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Background Briefing

ABC (Australia)

Background Briefing is investigative journalism at its finest, exploring the issues of the day and examining society in a lively on-the-road documentary style.

Background Briefing is investigative journalism at its finest, exploring the issues of the day and examining society in a lively on-the-road documentary style.
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Melbourne, VIC


Background Briefing is investigative journalism at its finest, exploring the issues of the day and examining society in a lively on-the-road documentary style.




Background Briefing ABC Radio National GPO Box 9994 Sydney 2001 (02) 8333 1385


This meth we're in

Jacki Whittaker thought one of the bedrooms in her Melbourne rental home smelt like "cat piss". But the real culprit was something far more sinister. The previous tenants had been cooking methamphetamine in the bathroom resulting in significant contamination. Jacki and her two adult children were told by a testing company they must leave immediately because it wasn’t safe to stay in the house. But no one really knows how many of us are actually at risk from meth residues because even...


Inside Australia's segregated hotel rooms

In this episode, we investigate allegations that staff at a popular Alice Springs hotel managed by Australia’s largest hotel group, Accor, have been segregating Aboriginal guests into inferior rooms. Undercover recordings and a whistleblower account reveal Aboriginal guests being charged $129 for a room with dirty sheets on the bed, and chicken bones and broken glass on the floor. Reporter Oliver Gordon meets the people falling through the cracks of a flawed complaints system.


Doxxed: Exposing the terrifying new frontier in online abuse

You've heard of online trolls, but what happens when they share your private data, like your contact details, with malicious intent? ABC Life’s Osman Faruqi found out the hard way. Last August, a far-right activist posted his phone number on social media. Osman was inundated with racist text messages and phone calls that continue to this day. In this episode, which is a co-production with ABC Life, Osman confronts the man responsible. And with the help of reporter Alex Mann, he investigates...


What if your day in court lasted just five minutes?

"Bush Court" is based on a simple premise. If you live in a remote Australia, you won't be forced to travel to the city to seek justice. Instead, justice will come to you. It's kind of like a judicial roadshow with a judge, prosecutor, and defence team touring 30 Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory each year. Unfortunately, despite having dozens of matters to resolve, they don't stay longer than a day or two. But does the fast food of justice deliver the best outcomes? Allan...


Murder on trial

In 2011, Boronika Hothnyang was accused of fatally stabbing her best friend, William Awu, directly in the heart. But when police arrived at the scene of the crime, Boronika's apartment in Dandenong south-east of Melbourne, she was fast asleep. Six men who had earlier been drinking at her place each gave detectives a very different version of events. In this episode, Sarah Dingle uncovers new evidence that raises serious questions about the strength of the case against Boronika.



Australia's national electricity grid has once again buckled under the pressure of a scorching hot summer. Consumers are furious not only about blackouts but rising power bills, too. For decades, politicians have promised solutions they failed to deliver. Reporter Mario Christodoulou investigates the toxic politics of energy.


Haircuts and hate

In this episode, Alex Mann investigates how Australia's alt-right movement is covertly influencing mainstream politics. He tracks operatives from a secretive fight club in Sydney to the moment one member was elected to the NSW executive of the Young Nationals. He also confronts the men involved and asks what is their vision for Australia, and how far are they willing to go to achieve it? This is a repeat of a program that aired in October 2018.


The death of Jeremy Hu

An alleyway brawl that left a Melbourne schoolboy dead, has raised questions about who’s responsible for keeping international students safe in Australia. Year 12 student Jeremy Hu, was repeatedly kicked and stomped on, and he later died of his injuries. None of his friends called an ambulance that night, and instead of taking him to the hospital, they checked him into a hotel. Reporter Jane Lee takes a hard look at the $30 billion international education industry and follows the murder...


Not fare

After a spate of recent suicides, taxi licence holders and their families are warning of the mounting human toll of deregulating their industry. Since the arrival of Uber and other ride-sharing apps, a once lucrative investment has plummeted in value. Who is to blame? Alex Mann investigates. This is a repeat of a program that aired in August 2018.


