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and fell in love.

The romance turned to betrayal when Melody discovered the man of her dreams had been two-timing her with an acquaintance. She fell apart.

Her parents remember Melody sobbing and banging her head against the shower. Like many young people, she didn’t know how to handle her overwhelming emotion at the inevitable break-up of her relationship.

She put her heartache on the page, writing raw songs about Harry and her feelings. Her songwriting has been compared with that of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.

“I’ve never worked with anybody that puts that much blood on the page. Critically I think Melody is a darling of the industry.” – Shane Nicholson, singer and music producer

“She conquers who conquers herself.” – Mexican-American singer-songwriter Rodriguez

“She knows what she’s doing artistically and she’s there to share her story, so it’s funny sometimes when people can’t handle her truth.” – Ella Hooper, singer

But despite the accolades for her music, Melody’s turmoil continued.

“I didn’t know whether I was OCD or bipolar or had autism, like I had no idea what was going on in my head. It was almost as if like I was in a glass bubble and people were talking to me and I could hear them and I could hear what they were saying but it wasn’t sinking in.” – Melody Pool

When she first sought medical help, she was told to “stop being a drama queen”.

“I did think it was more than just heartbreak.” – Harry Hookey, singer and former partner

“We felt it was our fault. We felt what have we done; what have we done wrong; why is Melody like this, why?” – Annie Pool, Melody’s mother

It was only when friends encouraged her to see their GP that Melody was finally diagnosed with clinical depression and treated with antidepressants.

According to Beyond Blue, suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians. Anxiety affects one in six young Australians and depression affects one in sixteen.

Monday night’s episode of Australian Story provides a rare insight to a disease that is at epidemic proportions.