Thursday, October 20, 2011

World News Radio Show - Latest edition

My show looks at particular world issues during the week.

Latest tracks by World News Channel

Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, has been described as Australia’s first real international TV star. The producer of the original series, the late John McCallum, devised the TV series upon returning from the USA after seeing the popular family show Flipper.

Securing finance and support, ninety-one 30 minute episodes were filmed between 1966 and 1968. Set in the fictitious Waratah National Park, the adventures of Skippy and her family of friends in Australia was filmed in colour, and syndicated throughout the United States and Canada, dubbed into spanish in Mexico, where it then travelled through most of the Español speaking world, successfully crossing the Iron Curtain to air in Czechoslovakia in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and word is the show still currently broadcasts in Iran.

While at least nine different kangaroos played the role of Skippy, many Australians remember the show from when it was re-broadcast after the introduction of colour television Down Under in the mid 70’s. Kids would rush home from school to watch as Skippy rescued lost hikers, solved bank heists and thwarted attempts to pillage whatever it was that the crooks sought in the Park. Sometimes, she even flew the park ranger’s helicopter.

Many of the adventures were set around the ranger’s headquarters, which doubled as the living quarters for Park Ranger Matt Hammond and his family, most notably Sonny, who was Skippy’s best mate.

Permission to film & build structures in a National Park was given personally by the then NSW Premier as a way of showcasing the new NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service government department he had recently established.

When filming ended, various entrepreneurs attempted to run the site as a tourist attraction, being the “Home of Skippy”. I recall as a child being bundled up in the car one weekend to visit the park, see the buildings I knew so well from watching the TV series, and to pat a marsupial identified as Skippy herself. I was very young, but I do remember it as a great day.  Now, 27 years into the TV industry, I actually feel privileged to have walked on the set of the series all that time ago.

But various commercial attempts to keep the park viable have failed. 
Today, Skippy’s home always appears to be under some type of threat. Located in what was once considered part of the outskirts of undeveloped urban Sydney, the area has now become prized northern beaches real estate, available for long term lease. To those who remember the series, many might be surprised to learn that the buildings used in the series are still standing today, some with the original interior fittings and furniture intact.

It’s abhorrent to consider that their days might ever be numbered. At the very least, considering the 'modern' history that these buildings represent, some type of protection should be bestowed on this icon of Australian art and culture. The entire site should be listed by the National or State Trust, or somehow be protected by the National Film and Sound Archive perhaps. A loss of Waratah Park would be yet another preventable loss of Australian cultural history. It is a sacred site in Australia’s Film and TV industry.

Dedicated lovers of what the series and the site represent do what they can to protect Waratah Park, establishing a foundation that has enjoyed victory over property developers in the past.  The Waratah Park Nature Reserve Foundation works to ensure the preservation of the park, and one day hopes the park might reopen to the public in some form. As one supporter said, “Knocking down Waratah Park would be like knocking down the Opera House”.

You can offer your support and learn more about the Foundation here:

Monday, July 11, 2011


There are defining personal moments in most people’s careers, not necessarily due to any notoriety, but perhaps because of the way the moments invade your personal psyche or perspective on life.

July the 14th 2011 marks 10 years since the young and vibrant Briton Peter Falconio was killed on a lonely stretch of road in the midst of Australia’s desolate outback. Accompanied by Joanne Lees, his girlfriend from Huddersfield, the young backpackers were undertaking the holiday of a lifetime, but while driving late that night across the vast Australian desert, a man signalled to them to pull over. Investigating a ‘problem’ with their campervan, Peter and the man examined the rear of the vehicle while Joanne revved the engine from the driver’s seat.

Then, the world changed forever.

Joanne heard a loud bang and the man appeared by the driver’s side door, brandishing a gun. Peter was nowhere to be seen. Joanne’s hands were tied and she was thrown into the back of the man’s truck. She escaped, hiding in the blackness of the night, while the man searched in vain to find her. Eventually he left, and Joanne remained concealed in the bushes until a larger transport truck drove past some hours later, when Joanne flagged it down.

The investigation and events that followed are well documented in books and online (just search for ‘Falconio’ if you have a few hours to spare), with theories, inconsistencies, conspiracies, and substantial imagination creating a criminal case that has now become Australian folklore.
Ultimately some years later, Bradley John Murdoch was found guilty of the murder of Peter Falconio (although his body has not yet been recovered) and of the assault and ‘depravation of liberty’ (kidnapping) of Joanne Lees.

Irrespective of any personal opinions on the case (and everyone has one), these events represent a true horror story for all those involved, from the victims, to their friends and families, and to the investigators and those who were engaged to follow the case.

