Dateline, 30 Years of Dateline Special


For the last 30 years, Dateline has travelled the globe, seeking out the stories that define our world. Tonight we thought we'd take you inside the program to show you how we work, from a look behind the cameras and this studio where Dateline comes to you live every week, to a look inside the lives of our producers and reporters for their stories, and the untold dramas, trials and triumphs that have helped shape this show since its creation in 1984. I do hope that you enjoy this special inside edition of Dateline, narrated by SBS's Les Murray.


REPORTER:  Les Murray


Dateline has done over 4,000 stories and I've watched most of them. My own story with Dateline started one night over a beer with Mark Davis. As many of you know, I came to Australia as a boy refugee from Hungary.


MARK DAVIS:  He just said a stunning thing. He said, "I don't know what they all go on about people smugglers - I love people smugglers". So what makes you want to do this journey now, Les?


LES MURRAY:  It occurred to me the people smuggler I knew was actually a pretty good guy. So I'm here to find him, not to admonish him, but to thank him.


Mark and I set out on an impossible task really. We were on the hunt for a chain of smugglers who helped my family 57 years ago.


LES MURRAY:  Should I knock?


MARK DAVIS:  I think so. You've come so far, Les.


I don't think Mark thought we had much of a chance.


LES MURRAY:  There's nobody home. I suspected that.


I've always liked Dateline's courageous video journalists. Their producers, reporters, cameramen, all rolled into one.


AMOS ROBERTS:  I was arrested by the KGB in Belarus when they found a teddy bear in my luggage.


DAVID O’SHEA:  I've had a couple of things in 1999 in East Timor where I almost got killed as well. It's the country I've almost been killed in more times than any other country.


LES MURRAY:  I hosted a show for 22 years, but this is 30.


PETER CHARLEY:  It's been a very wild ride through many international countries.


Pretty good reason to pull out a few photos. Hear some untold truths.


NICK LAZAREDES:  Shall I tell the truth here, or?


HELEN VATSIKOPOULOS:  Dateline - you might want to cut this out - Think back, think back.


And revisit a few of the story classics.


MARK DAVIS:  No tyre.


EVAN WILLIAMS:  An in-coming rocket from Gaza.


YAARA BOU MELHEM:  This vast network of tunnels underneath the bridges of Italy, we're now using them.


HELEN VATSIKOPOULOS:  Name another job in the world that could give you that sort of experience - the front row of history.


4 DAYS IN DILI – 2006


GEOFF PARISH:  David O'Shea got caught up in a fire-fight in East Timor I was hair raising for David, but also hair raising for us.


DAVID O’SHEA:  Four Days in Dili is a story about a pivotal moment in East Timor's history when the tiny half island turned on itself and the people in the west and the people in the east started killing each other and I ended up stuck in the middle of it.


East Timor is self-destructing. These are the ruins of a suburb in the capital, Dili. What happened here four weeks ago sparked the political crisis that grips East Timor today. Jose Belo is a legendary East Timorese reporter. Last Tuesday my East Timorese assistant, Jose Belo and I travelled into the hills outside of Dili in search of Alfredo Renaido. We were heading up to see Alfredo Renaido, a renegade military police officer.


He was reluctant to travel up there that day because he's from the east of the half island of East Timor. The problem that was brewing was between the people of the east and the people of the west. At one point it did happened that there was a threat on his life. I had to get involved in trying to convince them to calm down and not kill him basically, and it was a very very tense moment. At that particular moment I realised he was probably justified in his reluctance to come up there with me.


It was all a bit surreal. I didn't believe that they were going to start shooting. I was filming the kind of positioning and the running around and thinking this is all very exciting. I had no idea that they were actually going to start shooting. When they did start shooting, I was like - what's going on here? I was shocked to see that it did come to that. But obviously I tried to film it as best I could.


DAVID O’SHEA:  You shot one?


MAN:  I think so.


I tried to process the situation as quickly as I could. It was concerning, especially when the grenades started landing.


DAVID O’SHEA:  Where do we go, then?


With more grenades falling around us, it's time to make a dash for safety. The first phone call I made wasn't to Dateline, it was to a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who I had a bet with and unfortunately I called him to sort of gloat that I was right and he was wrong about what was going to happen in East Timor, but I didn't think these things through. And of course, as a journalist he wrote up the story and scooped all of us.


