Monday April 7 & 14, 8pm on ABC1
“There’s no question Kerry was a tough man but I think often times people with a hard exterior are the softest inside.” Jodhi Meares, former daughter-in-law
“There is a tendency to see Kerry as a mono-dimensional raging tyrant – you know, the great Citizen Kane type of press baron, always pounding the desk and hurling abuse at minions – but he was a much more complex picture than that.” Malcolm Turnbull, former Packer lawyer
Through rarely seen footage and exclusive interviews, Australian Story tells the story of the late Kerry Packer. Over two weeks, the program paints a fascinating psychological portrait of a complex and controversial character.
“He was such a mixture of a man,” publisher Richard Walsh says in the program. “Some of the apparent brutality was a man fighting against his own demons.”
The show details Packer’s troubled childhood, plagued by loneliness and illness, and his difficult relationship with his father. These sowed the seeds of a nagging self-doubt that many found hard to reconcile with his combative public persona.
Australian Story documents key moments in Packer’s career as well as little-known but formative experiences, including a fatal car accident he was involved in when just 18. Three occupants of another car died instantly in the accident while Packer sustained serious injuries that kept him in hospital for eight weeks. Australian Story airs previously unpublished photos of the accident and talks for the first time with the sister of one of the dead boys and the first eyewitness to arrive on the scene.
The program also features footage of Packer in Timor in 1975, when he accompanied journalist Gerald Stone on a daring assignment. At one point Packer can be heard shouting off camera to Stone as the group come under fire. There is also footage of Packer ferrying refugees to safety in his inflatable boat.
Kerry Packer was a man of huge appetites and massive contradictions. He was sentimental, demanding, generous, bullying, theatrical and easily bored. His fierce temper was legendary yet most of those who knew him remain profoundly loyal and protective of his legacy.
“There’s no question Kerry was a tough man,” says former daughter-in-law Jodhi Meares, speaking publicly about the Packers for the first time. “But I think often times people with a hard exterior are the softest inside.”
The episodes look at Packer the family man and how the burden of dynasty was passed down the generations, from Sir Frank to Kerry and now to his son James.
“I think being born into a family like the Packers is absolutely a double-edged sword,” Meares says. “It’s certainly a complicated life.”
This is neither hatchet job nor hagiography. Australian Story has tried to navigate the many differing and strongly held opinions to deliver a nuanced and accurate picture of a profoundly complex man.
Interviewees include Malcolm Turnbull, Phillip Adams, Jodhi Meares, John Howard, Richard Walsh, Gerald Stone, Graham Richardson, Lynton Taylor, Ian Chappell, Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap and media historian Bridget Griffen-Foley.