From the period of Peter’s death until the final appeals of innocence by Murdoch were exhausted, almost 6 years had passed. During that time, I was commissioned by 2 broadcasting companies in the UK to cover and report on the events as they unfolded. It was a story that opened many questions as the investigation and court proceedings continued. It was a compelling case, and despite the absolute dreadful events that the case represented, the story was as gripping for me as a reporter, as it was tragic for those affected.

Many other reporters published books about the case, some sympathetic to the surviving victim, one particularly suspicious of the entire process. Joanne Lees also penned her own account worth reading. For me, posterity came in the form of the film Joanne Lees: Murder in the Outback, a joint venture between production companies in Australia and the UK, but a production that Joanne herself had no connection with. My actual reports that were broadcast in the UK during the trial are heard as incidental audio throughout the film.

It was via this film that a new personal perspective of the case dawned on me. One of the radio stations that broadcast my daily account of the court proceedings was a small local broadcaster located in Peter’s home town of Huddersfield. The film depicted the local population sometimes listening to these reports. It was a perspective on my reports that I had never imagined, that people attached to the victims back home were hearing the news unfolding half a world away directly from me.

You can hear some of my reporting as portrayed in the film here:

Missing this direct perspective is probably an indictment against my objectivity at the time. All reporters should consider both the mass market and the individual when reporting any story. I’ll won’t deny my imperfections, but am comforted by the positive comments from peers at the time regarding my coverage of the case.

The ‘Falconio murder’ will leave a lasting impression on so many people in both Australia and the UK. Even those merely observing will recall Australia’s Northern Territory as a place of mystery and sometimes danger because of this case. But for those directly affected, for Joanne and Peter’s family, while it is a chapter in their lives they wish had never occurred, and perhaps one they would rather forget, the events of 14th July 2001 will remain in their minds, and in the minds of others for as long as it remains in the annals of Australian criminal history.

I’ll certainly never forget.


Monday, May 30, 2011


Whenever I have the time to take a wander through Sydney's Westfield ‘Shoppingtown’ Burwood (rare these days), I wonder at the architectural change that took place on the site back in 2000. In a first for the shopping giant, Westfield entirely demolished the ‘original’ building in 1999, and opened a brand spanking-new centre a year later. The ‘new’ centre is completely unrecognisable from the old Westfield, but as I saunter through the Burwood Road entrance, I try to resurrect the ghosts of the olden days gone by, and lament somewhat over the passing of an old retail friend (be him bricks, mortar and asbestos) more than 10 years ago.

I was only 2 years old when the centre first opened in 1966, and trips to Westfield Burwood with my Mum were almost a weekly thing. The closest shopping centre to our home (and one of the first in Sydney), visiting Westfield Burwood really was like visiting a village, with its own culture, population, and in some ways, currency. The number 1 department store was Farmers, where staff turnover seemed to be non-existent. Irrespective of what year it was, my primary school uniform seemed to be fitted by the same shop assistant for the next 6 years.

My older sister (and eventually me too) would visit the orthodontist in the professional rooms upstairs, while Mum and I would do the rounds of the shops. A visit to the dough-nut shop was mandatory. That shop had an automatic mechanical dough-nut maker in the window, where loads of kids would watch dough-nuts being turned out for hours. If you were buying, you always had a choice of dough-nuts that had been sitting in the display, or of those that had just been turned out of the machine. Hot, warm and yummy.

If you turned around, you’d be facing the back of ‘centre-stage’ that contained another wonder of the 1960’s Westfield design. Gracing the circular stage was an ornate ‘air-fountain’, made-up of multiple columns that would shoot controlled compressed air into the sky, upon which perfectly balanced metallic coloured balls would float magically in the air…another amazing piece of machinery that would keep us in awe during this trip to the village.

The ‘old’ Westfield was not a great exploiter of retail space. In the middle of the centre was a substantial open area, kind of like a concrete version of the village green. Here the local primary schools could herald their work from an art competition, or the occasional display of Aboriginal culture was on show. My first ever concert was an Aboriginal Corroboree display on centre-stage. I remember the school excursion to Westfield being particularly exciting because ‘I’ve been there with my mum!’ Complete with chaperone nuns dressed head-to-toe in their habits… I recall thinking on that day that the nuns’ attire was OK for the classroom but quite impractical for everyday wear.