DAVID O’SHEA:  Well this seems like a pretty bad escalation. We shouldn't go with them. Fuck, sorry. We're right in the middle of this here. This is bad.


After the story went to air, and was broadcast in East Timor, Jose was concerned about his own safety, he received a couple of death threats, so we decided to bring him down to Sydney and he stayed at my house for three months. When things calmed down a bit, he went home. I still consider myself quite lucky that day that we didn't get injured or killed.




NICK LAZAREDES:  Ukraine's trauma is a story about the investigation into the MH17 crash and what happened on that day when it came down in rebel-controlled territory in Ukraine. We worked out our own route to the crash site, looking at what other journalists had done.


The Government is already on the offensive, retaking towns and villages. The problem was that it was right through the middle of where the artillery shelling and fighting was between the Ukrainian troops and the rebels. So it was prone to change at any time the conditions on the ground, and they did.


We can hear the unmistakable rumble of artillery fire in the distance. The shelling is causing fires. And it was one of those things, I guess, you go down a road, you see smoke, you shouldn't go any further down that road, you do. You take a turn, suddenly tank treks.


It looks like a fallen tree, it's blocking the road. We don't think we can go any further. I get out to take a look. It seems like a trap and it is. Okay, there's been some shooting. We're just laying low at the moment. I think my initial thoughts when we hit the deck were - it was a corn field, I was on the side in the corn field. I thought I'm going to be in this corn field all night, crawling to get out of this, as the driver really in my eyes was a real hero. He just collected his thoughts and said, "We're getting out of here now".


There's firing going on all around us. We've got to get out of here. As we're leaving, I looked at the driver, who ripped off his white T-shirt and was waving it out the window, a very clever thing to do. I don't think I would have ever thought to do that and the shots were less as we were driving away. So perhaps that helped.


Eventually we reached the site. The Australian Federal Police move in. We didn't walk out on to the debris field, because it felt like it was walking on somebody's grave, or it just felt wrong. It was the little things - the set of keys - the guide book to Bali or the child's doll that really upset me, because you can imagine the lives just cut short. I think the horror of what they went through, even if just for a split second, but certainly the horror that their families have to live through for a lifetime, just all came to me in an overwhelming moment, really, on the site. Every day people had been coming to the site and offering up a few minute's silence for the people, and, so, yes, sorry. But I was glad I went.


Dateline's VJs have been heading to the front-line for three decades. A lot of worried producers had sleepless nights.


BRETT MASON:  We've been inside the mosque here now for 15 minutes and I would say that we've seen dozens of bodies.


There's always been a wide range of stories on the program, but one news event in particular has had a profound effect.


GEOFF PARISH, CHIEF PRODUCER 2001-2014:  One of the biggest moments for me in Dateline and probably for any journalist anywhere in the world was 9/11. That was the one that really set the moment and determined much of what we would do for many years after that.




OLIVIA ROUSSET:  It's always hard to place yourself when you're dealing with confronting material as a journalist, and I'm not necessarily very good at having a barrier between my emotions and what I'm dealing with.


HAJ ALI (Translation):  I entered through a door like this and I remember they had me stand like this, in this position.


This man has become an icon of everything's that's gone wrong where America's occupation of Iraq.


HAJ ALI (Translation):  He then stretched my hands in this position and attached wires to them.


Haj Ali believes he is the man in this photo.


HAJ ALI (Translation):  It just felt like my eyes were popping out. You know…I got a headache, then fell down. I could not stand it.


Lifting the Hood was a story that was focussing on abuses that happened at Abu Ghraib Prison just outside of Baghdad.


HAJ ALI (Translation):  I was in the worst situation a person can be in. Am I a light bulb? A human being?


It was a famous prison under Saddam. He had tortured and killed and abused many of his own people there in his time and then the US took it over and as it turned out were doing the same to Iraqis who were in their care, as people should be in detention.


Abu Mann spent 11 months being humiliated and tortured in Abu Ghraib.


OLIVIA ROUSSET:  When you look at these photographs of yourself and other people, how do you feel?


ABU MANN (Translation):  Of course I am ashamed, even though I was forced to do it, I still hurt inside. A dark time in my life.


