2014 Award Winners

Best Feature

Sponsored by Telstra


End of the line, Danny Lannen, Geelong Advertiser

Judges’ comments: Judges’ comments: Judges were looking for evidence of reporters who provided the background to their stories and then allowed their sources to help tell the story. Danny Lannen’s story – The end of the line – about the closure of the Geelong Alcoa refinery – was a perfect example of this.

Highly Commended: A tree falls, Fiona Breen, ABC Landline

Judges’ comments:  Fiona Breen’s 7-minute story – A Tree falls – investigated the impact of Tasmania’s timber industry. This story contained great vision and some excellent interviews with industry participants.


Tragic descent into a deadly darkness, Mary Alexander, Warrnambool Standard

Judges’ comments:  Mary Alexander’s story focussed on Derrinallum resident Glenn Sanders, who took his own life in a series of explosions after a stand-off with police on his property in April this year. This story produced a timely and clever background to Glenn Sanders, whereby Mary included many quotes from local residents. What topped the story for Mary was her journalese with a clever use of the tight sentence

Best Feature Series or Campaign

Sponsored by Currie Communications


It’s up to us, Kim Quinlan, Ballarat Courier

Judges’ comments: A strong entry focussing on domestic violence deserving of recognition. Kim’s excellent feature was well-presented by the paper.

Highly Commended: 

The Northern hospital campaign, Mandy Squires, Geelong Advertiser

Judges’ comments: This concerted campaign highlighted the need for better health services in Geelong’s disadvantaged northern suburbs. The Advertiser’s coverage highlighted the extraordinary health challenges and the huge discrepancies in government funding between the marginal seat of Corangamite, which takes in the city’s south and the safe Labor electorate of Corio in the north. The campaign culminated in the Napthine Government announcing $28 million for a health centre in an area which has one of the highest chronic disease rates in Australia.


Annie North, Nicole Ferrie, Bendigo Advertiser

Judges’ comments: “The Annie North campaign” In a remarkably effective campaign, the Advertiser managed to force a government turnaround on funding for the much-needed Annie North women’s refuge within the space of eighteen days. The money was conspicuously absent in the May Budget but the paper’s dogged pursuit of the issue, with news and feature articles highlighting the domestic violence problem, forced a back-flip by Premier Denis Napthine.

Best Regional News Story

Sponsored by TAC


Record readings, Louis Nelson, Latrobe Valley Express

Judge’s comments: A strong local report, capturing the real-time realisation of the enormity of the health implications facing the Latrobe community during the Hazelwood coal mine fire. The to-the-point report captured the seriousness of the situation without over-dramatization, providing readers with important information which up to that point had been missing from all official communications.

Highly Commended: 

Police alarm at NLIS breakdown, Emma field, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: Some lateral thinking, sleuthing and police contacts gave the National Livestock Identification System issue a new dimension by looking at the ramifications for policing stock theft. The strong news report was complemented by support stories explaining both technological and institutional failures, plus the impact on theft victims.


Stop this deadly cycle, Anthea Cannon, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A succinct data-backed news report on the highly emotional subject of road cycle accidents. The judges described this as a good example of how to extend the treatment of an issue of considerable community interest by backing up the news report with a supporting news feature. The news report keeps a tight focus on the local context, amplifying the gravity of the issues that lie behind the statistics and making the story an inescapable challenge for the newspaper’s readership.

Best Rural News Story

Sponsored by the Victoria Farmers Federation


Simple commodity with complex trail, Rex Martinich, Hamilton spectator

Judges’ comments: It was a simple question that led reporter Rex Martinich on a long and winding corporate road … if local readers wanted to support local dairy farmers, what brand of milk should the buy? Unravelling the web of ownership with clear, concise writing and the use of strong graphics, Rex was able to give his readers a better understanding of who owned what, and the pros and cons of buying $1 a litre milk. Educational and informative while showing a strong grasp of the intricacies of the business world.

Highly commended:

Basketcase, James Wagstaff, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: Just how much do farmers receive for the produce sold in supermarkets? The answer is – very, very little. James Wagstaff’s exhaustive investigation involved working back from the cash register price of a range of products all the way to the farmgate. His report was disturbing, revealing the dismal news that farmers received as little as 27c/kg for product that commanded $14 a kilogram on supermarket shelves. It was a clever, innovative way to highlight a major community concern.


Bushfire bureaucracy, Sue Neales, Rachel Blaxendale, Aaron Francis, The Australian

Judges’ comments: At no small personal risk to themselves, Sue Neales, Rachel Blaxendale and Aaron Francis travelled behind police lines to reveal that the police decision to place strict road blocks around a bushfire zone on Melbourne’s northern fringes during February’s fires had inadvertently created a second horror – starving livestock and a potential public health risk because dead animals could not be buried. Their interview with a desperate farmer in a yard full of dead livestock was gripping reading. After their story appeared, Premier Denis Napthine personally intervened and hay and water trucks and excavators were allowed through police lines to begin the recovery.

