y Sky Without Birds single work   radio play  
Adaptation of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray 1950 single work drama
Issue Details: First known date: 1952... 1952 Sky Without Birds
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Set in the Post Office of the fictional town of Koorora a few years after the end of World War II. A desert settlement of some 67 people that exists mainly to support the building of the Trans-Australian Railway line (which crossed the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta), Koorora typifies the railway workers' joke that their trains 'stop at nothing.'

Heinrich (Heine) Schafer is the town's new railway mechanic. He is also a new Australian - a German Jew who spent much of the war imprisoned by the Nazis. His arrival in the town creates new tensions - inflaming both anti-German and anti-semetic hatred among some locals and a romantic passion with the wife of Rick O'Hara, the locomotive engineer who befriends him. Nereai reminds Heine of his dead wife. Rick, a free-thinking socialist and unionist, is already questioning his worth as a husband to the much younger Nereai, and believes in his wife's right to determining her own choices. Their decision is not, however, left to them alone. The tensions between townsfolk over the impacts of Heine's presence are a vehicle for questioning and transforming the status quo in families and marriages. The play describes some of the worst traits of racist and xenophobic Australian society of the time.


  • This radio adaptation, though essentially the same as the stage version, has been heavily adapted to fit within the Australian Broadcasting Commission's one hour radio drama timeslot. The adaptation involves both cuts to the original text and new dialogue.
  • The South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (18 August 1952, p.2) indicates that this was Oriel Gray's first radio play (ctd. 24/05/2016).

Affiliation Notes

  • Selected for the Australian Drama Archive for digitisation and publication in 2017

Production Details

  • First broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) on national relay from 2FC (Sydney) on 25 August 1952. The performers comprised members of the ABC's Radio Repertory company.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

      1952 .
      Extent: 31 leavesp.
      (Manuscript) assertion


      Held at: University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library
      Location: The Hanger Collection of Australian Playscripts
      Local Id: H0694
Last amended 9 Jan 2017 09:40:56
  • Nullarbor area (Western Australia), Southeast Western Australia, Western Australia,
  • 1948-1950
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