I went to meet Abu Mann with my fixer and his wife was there and his kids were there. We sat and had tea. He told his story and he told it very eloquently and at great length. I think he started when we asked him how he ended up in Abu Ghraib. I think he started in 1968 - which is often the way with those interviews. I got some incredible material. He was telling us everything.


ABU MANN (Translation):  Oh dear!


Asking anyone to recount stories of suffering is pretty awful, and it's that fine line you run as a journalist between wanting to get the story because you any the story is important and might help effect some kind of change and knowing that you are putting people through suffering again, and I was and he knew - it's kind of a pact. He understood what I was doing, but it is a fine line.




SOPHIE MCNEILL:  No-one likes this story, you know. The Defence Department hate you for doing it the soldiers hate you for doing it. It's just a really hard story to do.


Afghanistan's pain seems endless.


WOMAN (Translation): For what sin did they kill him and riddle his body with bullet holes?


I still remember when I first heard about this incident. It was February in 2009 and it was right in the middle of the bushfires we were having in Victoria where a horrible number of people were killed. Right in the middle of that week there was this little news story saying that five children had been killed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.


LIEUTENANT GENERAL MARK EVANS, HEAD OF JOINT OPERATIONS (13 FEB 2009):  During the conduct of this occupation there was an exchange of fire between our forces and the Taliban. Tragically, a number of people were killed, and wounded during this incident.


I just remember seeing this press release from the Defence Department and thinking, gosh, something's gone terribly wrong.


GEOFF PARISH:  In our first attempt at the story, we were misled by an imposter who gave a false account of what happened. When we realised this was the case, you know, we really had to try to sort that out and correct the public record of what happened.


SOPHIE MCNEILL:  Using his local contacts in Afghanistan, Farid tried to find the relatives of those killed.


FARID:  I think when we saw the footage we saw discrepancies in the account in the story, such as the dialect and the accent the people spoke and we thought those people may not be from that region. So that was the initial starting point.


He set off to Afghanistan with a small video camera.


FARID:  I'm in Kandahar now. We hear some shots.


GEOFF PARISH:  It was filmed with a $300 camera bought in Perth, taken to Kandahar and given to the guy who went and filmed it. You wait with baited breath until you see what the results are.


SOPHIE MCNEILL:  This is Zahir Kahn's compound where he says the attack occurred. This is the room where Zahir Kahn says six of his relatives were killed.


WOMAN (Translation):  Some were rolling in their blood and some were killed.


ZAHIR KAHN (Translation):  See? These are the kids. These two lived and this one was martyred.


GEOFF PARISH:  I think the result of the story itself was quite dramatic. The Australian Defence Force conceded that they'd gone to the wrong place and got the wrong person.


SOPHIE MCNEILL:  It was the first time Australian soldiers had been charged in war since Vietnam.


GEOFF PARISH:  It was tragic from everyone's perspective. Australian soldiers don't go out to that. It was a terrible mistake.  The family was literally destroyed. So whilst I was satisfied that we'd got to where we wanted to with the story, it just didn't, I was just overwhelmed by what had happened.


Over three decades, Dateline has introduced us to a host of extraordinary people.


KATHY NOVAK: Can I give you a hug?


I've been touched by their light, their brave voices.


ANDREW GRESTE, PETER GRESTE'S BROTHER:  He's my brother, so, you know, we'd drop anything for family.


And their strength to find hope in the darkest recesses of human behaviour.




AARON LEWIS:  Finding forgiveness was a story about the most astounding act of compassion that I had ever heard about. Jackie Millar has lived two lives, separated by a single event on November 4th, 1995, the night two boys came to steal her car, shot her in the head, and left her for dead.


JACKIE MILLAR:  I was the age of a two-year-old after the incident.


AARON LEWIS:  It's hard for me to really imagine even now what it would be like to truly forgive people who had tried to kill me, tried to execute me, let alone dedicating a good portion of one's life to rehabilitating them and that is what Jackie Millar did.


Today Jackie is going to visit Craig in prison. She does this every year, facilitated by Pete De Wind, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who runs the Restorative Justice project, a program designed to allow victims of violent crime and their offenders to meet face to face.