The drugs don't work

Thousands of patients may have been put at risk of exposure to tampered drugs by the Queensland Ambulance Service. One 74-year-old grandmother from Brisbane, Barbara Cook, believes paramedics unwittingly gave her a contaminated IV injection. She also believes that she contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection as a result. With secret recordings, leaked documents and whistle-blower testimony Hagar Cohen uncovers how the service botched an investigation into one of its biggest-ever...


The anatomy of a scam

Binary option scams are one of the biggest financial scams in the world right now and Australians are targets. Scammers use flashy websites to trick victims into thinking they're trading on financial markets. But it's all a charade aimed at encouraging people to hand over their money. Reporter Mario Christodoulou speaks to a former scammer and Australian victims who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a repeat of a program that aired in March 2018.


Could Tara Costigan's murder have been prevented?

Three years ago Marcus Rappel murdered 28-year-old Tara Costigan with an axe. The murder continues to confront our definition of domestic violence because despite a pattern of verbal aggressions, Rappel had never previously physically abused Costigan, the mother of his child. Canberra journalists Elizabeth Byrne and Susan McDonald investigate how health professionals, and law enforcement could have prevented the death, were they equipped with the right information at the right time. Family...


The bird and the businessman

It’s only 30 kilometres east of Brisbane but the economic gap between Cleveland and the Queensland capital is massive. Now an influential developer wants to revitalise the coastal town by building a $1.4 billion precinct on the foreshore. There’s just one problem: the region’s wetlands are protected under an international treaty known as the Ramsar convention. So who prevails in a battle between birdlife and business? Steve Cannane investigates.


The Implant Files (Part 2)

Depending on who you believe, getting medical devices approved for use in Australia is either too difficult or alarmingly easy. An investigation by Background Briefing in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has revealed the number of patient deaths and injuries linked to medical devices around the world. In part two of this series, reporter Alex Mann looks at how manufacturers use gaps in regulations to get their products to market as quickly as...


The Implant Files (Part 1)

At their best, they save lives. At their worst, they end them. There are more than 57,000 medical devices approved for use in Australia, but how safe are they? An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in partnership with Background Briefing reveals the extent of the damage caused to patients across the world. In part one of this special series, our reporter Mario Christodoulou explains why many medical devices known to be dangerous are still on the market.


Burning obsession

Why would someone intentionally start a bushfire? And if authorities knew why, could they stop them? Background Briefing gains rare access to convicted arsonists and at-risk teens to find out. Alex Mann investigates a new approach that fire authorities say could split those with an interest in fire from those with a burning obsession. This is a repeat of a program that aired in November 2017.


Slavery in the suburbs

It’s domestic violence with the added threat of deportation. In many South Asian cultures, the bride’s family often pays the groom. But sometimes the demands for dowry don’t stop with the wedding. Migrant women in Australia speak to Sarah Dingle for the first time about falling unwittingly into abusive relationships.


Breaking point (Part 2)

The federal government says it's been "quietly" removing children from Nauru "in accordance with our policies", but lawyers in Australia tell a different story. They've been fighting the Department of Home Affairs in the Federal Court to secure the evacuation of sick kids on the island. In part two of our special investigation, Olivia Rousset is given exclusive access to the solicitors working tirelessly on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, and their families.


Two years of Trump

He promised to ''drain the swamp'' in Washington, but has Donald Trump kept his word? The upcoming midterm elections are shaping up as a referendum on his presidency so far. Reporter James Bennett travelled to Virginia to investigate whether the businessman and reality TV star can maintain support from working class Americans, who abandoned the Democrats in 2016.


Breaking point (Part 1)

Has the federal government been ignoring a mental health crisis among child refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru? Background Briefing has obtained dozens of questionnaires that provide a snapshot of how kids on the island were faring between 2015 and 2017. A prominent psychiatrist says the results would have been given to senior immigration department bureaucrats yet requests for medical evacuations were repeatedly denied. Olivia Rousset investigates.