Four Corners opens up the video vault

This Friday August 19, Four Corners turns 50 and as part of the celebrations, ABC News 24 will air selected programs from each decade over five weeks, starting on Sunday 28th August.

It begins with two reports from the 1960s and even includes Kerry O’Brien in the 1970s as well as a report which triggered Queensland’s Fitzgerald Inquiry.

The Price of Equality
In 1966, Frank Bennett examined the action of the Gurindji stockmen who had gone on strike over the right to equal pay at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory. He found that in the year before the citizenship referendum, the station owners had exploited the stockmen terribly. Their strike sparked a chord among Australians. Public support for the Gurindji culminated in the first return of land to Aboriginal people signified by Gough Whitlam pouring red sand into the hand of one of the original strikers, Vincent Lingiari, in 1975.
Production details:
Reporter, Frank Bennett. Presenter and Executive Producer, Robert Moore. Originally broadcast 1st October 1966.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Forty-two years ago Four Corners travelled to the outback town of Cunnamulla, Queensland, where reporter Peter Reid tackled a case of Aboriginal injustice. He reported on the case of Nancy Young who was jailed for manslaughter after the death of her baby, allegedly of neglect. The episode exposed the squalid living conditions of the Aboriginal community and the indifference felt towards Indigenous issues in the 1960s. Nancy Young was found guilty by an all-white, all-male jury, and after serving the majority of her three year sentence; she was released following fresh evidence which resulted in the conviction being quashed. It was later acknowledged that her daughter, Evelyn, had died from scurvy which she contracted in the insanitary conditions of the Cunnamulla reserve.
Production details:
Reporter, Peter Reid. Executive Producer, Allan Martin. Originally broadcast 30th August, 1969.

This week, a look back at the 1970s with two reports that followed the campaign trails of the Whitlam campand the Fraser camp leading up to the controversial 1975 Federal Election.

Whitlam on Campaign Trail
Kerry O’Brien reports from the Whitlam camp in the lead up to the controversial 1975 Federal Election campaign following Gough Whitlam’s dismissal by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr.
Production details:
Reporter, Kerry O’Brien. Executive Producer, Peter Reid. Originally broadcast 6th December,1975.

Fraser on Campaign Trail
Allan Hogan reports from the Fraser camp on the campaign trail in the lead up to the controversial 1975 election.
Production details:
Reporter, Allan Hogan. Executive Producer, Peter Reid. Originally broadcast 6th December, 1975.

The Moonlight State
This 1987 episode was a groundbreaking investigation into the Queensland Police Service, detailing its involvement in illegal prostitution and extensive corruption. The day after broadcast, a commission of inquiry was called to look into ‘Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct’, more famously referred to as the ‘Fitzgerald Inquiry’. The commission ran for two years and called up a total of 339 witnesses, ranging from police to business identities, ministers and all the way up to the Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The Fitzgerald Inquiry in-turn led to a string of prosecutions including the then Police Commissioner, Terry Lewis, on a charge of corruption; the jailing of three Queensland ministers; and a charge of perjury against the Premier, Sir Joh, which was eventually aborted due to a hung jury. For the Four Corners team behind the program, the litigation for the ‘Moonlight State’ went for a record 13 years. The report remains a seminal program by reporteChris Masters.
Production details:
Reporter, Chris Masters. Producer, Shaun Hoyt. Executive Producer, Peter Manning. Originally broadcast 11th May, 1987.

The Big Finish
Tonight we revisit the 1990s with David Marr’s moving profile of Stuart Challender, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conductor who was battling AIDS. The program documented the life ofan enormously gifted individual, who was privately coming to terms with his sexuality and an illness which eventually took his life. During Challender’s accomplished career he worked in Europe, before becoming resident conductor for Opera Australia and later moving to chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1987. In January 1991 Challender received an Order of Australia “in recognition of his services to music”. The program itself went onto win a coveted Walkley Award for journalist David Marrand producer Andrew Haughton. A short interview with David Marr will also be aired, along with the original program
Production details:
Reporter, David Marr. Producer,Andrew Haughton. Executive Producer, Marian Wilkinson. Originally broadcast 29th July, 1991.

The Bali Confessions
The final program in this series returns to 2003, with Sally Neighbour’s chilling investigation into the Bali bombings. As the accused bombers prepared for trial and possibly the death penalty, Four Corners retraced the mission that killed at least 190 people, including 88 Australians, and shook Australia’s sense of security. This special report pieced together how the terrorists conceived and plotted their operation, recruited their foot soldiers and executed their final strike. Reporter Sally Neighbour journeyed through south east Asia to track the bombers’ movements and conversations in the days and weeks leading up to October 12, 2002. Her investigation, featuring exclusive access to official documents and video evidence as well as interviews with top police investigators, shed new light on key questions: What motivated the bombers? Who came up with the plan? Who were they really targeting? A compelling and comprehensive account of the Bali atrocity, ‘The Bali Confessions’ was Sally Neighbour’s second Four Corners report on the bombings. Herfirst report, ‘The Network’, investigated the region’s terror network.
Production details:
Reporter, Sally Neighbour. Producer, Morag Ramsay. Executive Producer, Bruce Belsham. Originally broadcast 10th February 2003.


  1. I can’t wait until Today Tonight does a retrospective. So many fond memories of fat pills, miracle water, as well as the stunning exposes on dodgy electricians, supermarket pricing and single mothers. (Disclaimer: Sarcasm doesn’t work very well in these forums. Everything before the parentheses was sarcastic.)

  2. The ABC has digitised a lot of their TV archive that is stored at the National Archives at Chester Hill. They def should broadcast more of it.

  3. Wow! Archival Australian TV getting a airing? This is great news. More networks should dig up some old retro gold like this. Well done ABC and Four Corners. More of this Australian moving history please.

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