CRAIG: I was scared to death.


AARON LEWIS:  You were scared to death the first time your met Jackie?


CRAIG:  Right.


AARON LEWIS:  She's a woman who feels that her life is full of meaning, when you are with her, that's impossible to dispute.


JACKIE MILLAR:  He had cried because he thought I would be normal. He had apologised to me. I accepted his apology.


You are a good kid. You are.  You’re a good kid.


There was one thing additional I wanted from him. Can you guess it?


AARON LEWIS:  No, tell me.


JACKIE MILLAR:  A hug and he agreed.


AARON LEWIS:  You wanted a hug?


JACKIE MILLAR:  I wanted a hug.


It's perhaps a bit overly personal, but she reminded me of my mum. My mum was a psychologist, worked a lot with prisoners, and she loved hugs. I asked her this question –


Do you think, Jackie, some people think your forgiveness is a product of your head injury?


JACKIE MILLAR:  Yes, they think I've flipped my lid. They will say it's the head injury that is doing the forgiving. But I don't think so.


AARON LEWIS:  Every once in a while in an interview someone gives you a definitive answer, an answer to which you feel there is very little reply.


CRAIG:  I'm sorry it had to happen, Jackie. I'm sorry it did happen, not it had to, but it did happen.


AARON LEWIS:  When Craig does get out of prison, Jackie says she's going to be there waiting for him, that she will be the first person he meets as a free man. I'd like to go back and see them for that. I think that would be a fantastic moment and one I hope to be there for.




MARK DAVIS:  Like many large Asian cities, Manila's private and public transport systems have long passed the point of overload. I with was in The Philippines covering a really gruesome massacre. 30 journalists had been killed, buried in their car by some monster and I was following their families, an absolute horror story.


I came back to Manila and I noticed near my hotel along the train lines, these little men with little bamboo things. They were running past me and I thought, what the hell are these guys doing?


 Intense gridlock has encouraged one little flower to bloom in the transport wasteland - the trolley cars of Manila.


MARK DAVIS:  This is faster than a taxi.


HENARO:  Yes, no traffic. But we have enemies, the trains. Yeah.


So I just started asking around and then bang out of the blue there's Henaro who's this character of gold, TV gold, this bloke.


HENARO:  This is my younger son, Gerald.


MARK DAVIS:  Hello Gerald.


For a couple of days Henaro becomes my guide to the community of trolley men who live and work around PUP - The Philippines University.


MARK DAVIS:  How many kids have you got?


HENARO:  I have two kids. Nine and six years old.


MARK DAVIS:  And they live with you?


HENARO:  Yeah.


The family were forced out of this area a few years ago and moved to a squatter relocation area on the outskirts of Manila. Henaro's wife remained there but with no income Henaro and the boys moved back to the rails.


MARK DAVIS:  Where do you sleep now?


HENARO:  Me on this trolley with my two kids in the side car, a rolling side car. That’s my house.


So I went from what was one of the more miserable stories of my life, truly was a massacre story, to probably what was the most uplifting story of my life.


HENARO:  That’s it, then I will take dinner or breakfast or lunch on this trolley.


MARK DAVIS:  You are ready for the night, the trolley is your home and your work.


This guy in the dirt and the squalor of Manila and yet he had such a buoyancy and a cheerfulness and a determination to provide for his children. I mean, I - I love this guy. I love this guy. And the audience loved this guy.


MARK DAVIS:  What do you want to be when you grow up?


BOY: Police.


MARK DAVIS:   Policeman, yeah?


For now Henaro makes the best of what he has and what he has is not too bad.


HENARO:  Yeah, I'm happier with my neighbours.


MARK DAVIS:  You've got good neighbours, yes? Yeah.


HENARO:  We are family here, yes.


MARK DAVIS:  One big family?




MARK DAVIS:  You've got lovely kids, though.


HENARO:  I love my kids.


MARK DAVIS:  They're nice kids, they're good kids, right.


HENARO:  Yeah. That's why when I'm very tired, then I will wake up and I will see my two kids beside me. I’m very powerful, very strong to push the trolley.


MARK DAVIS:  You're strong again?




