Witness

Witness

Australia

The story of our times told by the people who were there.

Episodes

Fighting for Rural Women in South Africa  

In the 1990s Sizani Ngubane began the Rural Women's Movement to fight for the rights of one of the most marginal groups in South Africa. It's estimated that across the whole of Africa between 70 and 85 per cent of all food is grown by women, but less than 2 per cent of the land is owned or even controlled by women. Helping women with farming tips and business ideas and supporting women evicted from their land, Sizani's movement has grown over the years, and now has more than 50,000 members nationwide. "I'm a trouble-maker" is how she describes herself to Rebecca Kesby. Photo:Sizani Ngubane

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Recreating Down Syndrome in Mice  

In 2005 British scientist Elizabeth Fisher and a colleague successfully transplanted a human chromosome into a mouse for the first time. It transformed medical research into the genetic condition Down Syndrome that affects millions of people worldwide. Professor Fisher tells Louise Hidalgo about the challenges researchers faced and their thirteen-year struggle to create the first Down Syndrome mouse. Photo: Science Photo Library

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Wangari Maathai Wins Nobel Prize  

In 2004, Kenyan Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was an environmentalist and human rights activist who founded the Green Belt Movement in the 1970s. She focused on the planting of trees, conservation, and women's rights but repeatedly clashed with the government while trying to protect Kenya's forest and parks. She was arrested and beaten on several occasions. Witness speaks to her daughter, Wanjira Mathai. Photo: Kenya's Wangari Maathai (L) challenging hired security people working for developers in the Karura Forest, in the Kenyan Capital Nairobi (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Soviet Woman Bomber Pilot  

Yelena Malyutina was a Soviet female bomber pilot who fought in WW2 and was wounded in action in 1944. She was in one of the three Soviet women's flying regiments which fought on the front line. Before her death in 2014, she was interviewed by Lyuba Vinogradova, author of 'Defending the Motherland: Soviet Women' who fought Hitler's Aces. Dina Newman reports. Photo:Yelena Malyutina and Lyuba Vinogradova (credit: private archive)

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Digging up the Truth  

In the early 1980s Mercedes Doretti, a student of anthropology in Buenos Aires, began helping in the search for some of the victims of Argentina's military rule. She went on to form the prestigious Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which has carried out exhumations in more than 30 countries. Her work gathering evidence of some of the worst atrocities of our times, has taken her to Bosnia, South Africa, El Salvador and Mexico. Mercedes spoke to Mike Lanchin about the challenges of her harrowing task and about a life-time dedicated to the cause of truth and justice. Photo: Mercedes Doretti excavates a skull from what used to be the convent of the church at El Mozote, El Salvador, Oct. 1992. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)

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Bob Marley Survives Assassination Attempt  

In December 1976 unidentified gunmen tried to kill Bob Marley at his home in Kingston, Jamaica. The legendary reggae singer miraculously survived with just light injuries. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from Nancy Burke, one of Marley's friends and neighbours, who was trapped inside the house as the gunmen stormed in, guns blazing. Photo: Bob Marley, 1970s (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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Colombia's "Lost City"  

In 1976, Colombian archaeologists found the ruins of a huge indigenous settlement hidden in a remote mountain range near the Caribbean coast. Known to local tribes as Teyuna, the site is one of the biggest and oldest of its kind in Latin America. It later became known as the "Lost City". Simon Watts talks to lead archaeologist, Alvaro Soto-Holguin. PHOTO: The Lost City.

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India's City of the Future: Chandigarh  

After India's traumatic Partition Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru persuaded the maverick Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, to help reinvent a newly independent India by building a new capital city for the province of Punjab. Le Corbusier had revolutionised architecture and urban planning in the first half of the twentieth century. He was loved and hated in equal measure for his modernist approach, favouring flat roofs, glass walls and concrete. Nehru said this new city would be "symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past". Starting in 1950 the city of Chandigarh was built from scratch on farmland and is unlike any other city in India. The broad boulevards, pedestrianised plazas and green spaces were designed to encourage a feeling of order and of being close to nature. Claire Bowes spoke to Sumit Kaur, former Chief Architect and lifelong resident of Chandigarh, about the personal legacy left by Le Corbusier. Photo:The Chandigarh Legislative Assembly building. 1999 (AFP PHOTO / John Macdougall)

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Car Safety and Ralph Nader  

In the early 1960s there were virtually no laws covering car safety in the USA. Even seatbelts weren't compulsory. Then a campaigning young lawyer called Ralph Nader came along. He researched car accidents, and safety requirements in other countries. Then he published a book called 'Unsafe at Any Speed' - soon the law changed. Photo: Ralph Nader (R) examines a wrecked car in a crash test facility. Credit: Reuters.