Escalators would lead from the village green up to the ‘special shops’ that included jewellers, a home hi-fi shop, a place that sold cushions and sheets (always a boring stop for me on the regular shopping tour), but best of all on that balcony was the Darrell Lea chocolate shop. I could hardly believe that such a place existed! AND the ladies that worked there always wore really happy clothes: big bow ties and colourful tops. It was amazing. RockLea Road was (and still remains) my favourite. From there, a run down the ramp and around to the right revealed whatever holiday activities the centre was holding. Sometimes painting, sometimes mini-electric car rides! Westfield Burwood really was a village in those days, a surprise at every turn, all indoors, never closed due to rain.

As I got older, I still loved to visit. I saw colour television for the first time in a Westfield Burwood shop window. Even when at boarding school for my secondary education, a trip to Westfield Burwood always reminded me that yes, I was home for the holidays. There was the doughnut-shop with the mechanical maker, there were the coloured balls floating on their magic carpet above centre stage, and in the later years, a kebab shop (a mere hole in the wall) in the ‘newer’ back section was turning out Middle East favourites worth making the car trip for.

Today, 11 years after the latest renovation, Westfield Burwood is a prime retail space, with plenty to be proud of. It’s gleaming, cosmopolitan and world class. A newer generation, who only know the post-2000 Westfield, will now have their memories, fond I hope, of shopping with Mum or hanging with friends in the food hall after school. While I am one who embraces change, I do miss the old Westfield Burwood: the old record stores, the open spaces, the old Hoyts Cinema on the ground floor (Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep especially…saw it twice!),  but hopefully, it will be many years before the renovators move in to finally renovate my own old memories of the retail village.

(Top Pic: Westfield Burwood prior to 2000 renovation)
(Lower Pic: Redex Bash centre stage presentation 1986)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Remember the two guys who kayaked 3318 kilometres unassisted across the Tasman Sea from Australia all the way to New Zealand? For years they have been promising their next big adventure, and now they've finally announced their plans. James Castrission and Justin Jones will next attempt to walk from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again….unassisted. 

Walking alone and carrying their own provisions (weighing about 200kgs each), these two Australians will attempt this ominous world-first from November 2011. Not only will this be the first ever unsupported return journey, they will also be the youngest team to reach the Pole. Previously, Jon Muir, Peter Hillary and Eric Phillips attempted the return journey in 1998. They reached the South Pole after 84 days on the ice and didn’t complete the return. Kiwi adventurers Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald also attempted the return journey in 2007. Their attempt was also unsuccessful.

The entire route will traverse 2200km return, being 1100km from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. So tough is this expedition, history records just 58 people having man-hauled to the South Pole, compared with the 4800 who have stood on the summit of Mt Everest.

These two guys have incredible tenacity and a love of adventure.  Their crossing of the Tasman is testament to that. They are meticulous planners and fully understand the concept of ‘risk minimisation’ when it comes to adventuring.  They are also 2 of the most level headed blokes you could hope to meet.

Adventure is their business. Follow their latest here:

Good luck guys.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Even as a teenager, a highlight for me when visiting Sydney Botanic Gardens was seeing the thousands of bats that roost high in the trees. As night falls, the bats (grey-headed flying foxes) would fly back and forth, their impressive wingspan silhouetted against the dusk. Often, closer to the ground, conflict in the bushes could be heard as possums and bats vie for the optimum position on a tree branch. During concerts in the adjacent Domain, I remember lying on the picnic blanket, and when looking to the sky as night descended, the bats would fly across my field of view, often accompanied by the strains of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Now, it's all about to change. The Royal Botanic Gardens Trust needs to put an end to the 2 decades of damage these bats have done to the flora that is their home. I'm disappointed yes, given today as I walk around the gardens with my 4 year old son, we visit the bats, trying to count them as they hang upside down from the trees (apparently there are around 22,000 bats in-situ today) and wondering at the screeching that emanates from the colony.

Moving them will be no easy task. A golf buggy fitted with a mighty sound system will blast the bats with industrial noise (at 10-minute intervals from about noon to 4pm each day for 2 weeks in May), powerful enough to make anyone move house. Hopefully this will cause the bats to move on, preferably beyond Hyde Park, with little distress and without injury. If the bats return, another round of cacophony will follow the next year. And failing that, again the year after. 

The prospect is not without controversy. A group called Bat Advocacy has challenged the intended eviction, but to no avail. The federal court ruled against them. My son is distressed too, a mini tantrum followed my explanation of why the bats must go. 

The Sydney Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place. A beautiful space on our amazing harbour, loved by dendrologists and chiropterologists alike. A walk through the gardens at dusk reveals an amazing collection wildlife, especially unique in the middle of a highrise city. I know the trees must be saved...but I'm saddened by the pending departure. 