People often email or call saying they like someone, and want to help them. About 20 people said they want t to help this guy. It got down to eight. I said to this group, I said, I'm not Care Australia, I'm not going to send Christmas cards every year or a signed autograph of the guy. I'm not going to send you updates, but if you want to help, this is what he wants. Eight of them said absolutely. I had a fixer in Manila. She went out and I said to buy the shiniest, most beautiful fantastic shiniest wheelie restaurant and get it to Manila and deliver it to him. And so it popped out the sky for Henaro, his great shiny restaurant. That was nice. Doesn't always happen that way, but that was nice.


One special story that stands out for me was filmed by a young researcher who only learned how to use a camera as she was flying to her assignment.




JUNG-EUN KIM:  An hour's walk into these forests, a family is living in hiding under the earth.


PETER CHARLEY, PRODUCER 1998 - 2000:  We'd heard there was a devastating famine in North Korea. It had killed at least two-and-a-half million people that we're aware of and had driven a massive exodus of people across the river into North East China looking for anything to eat.


Mike Carey who was the EP of Dateline, said he'd been contacted by a woman named Jung-eun Kim in South Korea and she said she's filmed some remarkable vision in North East China of North Korean refugees in hiding there.


JUNG-EUN KIM:  Hiding in the forest isn't easy as a young family and one by one they had to give their children away.


MOTHER (Translation):  Now, after all that, months have gone by and days have gone by… I don’t think of suicide any more but I still think of my baby.


PETER CHARLEY:  There's beautiful moments of dad cradling the boy and talking about wild pigs in the forest and the sorts of things that happen in every home around the world, but we knew that sooner or later the decision would have to be made as to whether that boy was given away.


JUNG-EUN KIM:  But the break-up of the family has been traumatic. Yung Shin has taken on the cheeky habit of sucking on his father's cigarettes.


PETER CHARLEY:  I said Jung eun, what is going on there and she said the little boy is a character. Life was so difficult for them and so edgy that his dad decided to let him have a puff on a cigarette.


She gained her trust over many months, although she was still cautious about disclosing her own identity. She knew that if she'd been followed, there's a very strong chance that the family would have been found, sent back and executed.


JUNG-EUN KIM:  In the morning they asked for a photograph to record the family together. It's the first time a family portrait had been taken and they knew it would be if last.


PETER CHARLEY:  The parents had made a decision they were giving that boy away, but they had not told him. He could tell. When he was having his photograph taken, he could tell. It was just heartbreaking to see him say, "Don't leave me", they were saying, "We won't leave you". The mother was saying to the photographer, "Just take the shot". Because she knew that was probably the last record she would ever have of that family together.


JUNG-EUN KIM:  But instead, his parents walk him to a car bound for the orphanage. The Kim family is broken apart.


PETER CHARLEY:  The next thing of course was the parents, moments after they had given that boy away - devastating, devastating emotional scene. It boiled down to three main characters. The family living in the forest in the cave and there was a young couple who had to leave their daughter behind in North Korea and a boy, Min Ho, who was living on the streets.


JUNG-EUN KIM:  These children are typical of many refugees who come here, afraid, desperately hungry, their bodies malnourished and damaged from their journey and each of them tells the same story. They were driven here by the famine.


REPORTER (Translation):  Did many people starve to death in your town?


CHILDREN (Translation):  Yes, others escaped to China or left their homes.


REPORTER (Translation):  Have you seen people die?  Where?


CHILDREN (Translation):  Yes. In my country.


REPORTER (Translation):  In your village?


CHILDREN (Translation):  Yes.


PETER CHARLEY:  What we know about Min Ho, the boy living on the streets, is he's now back in North Korea. He's married and apparently he's doing okay. The people who were living underground in the mountains were captured and sent back to North Korea. They were reported by a neighbour who spotted them. If there is a silver lining to any of this, it's that they are at least with their children, back in North Korea. Su Hee and Han Jim, the couple who so desperately tried to bring their daughter out of North Korea, finally managed to bring her into China, but the marriage didn’t last and they split up. She remarried and is now living in Canada.


In 1994 I watched South Africa hold its first democratic elections. That same month Helen Vatsikopoulos witnessed something that still gives me chills to this day.




