By Tatiana Carter
Two writers, with a young baby in tow, have taken the story of a small outback town in Northern Australia to a global stage. Lost in Larrimah is a true-crime podcast written and produced by Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson, which follows the story of a quirky 12-person town after one of its residents disappears under suspicious circumstances.
Since its release, the series has skyrocketed through the iTunes charts, placing Graham and Stevenson amongst a handful of Australian women tackling the genre of true crime.
Graham credits the podcast’s success to persistence.
“True crime investigation is not a magic superpower,” Graham says.
“It’s the power of asking questions, and asking the questions no one else is thinking to ask and being persistent until you get the answer.”
Despite true crime being a male-dominated field in the past, Graham didn’t feel like she and Stevenson needed to prove themselves on the basis of gender alone.
“A lot of the challenges in this story were ethical and legal issues, timing, barriers to information and finding the right home for it,” she says.
“We never felt like we had to come up against resistance on the basis of gender.
“But because of who we are—including as women—and our backgrounds as writers, we probably told this story differently than other reporters might have.”
The reporters did face a major practical challenge. Stevenson had a five-month-old baby, who travelled with them to Larrimah as the team conducted research and interviews.
“Kylie will be the first to say that bringing a baby on a research trip isn’t easy, or convenient,” Graham says.
“But in some ways, it ended up being a really powerful connection between us and our sources.”
Graham, whose background is in creative writing and journalism, said many of her narrative skills – framing a story with hooks, chapters and thinking in terms of story arcs and development – helped shaped the podcast.
However, working with non-fiction required more care and caution.
“Our biggest challenge was in the terms of our tone,” Graham says.
“It’s something we grappled with in everything that we put down on the page.
“We wanted to come at this piece with carefulness and sensitivity, making sure we weren’t sensationalising certain aspects of this potential murder.
“But at the same time, there is a quirky sense of humour that is very much part of the fabric of Larrimah and we wanted to capture that in a sensitive way.”
Graham says as a journalist, she is often aware of her outsider-status in a story, but she never feels any ill-intent towards their work in Larrimah.
“Because we were outsiders as reporters, we became aware of the ways we were outsiders,” Graham says.
“We were aware of personal safety but it was never something we felt very deeply concerned about when we were there.”
That’s not to say that gender didn’t factor into the narrative.
“Gender in Larrimah is really interesting, there are only three women and none of them actually speak to each other. So from a narrative perspective, it’s something we thought about a lot,” she says.
Since releasing the podcast, Graham has enjoyed its impact and is looking forward to creating something similar in the future.
“I’m obsessed with audio,” she says.
“I listen to podcasts when I’m cooking, cleaning, or walking my dog. It’s such an intimate way to tell a story—I would definitely do it again.”
In the meantime, Graham continues to teach journalism at Bond University.
Lost in Larrimah received the Walkley Award for the Best Radio/Audio: Feature in 2018.