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The Assassination of the Mirabal Sisters  

On November 25th 1960, three sisters and political activists in the Dominican Republic were beaten to death on the orders of the dictator, General Trujillo. Their deaths sparked outrage, and inspired the assassination of the leader himself six months later. (Photo; The three Mirabal Sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa)

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The 1948 French Miners' Strike  

How coal miners in post-war France went from being seen as heroes, to being seen as pariahs. Their left wing views were even perceived as a threat to democracy itself. Lisa Louis has been speaking to Norbert Gilmez who lost his job, and was blacklisted after taking part in the 1948 strike. Photo: French President Francois Hollande welcomes former striker Norbert Gilmez during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris. September 2016. Credit:Reuters.

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The Silk Letters Movement  

In 1916 the authorities in India uncovered what they believed was a plot to overthrow British rule in the subcontinent. It involved an Islamic teacher from the city of Deoband in Northern India. Messages written on sheets of silk had been intercepted by the British. Owen Bennett Jones presents reports from the colonial archives. Photo: The Darul Uloom Deoband, the seminary at the heart of the Silk Letter Movement. Credit: BBC.

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Saving Orphaned African Elephants  

Amid the slaughter of African elephants by poachers, a Kenyan-British woman became the first to successfully hand-rear orphaned baby African elephants . As infants, elephants are dependent on their mother's milk and are extremely vulnerable. Without their mothers, orphans struggle to survive. In 1987 Dame Daphne Sheldrick worked out a formula that can keep them alive. The charity she set up, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, has now raised over 200 orphaned elephants in Kenya.. Photo: Feeding time for orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust nursery in Nairobi, Kenya (AFP/Getty Images)

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Plane spotters arrested in Greece  

In November 2001 a group of British tourists was arrested and put on trial for spying in Greece. But they were not spies, they were aeroplane enthusiasts. Chloe Hadjimatheou hears from Paul Coppin, one of the men detained and later jailed. Photo: Paul Coppin with Greek police (AP News)

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The Musical Cabaret  

In November 1966 the hit musical opened on Broadway. Set in 1930s Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, the show chronicles the love story between a cabaret singer Sally Bowles and an American writer amid the city's decadent cafe society. The Broadway production was a huge hit, inspiring numerous subsequent productions as well as the Oscar winning 1972 film. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Cabaret's legendary director, Hal Prince. (Photo: Jill Haworth, playing Sally Bowles from Cabaret, New York, 1966. Credit: Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

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Smuggling Endangered Birds  

In November 1996 the renowned international ornithologist Tony Silva was convicted of smuggling endangered birds into the US. Some of the animals had been stuffed into cardboard containers for the journey from South America; others were hidden in false-bottom suitcases. Silva argued that he was trying to protect the birds from extinction. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta, who worked on the high-profile case. Photo: A pair of Hyacinth Macaws groom each other at the Sao Paulo Zoo, Brazil. They are one of the rarest species of birds in the world with only 130 pairs living in the wild in the Brazilian province of Bahia. (MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Madagascar Palace Fire  

In 1995 one of Madagascar's most historic sites was destroyed by fire. The palace complex, which contains the stone clad Queen's Palace, dominates the capital Antananarivo. It is the burial site for Madagascar's kings and queens and is considered sacred by many. The destruction of the site caused widespread grief and anger in Madagascar. We hear from Simon Peers, who witnessed the devastating fire. Photo: Workers restoring the Queen's Palace which was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 1995 (AFP/Getty Images)

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East Timor Massacre  

On 12 November 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on independence activists in East Timor's capital, Dili. Marco Silva has spoken to the British cameraman Max Stahl, who filmed the attack on unarmed demonstrators in the Santa Cruz graveyard. (Photo: East Timorese activists preparing for the demonstration. Copyright: Max Stahl)

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The Burning of The Satanic Verses  

The publication of Salman Rushdie's book in the autumn of 1988 outraged many Muslims who believed the book was blasphemous. There were protests against the book around the world, including Britain. Ishtiaq Ahmed took part in the demonstrations and the public burning of The Satanic Verses in the UK. He tells Farhana Haider that this provocative decision was not just about grievances over the Satanic Verses it was also to do with feelings about Muslims not being fully accepted in Britain. (Photo Satanic Verses being burnt in Bradford 24/01/1989 Credit: BBC)

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The James Bond Theme Tune  

In 1962 Monty Norman wrote the music for the first James Bond film, Dr No, including the theme tune which has featured in all the 24 Bond films since. As he tells Rebecca Kesby, the iconic tune was born out of a melody he'd originally composed for an Asian/Caribbean theatre production. But a few important changes made it the world's best known spy-thriller theme. (Photo:

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