HELEN VATSIKOPOULOS 1988 - 1999:  We never thought we would see genocide in our lifetime, but there it was. Kigali is in ruins. The agents of its destruction lie discarded on footpaths. The culprits are long gone. Former Lords of the city, the dogs have perished, where once they feasted on the flesh of corpses.

Up to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were dead, slaughtered. This child was almost scalped. Up to a million, or two, I think Hutus, who escaped into what was then known as Zairie.

Every morning trucks pick up the night's dead. There are still about 2,000 corpses collected every day. Destitute people seeing each other in the fields and hugging and kissing because they'd found someone who was alive.

Dateline, you might want to cut this out - I was the second reporter that Dateline sent. They did send someone else before, but he didn't actually get into Rwanda. It was difficult to get in. The cycle of violence continued, again in 1963, 1969 and 1973. There was no water, there was no food, there was no electricity, there was nowhere to go and stay.

When you are in a situation like that, you don’t think, because if I start processing, my God, how did we get here, another genocide, didn't we learn from the last one - well, you know, you'd go mad. Maybe it's somewhere deep inside my psyche, you know, eating away at me, I don't know, I try not to think about it.


I remember the Bali Nine dominating the news, when they were arrested for heroin trafficking in 2005. Dateline gained exclusive access to two of them after months of careful negotiations. This story was nominated for a Logie.




MELANIE MORRISON, RESEARCHER:  Initially I'd proposed the story, not thinking that we'd be able to get into the actual prison to interview Myuran and Andrew.


MARK DAVIS:  There were tonnes of media coverage on most of the Bali Nine and these are the two that are going to be killed.


It's 8am, Kerobokan Prison and morning roll is about to begin. Kerobokan has been cast as a hell hole through books and media coverage about Schapelle Corby and others. It's a portrayal that rankles with the governor. I went to see the governor and he did say to me, look, so many people bullshit about this prison. I'm sick of letting anyone in to talk about it and so I promised him that I would not lie about the prison. I won't make anything up. Given a chance to give me his view of his prison, the governor grants permission for Chan and Sukumaran to be interviewed and remarkably permission to film inside.


GOVERNOR (Translation):  Don’t make things up.


MARK DAVIS:  How are you mate? Bad night?


The media perception of these two was that Sukumaran was the enforcer and Chan was the mastermind. Cell number two houses Myuran Sukumaran. Sukumaran in particular is a big guy, imposing guy. I actually was worried about meeting him. I'm in a prison. Prisons are always volatile places, you know, you don't quite know what was going to happen.


MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  This is the art room.


MARK DAVIS:  First day I met him, or first time I got into the prison, you know, he's showing me around the parsley and then we walk up and we look at his pottery work and then he's running a class with painting and he's the most gentle bloke. For better or worse, this yard is now home. Myuram has done his best to soften the vista of concrete and barbed wire.


MYURAN SUKUMARAN: I tried to put these flowers inside here. They were really cheap, about 5,000, not even a dollar. And then to...


MARK DAVIS:   Cheer it up a bit? Yes.


MYURAN SUKUMARAN: I never saw myself like a bad person or something like that. As I look back at myself now, I see I was stupid back then, but I never thought of myself as a bad person.


MARK DAVIS:  When did 'The Enforcer' come from, I asked him. He'd done a karate class. It was an early report. You know news reports, they compound on top of each other. He'd done a karate class and now he's The Enforcer, a martial arts expert. Come on.


MARK DAVIS:  Good morning? How are you?


ANDREW CHAN:  Alright, I suppose.


I liked him and I liked Chan. They were both interesting guys.


ANDREW CHAN:  You know, I never really was good at being a family general man, really. I hardly ever spent any time with my mum and dad or my brothers and my sisters. We just didn't really get along. I was pretty much like the black sheep of the family to be honest.


My view of Chan is he had a rougher background but in fact you know, prison for Chan I think, has been probably more transformative than it has been for Sukumaran.


ANDREW CHAN:  I suppose I'm thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I'm studying and a lot of people might see that and say, oh, you know, there's probably no use towards it. Look, I believe if you want to try to build yourself up to something, you've got to start somewhere, you've got to start today. Maybe tomorrow won't exist.


So the Enforcer turned out to be a big wuss, painting and gardening and the mastermind lived with his mum and dad in their two bedroom flat.


ANDREW CHAN:  Here I am living with my parents still, like, how many godfathers do you know still live with their parents?


MELANIE MORRISON:  One thing that sticks out in my mind is Rajini, Myaran's mother.


RAJINI SUKUMARAN:  The last thing in your mind before you fall asleep is, when is my son going to come home? As soon as I wake up in the morning, that's what I have, you know, that's what is in my mind.


MELANIE MORRISON:  She's so deeply traumatised and so deeply hurt that her son, who she's been so proud of, is now in prison and condemned to die.


RAJINI SUKUMARAN:  It’s hard for me to go on day-to-day, like cooking and shopping and doing housework. It's really hard. I really miss him and...


MELANIE MORRISON:  I just remember sitting there late at night at SBS just feeling so gutted for what this woman's going through. It's heartbreaking. What family goes through at this time.


MARK DAVIS:  What hope do you have of your final chances?


MYURAN SUKUMARAN: I hope to get a life sentence. I hope not to be executed.


All of their appeals have ended. Their only chance now is a Presidential pardon from SBY, but he's now in the last weeks of his term. It's possible on the last day of his Presidency he could make an act of clemency. Why would he? You know, there's no local popularity to be gained by saving two Australian drug dealers and, indeed, it would be more popular if he let them die.


MARK DAVIS:  What sort of life would it be for you?


MYURAN SUKUMARAN: It would be a life.


MARK DAVIS:  Better than no life?




That impacted on me a lot. I mean, I don't know. Most of my stories do, funnily enough. You know, I sort of live with them quite a bit.


Tonight is a celebration of Dateline's 30 years of international current affairs.


DAVID BRILL:  It's quite a strange feeling - 40 years ago I was standing in this position in the Gulf of Tonkin.


Some of their stories have showed me the world in the most unexpected ways.


JOHN MCAFEE:  When I came back to the States and they accused me of eating small children, I wasn't sure if I'd actually done it or not.


REPORTER:  You realise I can't use any of this?


They revealed ghost cities in China and wrestling women in Bolivia. Amos Roberts was assigned to a story in Denmark that he was very unsure of.




AMOS ROBERTS, PRODUCER 2001 - 2008: Gentlemen of Denmark, Thomas Blachman would like your attention. Full Frontal is about a controversial television program in Denmark.


THOMAS BLACHMAN (Translation):  The female body is thirsting for words. A man’s words. So I approach you with the noble ambition of re-positivising the woman’s view of the man’s view of the woman.


Two men, who are fully clothed, sit on a couch and talk about the naked woman who is standing in front of them. The format of the Blachman show is simple. Each week he invites a well-known Danish man - fashion designer, writer, comedian, singer - to a very unusual encounter. When the story was first suggested to me, I groaned. It didn't sound very serious, it sounded quite tabloid, quite sleazy, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be reporting a story like this. The story wasn't the way it was being reported in the English language media. The people that were making the program actually had some quite serious intentions.


PRODUCER:  I think it's important that we give another picture of what women really looks like. Today in society female bodies are portrayed in the media as perfect, and in program we show what really beautiful women looks like.


AMOS ROBERTS: Why can't they talk?


PRODUCER: Well, that was a decision from the production company and, you know, I could have changed it if I wanted, but I actually thought no, it's fine. They do talk as well, if you notice. They don't talk in words b but they talk with their bodies, with their eyes, with their laughter.


AMOS ROBERTS: Did it bother you at all that the program was about two men looking at a woman's body?


WOMAN:  Actually I think I found it interesting to hear what men could say about a woman's body.


I was kind of stunned when I found this clip from The Huffington Post.


PRESENTER:  What kinds of things did they say?


WOMAN:  I'm not actually sure because the clip is not in English.


PRESENTER:  Probably not very nice.


WOMAN:  Probably not very nice.


And I think that says something about Dateline. We will often put a lot of time and it takes a lot of time and it costs a lot of money to get things translated, you know, to find out what people are saying.


THOMAS BLACHMAN (Translation):  You have very beautiful feet, insanely beautiful feet.


On a purely selfish level, I feel amazingly lucky to have this job. I get to hang out with convicted murderers in Italian prisons who are cooking gourmet five-course meals. I hang out with candidates for Tunisia's first democratic election or hang out with a female gang of vigilantes, the Pink Gang in India without working for a program like Dateline, there's just no way you would ever get to see things like that.