Best Agriculture Story

Sponsored by Dairy Australia


Where the genes wear the pants, Fiona Myers, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: This article featured Andrew Bouffler’s unconventional wool enterprise where sheep are shorn twice a year and greater emphasis is put on genetic selection for muscle and fat cover to lift ewe fertility without sacrificing wool cut.

Highly Commended: 

Poppy monopoly, Fiona Breen, ABC Landline

Judges’ comments: This entry on the potential loss of Tasmania’s monopoly on the production of opium poppies covered issues such as managing climate risk, security, the ban on genetically modified crops in Tasmania and import replacement. It involved interviews with a range of people, including farmers on both sides of Bass Strait, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and the Premier of Victoria.


Beef you can truly bank on, James Wagstaff, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: This article featured former National Australia Bank agribusiness manager Mike Carroll and his beef property in Western Victoria. It covered the reasoning behind the farm purchase and development, the business goals and details of the farm management program. The article was not only highly informative but also showed someone who was a leader in agribusiness and is now also striving to be a top performer in beef production.

Best Business Story

Sponsored by Coretext


Taking control of grain price risk, Carlene Dowie, The Australian Dairyfarmer

Judges’ comments: This is an ideal example of what farmers want to read. The writer uses an on-farm story, and combines that with technical information drawn from the opinions of experts, to clarify the risks involved for dairy farmers in the fluctuations of feed grain prices, and how best to cope with those risks.

Highly Commended: 

Gem of a network, Peter Hemphill, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: The main article details the complicated network of companies controlled by failed Murray Bridge grain business Sapphire (SA) Pty Ltd, Brenton Strauss. In a background comment piece, Peter Hemphill argues there have been too many failed grain traders in recent years. The story is supported with great graphics.


The extraordinary battle for Warrnambool cheese and butter, Sue Neales, The Australian

Judges’ comments: Sue Neales provided on-the-spot coverage as the three-way takeover battle for ownership of the small western Victorian milk and cheese processor, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, raged last year. The stories sparkle, bringing to life the people involved. The stories also clearly define the key issues, and explain lucidly why WCB proved to be such an extraordinary prize.

Best Sports Story

Sponsored by Rural Finance


Ballarat project, Melanie Whelan, Ballarat Courier

Judges’ comments: Excellent explanatory piece about a group of middle distance and distance athletes using Ballarat’s extensive bush tracks for training over the summer months. They are international competitors yet cherish the Ballarat bush tracks experience.

Highly Commended: 

Swans do it for Casey, Danny Lannen, Geelong Advertiser

Judges’ comments: Lannen’s article reveals how South Barwon Football Club successfully rode a tide of emotions to claim the 2013 Geelong Football League flag, inspired by quadriplegic co-coach Casey Tutungi. Not overly mawkish or emotional, but an exceptionally moving story about how the Swans — South Barwon Footy Club — responded to Casey’s presence at the ground and what winning meant, not just to them, but more particularly winning it for him.


Dead-eye Doran knocks on 3000 door, Roslyn Lanigan, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: A terrific story on 49-year-old Tony Doran, a veteran of more than 570 games of senior football, preparing for the game where he could have nailed his 3000th career goal. He eventually got to the 3000 milestone later in June. Roslyn’s research into Tony’s playing record stretching right back to the 1980 season is impeccable, including games played and goals kicked throughout that period. The accompanying statistics tables on Doran’s career were beautifully laid out.

Best Production

Sponsored by Devondale Murray Goulburn


Weekly Times’ Farm magazine, special project, Natalee Ward, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments:  “Images of Rural Australia” was produced in-house. Many of photographer Zoe Phillips’ pictures were unpublished gems found hiding among Zoe’s files of more than 2000 jobs over the past decade. Each job had to be looked at, with every photo from the hundreds available scrutinised. Thousands of images were cut down until Natalee selected about 250 pictures that depicted rural Australia at its best.

Best News Photography

Sponsored by Dairy News Australia


Fire aftermath, Jeanette Severs, Stock and Land

Highly Commended: 

Dust to mud, Rosemary Harris, Buloke Times

Judges’ comments:  The lack of black and detail in this image simply enhance the drama of the moment as the storm vents its fury on those vainly seeking shelter under the umbrellas.


Maiden Gully in close fire call, Brendan McCarthy, Bendigo Advertiser

Judges’ comments:  ‘Maiden Gully in close fire call’.  Even though taken after the initial drama of the bushfire, this image is an excellent example of the press photographer’s skill illustrating a story. Almost perfectly framed this image would have been a much lesser image had the photographer zoomed in on the firefighters alone.

Best General Interest Photography

Sponsored by V/Line


Bendigo Cakes rise to the top, Brendan McCarthy, Bendigo Advertiser

Highly Commended: 

Club honours stalwart, Brendan McCarthy, Bendigo Advertiser

Judges’ comments: A lovely image of a tender moment beautifully lit with that wonderful soft light emanating from the window.


