Australian Screen

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Cyclone Tracy (1974)

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Cyclone Tracy

Clip description

This excerpt of an ABC radio interview consists of a first-hand account from a survivor of Cyclone Tracy – ABC radio news journalist Mike Hayes. In it, Hayes speaks off-the-cuff to fellow journalist Bruce Grundy about the myriad of emotions and some of the immediate concerns of the people of Darwin following the cyclone: hunger, shock, relief, homelessness and evacuation. He alludes to the as yet unknown death toll and says that 'the terror of the whole thing makes it … good just to be alive.’

Curator’s notes

This news excerpt is a restored version of an interview recorded and aired on ABC radio on Boxing Day, 1974. The quality of the original recording was compromised by the telephone line used (one of the few remaining lines into Darwin), and the fact that it was recorded at Grundy’s desk in Melbourne, rather than a studio. An echo is still audible. Most telecommunications infrastructure, including radio transmitters, were destroyed in the cyclone, so getting this interview was a scoop for the ABC, and was used around the world by broadcasters.

It is evident that the account is more of a conversation than an interview, and comes straight from the heart rather than being professionally scripted. This makes it much more emotionally affecting than a standard third-person news report. Mike Hayes’s voice sounds flat and tired after living through such a terrifying event and going for a long time without food. The task of cleaning up, let alone processing what they had just lived through, must have seemed insurmountable to people at the time. Hayes talks about it being 'good just to be alive’ and the recording captures the relief in his voice in a way that a written piece wouldn’t have captured so poignantly.

Hayes later became famous for his laconic humour as a radio broadcaster and columnist talking about the trials and tribulations of running a hobby farm (see main notes). In the clip his comment that 'just being able to physically eat is a new sensation’ could be interpreted as an attempt to incorporate some humour into his report, but other than that the tone is understandably sober.

In an interview just received, Bruce Grundy, Radio Australia current affairs reporter, is speaking to Mike Hayes, senior journalist with the ABC in Darwin:

Everyone’s walking around glassy-eyed. Ah, all I can say for us here at the ABC is that we managed to get a few of the women and children evacuated. Ah, that’s a huge relief, a lot of us are eating for the first time for several days. Just being able to physically eat is a new sensation. It’s impossible to describe what 40,000 people have gone through. Um, sure everyone’s lost homes. And, most of the people who’ve lost homes have lost everything. Um, but, ah, the actual death toll we expect to be a lot heavier. And the terror of the whole thing makes it, makes it good to just be alive.

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cycltaud1_bb.mp3

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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