I actually remember the first episode ever of Dateline.


PAUL MURPHY: Good evening, I’m Paul Murphy. In the aftermath of violence, heads the international news this week.


It was hosted by Paul Murphy back in 1984. Since then we've had many faces.


GEORGE NEGUS:  G’day. Welcome.


JANA WENDT: I'm Jana Wendt.


HELEN VATSIKOPOULOS:  I’m Helen Vatsikopoulos.


YALDA HAKIM:  I’m Yalda Hakim.


ANJALI RAO:  I’m Anjali Rao.


MIKE CAREY:  I’m Mike Carey.


GEORGE NEGUS:  I'm George Negus.


MARK DAVIS:  I'm Mark Davis. Welcome to Dateline.


And there's a committed team behind the scenes. It's been a pleasure to narrate tonight's special show. I'm a big fan and look forward to more Dateline stories from around the world.


MIKE CAREY 1989 - 2007:  Dateline was able to go to places and break stories and go to places that few other networks went to.


AARON THOMAS  2007 - 2011:  One of the great things about Dateline is it can take people to extreme places and can do that geographically by going to the far corners of the world and it also can go to extreme edges of the human experience.


OLIVIA ROUSSET 2000 - 2007:  My most memorable story and the one that will stay with me forever was a story I did in Iraq soon after the invasion where an Australian water engineer Hassan went back to Iraq after 23 years.


HASSAN, ENGINEER:  The best shower I ever had.


To experience the rawness of the emotion and seeing his family for the first time in 23 years, I was standing there completely done up in my Hijab, black face, the works, filming with tears streaming down my face. It was beautiful. It still makes me feel like crying now. You don't get that kind of gift very often.


SOPHIE MCNEILL 2004 – 2010:  I wanted to work for Dateline since I was 15. I was during doing my exams in Perth, my High School exams and I had this article of the show taped up above my desk and it had Mark Davis and David O'Shea talking about going off and filming their stories around the world and I thought that's what I want to do.


DAVID O’SHEA 1998 – 2014:  That was the nice little story, the donkey library- Biblioburro - the Colombian guy, the little schoolteacher who gets around the country side on his donkey. They head off into the villages giving books to underprivileged children. It was a nice story. I was devastated to learn last year that he had an accident with his donkey. The donkey fell on top of him and he had to have his leg amputated. So now nothing's changed. He carries on. He's still doing the donkey library. He still going off and they still go into the villages but it's just that he's only got one leg now.


PAUL MURPHY, PRESENTER 1984 – 1996:  What Dateline is remembered for now and will be remembered for in the future and in the past as well, is that it did things differently and it particularly discovered the Asia Pacific region.


GINNY STEIN, VIDEO JOURNALIST 2001 – 2010:  One of the most surprising stories I've ever had to do was to do something about ethanol in Brazil. The pilot said to me, do you want to film me flying, I will come down and swoop low. I'm standing there in the middle of the paddock watching this plane come at me going - now how low is he going to go, really, how low is he going to go? That was pretty sensational. But when he came up and at the end and said, look, thank you for risking your life for that, was like, ah, sometimes you just, you know, you wish you had not said that.


GEOFF PARISH, CHIEF PRODUCER 2001 -2014:  The thing is with a 30-year history it's incredible. To SBS's credit for whatever critique they may have of Dateline and what it does, they've stuck by it for 30 years. That's a pretty amazing commitment, really.


PETER CHARLEY, PRODUCER 1998 - 2000:  Its legacy, I hope is of quality courageous journalism. Where we are pushing the boundaries and have no fear or favour.


And, in case you're wondering, I didn't get to thank the people smuggler who helped my family. But I did meet and share a toast with his grandson Balasz. Happy 30th anniversary, Dateline.


ANJALI RAO:  Well, there's much more from the last 30 years of Dateline on our brand new website. You can see all tonight's featured stories and many more in full. There are extended interviews with the team past and present. Tell us your favourite memories from the past 30 years, too. That's it for our 30th anniversary special.





Assistant Producer














Music composed by Vicki Hansen

14th October 2014