Part of me hopes that a few of the evictees make their way back sometime, for a little while anyway. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Not as prestigious as the Oscars, and it’s definitely not the Tonys, but for a committed group of Sydney theatre goers, their yearly awards recognising the best in live drama is as noteworthy as any other award (full list of nominees and winners below). Calling themselves the Glugs (named after the characters in a CJ Dennis poem), the group of about 80 or so meet every month, and while enjoying good food and wine, discuss the virtues of the latest show, and generally hear from a luminary of the industry.

And so it is that this year the members praised the work of those who entertained us in 2010, with many of the winners taking the time to attend. This is not an awards project determined by committee, but rather by those who love the art and support it by attending shows as often as one each week…sometimes more. There’s neither pomp nor circumstance at the awards function. No 60 piece orchestra in the pit, no elaborate staging, no burlesque opening number. Rather, seventy guests squeeze into a small conference room on Sydney’s Castlereagh St, with ceiling fans for climate control, and plastic chairs to ease weary legs. Winners bustle their way forward through ‘standing room only’ to accept their award at the front of the room. Photos are taken by mini-digital cameras, or on an iPhone. This is recognition of the craft at its most pure, and for that reason, the awards really do represent recognition by those best positioned to present them: The Audience.

Such is the night, surprises are not few and far between. Topped with fedora, blue jeans and t-shirt, The Jersey Boys’ Bobby Fox (Frankie Valli) accepted his award (Best Actor in a musical), and insisted on breaking into iOTA's Come Back for Me, inspired after hearing it performed only just the night before. Without backing, without a sound system and lit only by typical fluorescent lights, he held the room and paced the number accompanied by only the clicking of his fingers. Rapturous applause followed.

So too was recognition given to Amanda Bishop. This incredible performer, children’s TV star and political satirist was delighted to be named Best Actress in a Musical or Cabaret (the Glugs refrain from naming female performers as ‘actors’), especially when pitted against the other nominees. We await to see what more this versatile performer can deliver over the coming years.

After the presentation, guests then retired downstairs, and sans-media, consumed freshly cut sandwiches, a cheese and fruit platter along with a cash bar. Performers mixed with their judges and peers and enjoyed an early night, wrapping around 9.30pm.

There are plenty of more noteworthy awards presentations to experience in the entertainment industry, but few reflect a performer’s connection with the audience as well as these. Without prejudice or pretence, without lobbyists or publicists, the Glugs’ Awards for Excellence in the Performing Arts represent what theatre enthusiasts really think and what they really feel. And it’s a feeling of which all nominees and winners should be proud.

Results (winner in bold): 

Norman Kessell Memorial Award for best performance by an Actress/Actor:

  • Zoe Carides - Murderes (Ensemble)
  • Essie Davis - Tot Mom (STC)
  • Judi Farr - August: Osage County - Steppenwolf Theatre Company in association STC   
  • Julie Forsyth - Book of Everything (Belvoir)
  • Susie Porter - That Face (Belvoir)
  • Wayne Blair - True West  (STC)
  • Richard Roxborough - Uncle Vanya (STC)
  • Daniel Mitchell - Rain Man (Ensemble)
  • Hugo Weaving - Uncle Vanya (STC)
Jeffry Joynton-Smith Memorial Award for Best Supporting Actress/Actor:
  • Pamela Jikiemi  - The God Committee (Ensemble)
  • Alinta Chidzer - West Side Story
  • Lenore Smith - The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman
  • Mitchell Butel  -  The Grenade (STC) 
  • Peter Carroll - Book of Everything (Belvoir)
  • Danny Mitchell (Brooklyn Boy)
  • Edwin Hodgman (Codgers)
  • Derek Lynch - Albert Namajerah (Belvoir)
Colleen Clifford Memorial Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Cabaret -
  • Amanda Bishop - The Wharf Revue
  • Alinta Chidzer - West Side Story
  • Marika Aubrey - Red Head
  • Bobby Fox - Jersey Boys
  • Drew Forsythe - The Wharf Revue
  • Josh Piterman -   West Side Story
Most Outstanding Production:
  • Uncle Vanya - STC
  • Jersey Boys - Theatre Royal
  • Book of Everything - Belvoir
  • Rain Man - Ensemble
Hayes Gordon Memorial Award for Important Contribution to Theatre (Sponsored by Carolyn and Peter Lowry):
  • Wayne Harrison
Award for Young People's Theatre (sponsored by Rose Peterson):
  • Fox - A Monkey Baa production in association with Siren Theatre Co.
Taffy Davies Memorial Award for best new Australian Production (Sponsored by Beverley Davies):
  • Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis & Julian Meyrick
 The Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Life Achievement Award:
  • Jacqueline Kott
 Chief Glug's Award (Lee Young) for Excellence Behind the Scenes:
  • Graham Maclean  (Designer)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Queensland Floods. RTÉ Radio 1 World Report

Presented by Tim Stackpool, this item was originally broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 World Report in Ireland, January 9, 2011

To Listen:
Copyright RTÉ 2011


With 200,000 people affected; 1000’s of homes inundated; more than 20 people killed this season; enormous losses to Australia’s agriculture and mining industry; and a looming ecological disaster from which the coral on Australia’s prized Great Barrier Reef might struggle to recover, this country in the the midst of floods described as perhaps the worst ever.

