Our History (Pt 2)
A feature of the early programs were forum-style political interviews, which were conducted by the likes of Max Walsh, Sam Lipski, Robert Haupt and the late Alan Reid. The premier of NSW, Bob Carr, was once a reporter, while former book publisher Jennifer Byrne was just 26 when she joined the program as a reporter. 60 Minutes' Charles Wooley was also a reporter.
During nearly 20 years of producing quality public affairs to Australians, Sunday has received numerous awards. In 1987, Justin Murphy reported on a then little-known illness called AIDS and his story was subsequently made into a documentary. Jennifer Byrne won a Logie for her story on Paul Keating's tax summit in 1985. In May 1994 Alexander Downer announced his bid for the Liberal Party leadership on the program. Federal industrial relations minister Peter Reith and former Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot chose Sunday to unveil their workplace package in October 1996.
Sunday is one of the few current affairs programs on commercial television to cover overseas stories in depth. In August 1995 Jim Waley travelled to war-torn Bosnia and broadcast Sunday direct from the besieged capital of Sarajevo. It was to be the first of many such broadcasts from events of overwhelming international significance: the US, British and Russian elections; the 1997 handover of Hong Kong; the 1999 East Timor crisis; and the breakout of violence in Israel in October last year.
Since Stephen Rice took over as executive producer in 1994, Sunday has committed itself to serious investigative journalism the only commercial public affairs program to do so. In 1994, Graham Davis's report, "ABC in Crisis", revealed major companies paid for favourable stories on infotainment programs and this lead to the Palmer Report, a Senate inquiry and fundamental changes to the public broadcaster's editorial practices. The story won Davis a Walkley Award for Best Television Public Affairs.
In 1995, Ross Coulthart's investigation into the misuse of donated funds by CARE Australia caused a shake-up within the organisation and the resignation of Ian Harris. Reforms were introduced to clean up the entire overseas aid industry. The following year, Coulthart reported on "The Prisoners Who Waited", which revealed how fraud and mismanagement at the top of the Aboriginal Legal Service was depriving black inmates of even basic representation in the courts. The report won the 1996 Logie Award for Best Public Affairs.
Also in 1996, Paul Ransley's report, "The Culture of Killing", an examination of the psychology of violence that led to the Port Arthur massacre, won the New York Festival's gold award for Best Special Report.
During 1997, Sunday made headlines with reports on: defence rorts, including the blunder of the JORN radar project; the systematic rape of young women by the police in a small Victorian town; the burgeoning use of unproven and unscientific "new age" techniques by registered doctors on unsuspecting patients; the unravelling of democracy in Cambodia just one month before Hun Sen's bloody coup in Phnom Penh; and Helen Dalley's revealing profile of the author Helen Darville/Demidenko her first interview since the furore over her false identity and allegations of plagiarism.
In December 1997, Sunday won three prestigious Walkley Awards. Jim Waley was presented with the Walkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Presenting. Executive producer Stephen Rice won the Walkley Award for Excellence in News Leadership, and reporter Ross Coulthart, along with producer Nick Farrow, won the Walkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Coverage of Asia for their story on Cambodia.
The following year, Coulthart also won the Walkley Award for commentary, analysis and opinion for his report on the former One Nation leader, "Hanson and the Media".
Alongside Coulthart's award-winning report, 1998 also saw Sunday's coverage at home range, from the program's ground-breaking story on ethnic branch stacking by the Victorian Labor Party to the discovery of Aboriginal rock art in Arnhem Land under threat by uranium mining.
In March 1998, Jim Waley went on the trail of Saddam Hussein's hidden fortune, a journey that took him to Switzerland and a confrontation at the home of Saddam's private banker. The report won the gold medal for Best Special Report at the New York Festivals.
Other foreign assignments included Waley's coverage from Washington of the growing political storm engulfing President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinksy. Waley also went on assignment to Nepal and the United States to profile the inspirational Tom Whittaker who, with an artificial leg, climbed to the top of the world, Mount Everest. Closer to home, Sunday also took a penetrating look inside East Timor and its ruthless military regime.
Early in 1999, Sunday again travelled to East Timor and recorded explicit warnings from the Indonesian military commander in Dili, Colonel Tono Suratman, that the upcoming independence poll would be met with extreme violence. Those warnings were ignored by the Australian Government and later that year Sunday was back in East Timor, with Jim Waley broadcasting the program from a still-burning Dili as pro-Indonesia militias rampaged across the country.
In November, Sunday took the unprecedented step of commissioning a well-known Indonesian journalist, Wimar Witoelar, to report the breakdown in Australian-Indonesian relations from Jakarta's point of view.
In December that year, Helen Dalley won the Walkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Presenting.
In 2000, Sunday's coverage of East Timor continued, and in a first, Ross Coulthart and producer Nick Farrow were the first television crew to go on patrol with Australian troops in East Timor. They revealed how close our diggers came to disaster in their guerilla war against the pro-Indonesian militia.
And at home in 2000, on May 28, Sunday presented a special edition of the program hosted by Jim Waley from the Sydney Harbour Bridge as some 250,000 people walked across it to advance reconciliation as part of Corroboree 2000.
In June of 2000, John Lyons, a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and one of Australia's most respected investigative journalists, joined the program as a reporter. Since joining Sunday, Lyons has maintained his reputation with revelations including the ABC's flagrant breach of its charter in his investigation into the national broadcaster; a report on conflicts of interest among the big guns of AFL; and a devastating exposé of the Australian Tax Office and the so-called private binding rulings available to the lucky few.
Alongside these disclosures, in 2001 Sunday's 20th year the program continues to prove its investigative prowess. Recent reports include: John Lyons' recent revealing report into the NRMA, "Road Rage", and the struggle between chairman Nick Whitlam and board member Anne Keating; "Blood on the Rings", a two-part special by Lyons on the behind-the-scenes story of the Sydney Games. Sunday also aired Ross Coulthart's investigation into the secret plan to cripple the union movement with strike-breakers used in a dirty tricks campaign against the powerful federal meat union, and Helen Dalley's "Body Snatchers" revelations about the misuse of body parts following autopsy, resulting in the boss of Sydney's Glebe morgue, Professor John Hilton, immediately being stood down by the NSW Government.
In 2002, Sunday won a Gold Medal in the New York Festivals television awards for its ongoing coverage of events in East Timor, and a Silver Medal for its investigation of sexual abuse cover-up claims involving the Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth.
Sunday went on to win the 2002 Logie Award for Most Outstanding Public Affairs Program on Australian Television.
In late 2002, Jim Waley became presenter of Sydney's 6pm National Nine News. Long-time television journalist and interviewer Jana Wendt was appointed host of Sunday.
Sunday is committed to maintaining the highest standards of reporting, and to providing a powerful vehicle for investigative journalism. The Sunday website (ninemsn.com.au/sunday) has become an important adjunct to the program, and in particular, Ross Coulthart's Investigative Files is now one of the world's most acclaimed resources for investigative journalists and for members of the public seeking to penetrate official walls of silence.