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.
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.
The South Australian steel town of Whyalla was facing extinction two years ago. A one-company town, its big employer, Arrium, went bust and the jobs of 3000 steelworkers were hanging in the balance. But the town was determined to save itself. Workers voted in favour of a 10 percent pay cut and were rewarded when British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta came to town.
When Emma Watkins became the Yellow Wiggle in 2012, she overcame a backlash to make the yellow skivvy her own, winning over a new generation of fans. As Emma's star rose, behind the scenes her health was failing. Eventually she was diagnosed with endometriosis and her decision to go public brought much-needed attention to the disease. Her health problems led her to re-evaluate other areas of her life and at the beginning of the year she separated from her husband, fellow Wiggle Lachlan Gillespie. Emma speaks exclusively about the separation, its fall-out and the couple’s determination to continue working together.
She was a wife, a mother, a sister and a daughter. Lyn Dawson had everything to live for, so why did she disappear without a trace 36 years ago? Her husband Chris, a PE teacher, always insisted she abandoned him and their two young daughters to “sort things out”. Days later he moved his teenage lover into the family home. Two coroners concluded Chris Dawson murdered his wife but to this day, he has never been prosecuted. The case has gripped audiences around the world since the release of a new podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, by investigative journalist Hedley Thomas. Australian Story first covered the story 15 years ago. This next chapter features exclusive interviews with friends and family of Lyn Dawson and those charged with enacting justice, both then and now.
Out of the Woods 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."
Meet You in Paris In June last year, Mark and Julie Wallace were forced to face every parent’s worst fear when their 21-year-old daughter Sara Zelenak went missing after a terror attack in London. For three days, their desperate calls and messages to the young nanny went unanswered as they found themselves caught up in the world of international terrorism, dealing with Scotland Yard, phoning hospitals and navigating the news media from their Redland Bay home. They were en route to London when they received the news that Sara had died. A year after their daughter’s death, Sara’s parents are making sense of the senseless act of terror by focussing on building a fitting legacy to Sara. They’re working towards building "Sarz Sanctuary", a healing retreat to help others facing unimaginable grief and trauma.
Leading The Way Graham Long’s decision to retire presented a real challenge for Sydney's Wayside Chapel. How best to replace a visionary pastor who had served the city's homeless and vulnerable for 14 years? When Graham took over as pastor in 2004, the iconic Sydney institution had gone to wrack and ruin. Under his leadership, it grew from a crumbling drop-in centre for the homeless to a vibrant community offering a range of services for those in need. Graham always remembered a young social worker-turned-pastor he had met in Western Sydney. Jon Owen had thrown in a comfortable middle-class existence in Melbourne to move his family to Sydney's Mt Druitt and run a mini version of the Wayside from his lounge room. Jon joined Wayside Chapel as assistant Pastor in 2016, and after a robust international search, he successfully won the role as CEO and Pastor in 2018. Now installed as the new pastor, Jon is proving a popular choice, bringing generational change and continuing the same unconditional love that the Wayside is famous for.
From Behind Bars 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.
Running Empty 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.
As journalist Allan Clarke digs deeper into events on the night Mark Haines died, he discovers more about his last few hours. As he cracks the case wide open, he is led to the man he believes is the killer.
Blood on the Tracks Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this episode may contain images and voices of people who have died. Over the next two weeks Australian Story and the ABC’s Unravel podcast series will be exploring the mysterious death of teenager Mark Haines. When Mark’s body was found on train tracks near Tamworth 30 years ago his family were immediately suspicious- was there more to his death than met the eye?Despite the family’s concerns police dismissed any idea of foul play and closed the file on the case. It was only when ABC journalist Allan Clarke embarked on a five year investigation that things started to change. Police have now reopened the case and the podcast team have discovered startling new evidence which suggests Mark’s death was no mere misadventure.
The Massimo Mission 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.
The Choirmaster Morris Stuart is a charismatic choir director bringing the sacred sounds of the Central Australian desert to the world. Over a decade ago, the retired pastor was in Central Australia, supporting his artist wife who was on an extended painting trip. He wandered down Alice Spring’s central mall recruiting for a choir. Within a year he’d moulded 50 amateurs into a top-notch choir. When word of Morris’s magic spread to the Aboriginal community, the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir was born. And so began an unlikely and inspiring trip from the Red Centre to the cathedrals of Germany.
Baby Steps When Claudine and Dave Fitzgibbon’s unborn baby boy was diagnosed with spina bifida, it was devastating. This was their third diagnosis and they couldn’t contemplate the idea of terminating another pregnancy.Their doctor told them about a risky but revolutionary operation that had only been performed in Australia once before. This in utero procedure wasn’t a cure but would hopefully correct a large number of the baby’s physical abnormalities.The stakes were high, but Claudine and Dave decided to take the gamble.Baby Harvey entered the world 18 months ago, but questions remained. Would he still be badly affected by spina bifida? Would he ever be able to walk? This week, Australian Story catches up with Claudine, Dave and baby Harvey to see whether their gamble has paid off.
Concluding the story of Dassi Erlich and her two sisters, who are fighting to extradite their former headmistress from Israel to face sexual abuse charges. After the alleged abuse against the three sisters came to light in 2008, principal Malka Leifer was stood down by the Adass Israel school which facilitated her immediate departure to Israel. Although Australian authorities have been trying to extradite her for several years Malka Leifer convinced the Israeli courts she was too mentally unwell to face a hearing. That prompted an undercover operation to prove her mental fitness which recently resulted in Malka Leifer's return to jail. For Dassi and her two sisters - Nicole and Elly - justice finally seems closer than ever before.
Dassi Erlich and her two sisters are a formidable force. Their ongoing battle to extradite former headmistress Malka Leifer from Israel to face sexual abuse allegations in Australia has made headlines across the globe. But despite the public attention, the personal stories of the three sisters have remained largely private. In the first program of a two-part special, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper give their first Australian interviews and, together with Dassi, speak candidly about their time at the Adass Israel school in Melbourne. The program also features extracts from Dassi Erlich's teenage diary which provide a haunting account of her traumatic childhood. Introduced by Ted Baillieu, former premier of Victoria.
Brisbane woman Emma Betts was living her dream as an aid worker in East Timor when someone suggested she have a mole on her back checked. A year after she had it removed, melanoma showed up in most of her major organs. At 22 years of age, she was given only months to live. Reeling from the diagnosis, Emma was shocked to learn that melanoma is now the most common cancer killer in 20- to 39-year-olds. Emma fell in love, got married and then devoted herself to a blog called Dear Melanoma (http://www.dearmelanoma.com). Her honest account of living with terminal cancer and her candid acceptance of her impending death endeared her to tens of thousands. Using her newfound fame she began campaigning for better awareness of the disease among her generation and in the process has helped save others' lives. Introduced by radio host Sarah Wills.
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