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.’
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.