Australian Story

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The Massimo Mission

Monday 21 May at 8pm

Introduced by Norman Swan, ABC’s Health Report

Like most parents Stephen and Sally Damiani will do almost anything for their children.

So when they were first told that their baby boy Massimo had a mysterious illness, the first thing they did was hit the medical textbooks.

Despite their lack of scientific training, they shocked the medical world when they helped crack their son’s genetic code and diagnose a new type of leukodystrophy.

_Australian Story first told the remarkable story of the Damianis four years ago. _

Since then Stephen and Sally Damiani have made huge strides in their efforts to find a cure for their son’s illness and are now at the forefront of cutting edge research which may one day yield a treatment.


Blood on the Tracks

Mondays 28 May & 4 June at 8pm




Running from Empty

Monday 6 August at 8:00pm

By Christmas 2011 Queensland chef Matt Golinski was on top of his game. He had a successful catering business and a national media profile courtesy of the Ready Steady Cook television show.

But when a fire tore through his Tewantin home on Boxing Day his life and career plans were destroyed in minutes. Matt woke from an induced coma two months later to the news his wife and three children had died in the fire and that he had serious burns across his upper body. “I just sort of went, God, really?You spent eight weeks keeping me alive? Why would you bother,” he recalls.

A painful and protracted rehabilitation followed and many of Matt’s friends and family doubted he would find a passion for life ever again. But almost even years on, his career is flourishing and he’s found new love and a second chance at fatherhood.

For the first time on television he describes how he overcame the unthinkable and found a new passion for life.


From Behind Bars

Monday 13 August at 8:00pm

Introduced by Nicholas Cowdery, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions

Kathleen Folbigg is serving a 30-year prison sentence for killing all four of her infant children.

During her 2003 trial the court heard that Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura were all killed by a mother who was driven to smother her children in fits of rage.

Having exhausted her rights of appeal, Folbigg has her hopes pinned on the outcome of a petition seeking a judicial review of her case.

Drafted by a Newcastle legal team and submitted three years ago to the NSW Attorney General’s department, the petition argues amongst other things that some of the medical evidence against Folbigg during the trial was flawed.

During this program we hear from Kathleen Folbigg for the first time, as she speaks out from behind bars about her conviction and the incriminating diary entries that were instrumental in securing the jury’s guilty verdict.

We also hear from the then NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, who remains firmly of the belief that the jury got it right.


Out of the Woods

Monday 3 September at 8:00pm

From a homeless alcoholic living in the wild to academic success and a book deal, Out of the Woods tells the inspiring comeback story of forest-dweller Gregory Smith.

When he left school at 14, dogged by the crushing assessment that he was “functioning at the lower level of the dull range”, Gregory Smith had already endured a violent upbringing and months in an orphanage after the break-up of his family.

At 35, struggling with a lifetime of trauma, he opted to escape into the wild with no desire to return to the society that had failed him so dismally.

Exhausted by years of living off the land and sleeping rough, Gregory emerged from the forest ready to change his life, and gained an undergraduate degree and then a PhD at Southern Cross University.

His story offers hope for the most damaged amongst us. “Gregory represents the capacity for transformation against all odds and a real triumph over adversity,” says one of his students, Kerry Pritchard. “How to take the crap in life and grow beautiful things out of it.”


The Teacher’s Wife

Monday 10 September at 8pm

“She’s just basically been taken off the planet, never to be seen again.” Damien Loone, NSW Police.

“We’ve waited over 36 years now for justice for Lyn .” Pat Jenkins, Lyn Dawson’s sister

The case of missing Sydney mother Lyn Dawson has captivated audiences around the world since the release of a new podcast, The Teacher’s Pet.

Thirty-six years ago, Lyn vanished from her home on Sydney’s northern beaches. Her husband PE teacher Chris Dawson said she’d gone away to sort things out.

A few days after Lyn disappeared, he moved his schoolgirl lover into the family home.

Two coroners found her husband Chris should be prosecuted for murder but the then NSW Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to lay charges.

Chris Dawson has always denied killing his wife and has never been charged.

“There was not a reasonable prospect of conviction.” Nicholas Cowdery, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.

Australian Story first covered Lyn Dawson’s case 15 years ago.

This next chapter of the story features exclusive interviews with friends and family of Lyn Dawson and those charged with enacting justice, both then and now.

“What’s important to me is charging someone for her death.” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller

60 Minutes

Coincidentally, the night before (Sunday September 9), 60 Minutes will cover the same topic, with Lyn Dawson’s daughter Shanelle speaking out for the first time.


Even though both Australian Story and 60 Minutes likely would’ve been preparing their reports for months, I’m not sure it’s entirely coincidental that both programs are running stories on the same topic at/around the same time.

One of the programs (most likely 60 Minutes, couldn’t imagine the ABC doing such reactionary scheduling) probably got word that the other was about to do a story on the subject and decided to schedule accordingly to capitalise on any viewer interest there may be.


The Show Must Go On

Monday 17 September at 8pm

Introduced by Wiggles founder Anthony Field

“I think my health was a real start for me to think about myself, and to think about how healthy I was in myself emotionally and spiritually and physically.”

