When Kirsti Melville’s documentary The Storm about the life-long impact of child sexual abuse was broadcast in 2014, it contributed to a public debate about sexual abuse. Hundreds of listeners commented on the ABC Radio National website and Facebook pages, expressing how deeply moved they were, praising both the subject of the story Erik and the journalist Kirsti for their bravery and honesty in making the documentary, and remarked that Erik’s personal story helped them understand the issue better. Kirsti Melville won three national awards for her program, which also documented her personal story as Erik’s former partner.

This critique analyses the award-winning documentary through a lens of personal and confessional audio journalism, drilling deep into lived experiences of the human condition. It highlights the power of this type of intimate journalism in creating compelling storytelling with a clear journalistic purpose and a call for action. It also highlights the ethical and emotional challenges of the journalist being a character of the story and the complexities of producing radio documentaries that document human trauma without exploiting the subject.