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Hamish Macdonald joins Foreign Correspondent

Hamish Macdonald has joined Foreign Correspondent for its 2017 season.

The former TEN presenter, who recently worked for ABC (US), has been doing ABC Radio of late.

His first story, “It Doesn’t Happen to People Like Me” produced by Sashka Koloff, is an expose of the Amazon’s booming ayahuasca plant industry.

Thousands of travellers, many of them young Australians, are flocking to the Amazon to chase the highs of the ayahuasca plant. Tragically, some never return. Hamish Macdonald investigates.

Matthew Dawson-Clarke made no secret of it. The young Kiwi had told his mum and dad that he was off to Peru to try ayahuasca, a traditional hallucinogen that’s made the adventure travellers’ bucket list.

Then, out of the blue, came the phone call. It was Father’s Day, but it wasn’t Matthew ringing home. It was a young woman he had met in Peru. She was ringing to offer her condolences.

“My world stopped that day.” – Matthew’s mother Lyndie
At that moment Matthew’s parents were told that their 24-year-old son had died three days earlier at an ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian jungle, in highly questionable circumstances.

“This is my world, you know? It doesn’t happen to people like me, and it doesn’t happen to my son.” – Lyndie
Matthew was among the tens of thousands of tourists who visit the Amazon every year to try ayahuasca, which is legal in Peru. Many do have a positive experience and some rave about its supposed healing and spiritual properties. But in the 18 months since Matthew’s death, another five people have died there.

Hamish Macdonald joins Foreign Correspondent for its 2017 season with an expose of the Amazon’s booming ayahuasca industry, told through the prism of Matthew Dawson-Clarke’s death. He reveals an industry that rakes in money for its mostly western operators, but falls badly short in regulation or accountability.

Macdonald and his team track down the shaman who prepared the brew of “cleansing” tobacco tea that Matt consumed before he died…

“I think that it was his destiny.” – the shaman
… the tour operator who failed to notify Matt’s parents…

“People die sometimes. Shit happens. It’s always gonna happen.” – tour operator
…and the fellow tourist who tried to save him when no one else would, and lives with guilt for having failed.

“He’s just a 24-year-old kid for God’s sake. He went there to better himself, to become a better person, a better human being, and now he’s dead. I think about Matt every day. If I could have done just a little bit more…” – “Richard”, from Texas

9.30pm on Tuesday March 14 on ABC.

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