Emma Watkins

Australian Story goes behind the scenes of Australia’s most successful children’s group to chart the extraordinary rise of Emma Watkins, the first female Wiggle.

And in a television exclusive, Emma reveals the circumstances behind her separation from Purple Wiggle Lachlan Gillespie, who she married in 2016.

Also featuring interviews with Gillespie, Wiggles founder Anthony Field, Wiggles manager Paul Field, Emma’s doctor and her family, The Show Must Go On offers an intimate portrait of one of Australia’s most popular performers.

When three members of the original Wiggles line-up retired in 2012, Emma, a dancer with the group, was as surprised as anyone to be offered the yellow skivvy. The Show Must Go On reveals the challenges faced by new line-up and the key role Emma played in the revitalisation of the band.

“Emma is number one. She’s the Elvis of The Wiggles. You look into the audience, 60, 80 per cent of the children are dressed like Emma.”

Anthony Field, Wiggle

As Emma’s star continued to rise, her health was failing. Despite collapsing several times, she ignored her worsening symptoms until she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis at the beginning of this year.

“Once I saw Emma it was crystal clear she had endometriosis and she’s just been ignoring it and pushing it by the wayside.”

Professor Jason Abbott, surgeon

Her decision to go public about her illness brought much-needed attention to the disease, which affects one in 10 Australian women.

As Emma reveals to Australian Story , it was her health problems that led her to re-evaluate other areas of her life and ultimately her decision to separate from Lachy.

Emma speaks candidly about her return to the stage after surgery, the breakdown of her marriage and her enduring love for her former partner and fellow Wiggle.


The Skin You’re In

Monday 1 October at 8pm

Introduced by actor Teresa Palmer

Taryn Brumfitt is the Adelaide mother-of-three behind a global movement inspiring women to make peace with their bodies.

Like many mothers, Taryn loathed her post-baby shape and threw herself into dieting and bodybuilding to attain the ‘perfect’ body.

Realising it was an impossible ideal, she made the choice to love her body instead and posted a photo of her “real” body online … and the response was extraordinary.

Taryn started a movement, made a documentary and is now knocking on Hollywood’s door to spread the message that women should embrace the skin they’re in.


Red Symons’s son Samuel died this week aged 27,this episode is from 2010.

Monday 8 October


The Story of Samuel

Monday 8 October at 8pm

Samuel Symons led a quietly inspirational life.

Diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour at age four, he spent most of his life in and out of hospitals.

But Samuel’s witty personality always shone through, despite the seemingly endless and gruelling treatments.

Samuel grew up with his two brothers, Raphael and Joel, mother Elly and his television and radio personality father, Red Symons. But his parents never spoke publicly about Samuel’s illness.

That was until Australian Story started filming with them in 2006 and continued tracking Samuel’s progress for three years for an intimate and raw look into the journey of childhood cancer.

Samuel passed away on October 3, 2018, age 27. His mother Elly introduces this story which looks back on Samuel’s remarkable life.



Monday 15 October at 8pm

Prince Harry has spoken exclusively to Australian Story ahead of the Invictus Games which will open in Sydney next week.

Founded by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Sussex in 2014, the Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veteran.

One of those competitors will be Garry Robinson who credits His Royal Highness and the Invictus Games with saving his life.

In 2010, the former commando narrowly survived a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

After two years in rehab, he returned home to the challenges of learning to live with a traumatic brain injury and significant physical disabilities.

Garry struggled to cope and it wasn’t until his rehab team at Holsworthy Army base encouraged him to enter the inaugural London Invictus Games four years ago that he found a new lease of life.



Hope Springs

Monday 29 October at 8pm

Over many years, Australian Story has followed the efforts of farmer Peter Andrews to drought-proof the land.

His unorthodox approach, which involves planting weeds and installing ‘leaky weirs’, was once considered heretical but a growing band of supporters has taken up his cause

At Mulloon, outside Canberra, Tony Coote and a group of like-minded landholders set out to prove that the Andrews method works.

Now, during one of the worst droughts in living memory their results are cause for hope and have attracted the eye of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.


No Surrender

Monday 5 November at 8pm

Inspirational. Fiercely determined. Courageous. Justin Yerbury was described by our viewers as many things when we first brought you his story. Now he’s back at work, continuing to search for a cure for the very disease that’s slowly taking his own life.


Call Me Harrison

Monday 12 November 12 at 8pm

When former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and his wife Judy learned that their young son was autistic, they were told he would probably never have a job or live independently.

But Harrison Fischer, now aged 25, has defied everybody’s expectations.

Harrison has a job helping primary schoolers in Wodonga, is paying tax and has his own home.

As his father Tim Fischer, one of Australia’s most-loved politicians, battles a life-threatening illness, Harrison’s growing independence is a source of joy for the Fischer family


Close Contact

Monday 19 November

By the time this year’s Queensland schoolboy rugby union season was over, four teenagers had broken their necks, their lives changed forever.

Two of them, Conor Tweedy and Ollie Bierhoff, should have competed against each other.

Instead, after separate accidents a week apart, they found themselves side by side in the Spinal Injuries Unit contemplating quadriplegia.

In hospital, both boys threw themselves into their recoveries.

One had a recovery deemed ‘miraculous’; for the other, the road back is much steeper.


What’s coming up next week on Australian Story?