I can jump puddles, Josh Nash, Portland Observer

Judges’ comments: A timeless, perfectly executed image that beautifully shows the simple joys of childhood. The timing of the exposure, with the jet of water and the flying hair, and the lovely soft focus background all makes for a stunning image.

Judges’ Special Award

Sponsored by BASF


Carving it up: who owns Australia’s production?, ABC Rural

Judges’ comments: This innovative, multi-platform body of work cut through much of the often ill-informed debate about foreign investment in Australian agriculture with some fascinating insight into just who owns what. This series provided in-depth coverage of the sugar, wine, beef, horticulture, dairy and grain industries and our own role in investing overseas in agricultural production. It provided interesting statistics on ownership, backed up by interviews with farmers, investors and industry representatives in the field. With photographs, audio, graphics and fact boxes, it is a great example of how using different platform technology in the “new” media can really tell a compelling story.

Photographer of the year

Sponsored by RACV


Jim Aldersey, Bendigo Advertiser

Highly Commended: 

Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser

Judges’ comments:  A strong collection of images showing the diversity needed to work in the press game.


Dylan Robinson, The Border Mail

Judges’ comments: Dylan’s portfolio showed excellent variety, technique and creativity. Use of unusual angles and clever juxtaposition enables Dylan to turn a good image into a great image. His use of technique can illustrate the drama of the moment. His use of natural light also enhances some beautiful portraits.

Ray Frawley Young Journalist of the Year


Jeremy Story Carter, ABC

Judges’ comments: Jeremy’s portfolio of stories informed and entertained; they treated their subjects with respect; and transported the listener into these people’s lives without trying to be over-earnest or sensational.

They examined the aftermath of bushfire, the story of a family leaving the farm after three generations and a light-hearted interview with a farmer whose off-farm job is that of an ageing punk rocker.

Highly commended: 

Jennifer Henderson, ABC Radio

Judges’ comments: Jennifer’s reports focussed on the stories of soldiers who have returned to regional communities and who have turned to social media to network and support each other. The journalist used this same medium to contact the veterans — of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts — and to gain their trust in allowing her to eventually tell their stories in a mature and constructive manner. This was an instructive example of journalism providing a community service, while also raising serious questions about the military hierarchy’s attitude towards veterans who suffer health issues arising from war zone experiences.


Tessa Haywood, Hamilton Spectator

Judges’ comments: Tessa Haywood took what could otherwise be routine country town stories and crafted from them interesting and informative reads. Two local institutions — one brand new and one celebrating its centenary — that would normally just blend into the background were given centre stage. That shows a keen insight into what matters in a local community — its people. The third story about a local motor cyclist’s experience in a Chinese hospital after breaking his hip was a truly captivating read and demonstrated genuine feature-writing talent.

Journalist of the Year

Sponsored by RACV


Danny Lannen, Geelong Advertiser

Judges’ comments: The quadriplegic footballer Casey Tutungi; the forgotten soldier, Norm Lane, who gave his name to a local suburb but whose life would otherwise have been forgotten; and the distressing story of Leo Seemanpillai, the Tamil refugee who burned himself to death in public. All three stories show a gifted journalist with the skill and sensitivity to share the stories of people whose stories need to be heard because of what they tell us about our community, and history and our future.

Highly commended: 

Sue Neales, The Australian

Judges’ comments: Sue’s entry comprises a suite of stories that demonstrate initiative, insight and extraordinary versatility in story concept. The report on the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter bidding war is a particularly stand-out article — an excellent example of how intricately researched business reporting can then be brought to life and made accessible to anyone; deftly melding finance and trading data with human interest.


Emma Field, The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: Emma Field’s three entries showcase the hard hitting (though not very ‘sexy’) stories she put together using research and persistence. They caught the attention of a number of state and national organisations which have since promised change. If “impact” determines the value of a portfolio, Emma’s rates highly.

Media Outlet of the Year

Sponsored by the CFA


Ballarat Courier

Judges’ comments: The Courier’s commitment to the ‘It’s up to us’ campaign to fight domestic violence is a fine example of a regional paper’s role in its community. The Courier is also taking positive steps to blend traditional and new media platforms to enhance its news and feature coverage.

Highly Commended: 

The Weekly Times

Judges’ comments: The Weekly Times understands and serves its readership better than almost any other publication in the country. From cover to cover it is the full package of real news, issues analysis, human interest and community service. Regional Victoria is enriched by its presence.


Geelong Advertiser

Judges’ comments: The Advertiser shows consistently high professional standards and performs a well-balanced community role; tackles the accountability issues inherent in the machinations of local power and politics, but also seeks out stories that contribute to social cohesion and to a positive sense of identity for the Geelong community. The newsroom presents itself as being unambiguously proud of its community which it will defend, cajole, stir, challenge and celebrate with shameless enthusiasm.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Victorian Farmers Federation
Transport Accident Commission
Dairy Australia
Currie Communications
Devondale (Murray Goulburn)
Rural Finance
Dairy News Australia