For the more than 70,000 residents of the city of Rockhampton, this past week has made for very long days. And frustratingly, it’s an inundation that couldn’t be halted, despite warnings giving days of notice. No amount of levee building, sandbagging or water course diversions could stem this deluge flooding an area the size of France and Germany combined. It’s nothing short of disaster on a massive scale.

A man in his 60’s at the evacution shelter, cried as he described the anticipation of returning to his home. “I don’t know what it’s like”, he said. “actually I do know”, he corrected, “but I don’t want to”.  90-year-old resident Ellen Boswood decided to stay with her home.  “I won't be moved”, she said "I'm not worried, I've been there, done that," remarked the positive veteran of the 1954 floods. Some others though are struggling with the isolation. Emergency workers assist with evacuation, but don’t have the resources to deliver supplies to individuals who choose to stay put. For them, supplies are running out and some residents have to rely on family to bring them food by boat. "It'd just be nice if someone came out and said: Are you okay?" shouted 44 year old Ian Wood, as he stood in his flooded doorway.

As relief efforts continue, emergency personnel need to be wary of dangers such as raw effluent in the water, electrical hazards and that most amazing of phenomena, crocodiles lurking just beneath the flood waters in the streets. From the balcony of one home, stranded folk see venomous snakes twisting their way through the muddy brown water, seeking refuge in trees or in the corners of submerged homes, slipping between the gaps in dislodged roof tiles. The people spot what might be a crocodile, or perhaps it’s just debris floating by…it’s hard to tell either way. But the emergency crew across the road take no chances and hop out of the water with haste.

This weekend, as waters at Rockhampton fall from their peak, residents will be faced with a massive clean-up, costing billions. Returning to their homes, they’ll be met with loved possessions totally destroyed, or at best completely engulfed in sticky black mud, perhaps ruined forever. Some houses will be demolished, roads and bridges will need repair, and last of all, the re-opening of the airport, which is expected to remain closed for weeks.

And downstream the drama continues. Smaller towns, some boasting no more than 2000 residents are bracing for the water to reach them, forecast to peak even higher than in Rockhampton. They find it hard to describe what’s worse: Knowing that it’s coming; or being helpless to do anything about it. For some, they’re only just recovering from a similar flood less than a year ago. The furniture’s been replaced, the rebuilding complete, and now this.  But these flood affected Australians are resilient. Most love where they live, and choose to stay even with such threats. Strangers flock to assist with sandbagging a single building, even when their own home has inevitably succumbed to the rising tide. A single solitary victory against the elements is enough to raise the spirits, enough to raise a smile and a laugh.

It’s the monsoon season in northern Australia. And while afternoon storms contribute little to the height of the water, the longevity of the flood is extended. But the season still has a long way to go, and everyone knows that another severe weather system could develop, and submit this part of the world to further frustration and heartbreak.

For World Report, this is Tim Stackpool in Sydney.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Your Own Island...for $99

There are plenty of 'best kept secrets' in the world, and feel free to share your favourites below, but if holidaying in the Caribbean seems too expensive, take a look at what George Jackson has to offer.

Located off the coast of Honduras, this family owned 'cay', is about 18 miles off the coast, with the nearest mainland town being La Ceiba. The island is ringed entirely by sandy beaches and a coral reef. It has but one house, and that's where you stay.

The entire island can be rented for around $US100 per night for 6 people. For more adults, just add $US10 per head. 
The facilities are spartan but effective. There are two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. Transportation is entirely by boat. Power is provided 100% by solar generators, but your stay won't use much as there is no TV, no air-con,  hi-fi or wi-fi. Sounds like heaven? Quite unbelievable.

If you need supplies, George is happy to receive one call per day via shortwave radio, and will deliver your requests from his home on another nearby cay. The larger island of Utila is a 20 minute boat ride away for anyone needing a touch of 'civilisation' during your castaway stay. To book, give George a call on +504-2425-2005 or send an email to

Aussies can fly to Honduras via the USA.
For more info:
And Lauren Viera of the Chicago Tribune has an excellent syndicated piece on the cay here: