2016 Winners

Best News Story

Sponsored by VFF
Commended: Australia Crew, Replaced, Tiana Richardson, Portland Observer
Judge’s comments: This was the story of the carrier MV Portland and its Australian crew who refused to sail their ship to Malaysia where they would be replaced by foreign crew. And while the Portland Observer had this story in its own backyard, their reporting was quickly followed up by mainstream media.
Highly Commended: Sack them all, Mandy Squires, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: The Addy obviously got a leak on the findings of a Government Commission of Inquiry recommending a sacking of the Geelong City Council and its flamboyant mayor Darren Lyons. If you get a leak on a report before it is tabled in Parliament, you run with it, which is what Mandy Squires and the Addy did. One can only wonder how boring it must be now for the Addy without its council problems and its colourful mayor.

Winner: Worker Slave Shame, Alex Sampson and Emma Field, The Weekly Times
Judge’s comments: This story focussed on a group of Pacific Island workers who were sacked and sent home by an employer because of their complaints about their meagre pay and sub-standard housing. The story met all the criteria for a good news report. But more importantly it triggered action from government authorities and a Senate Committee Inquiry.

Best Feature Story – Broadcast

Sponsored by DELWP
Commended: High Country Women, Tim Lee, ABC Television
Judge’s comments: A colourful take on the fabled man-from Snowy River – but this time a look at six generations of women in one family that has been continuing the business, and the traditions, of high country grazing. This report skilfully captures the colour, the history, the family ties and legacies; all woven into the political and operational challenges of today.
Highly Commended: Brim silo artwork: the tall tales and colourful characters behind Guido van Helten’s paintings, Danielle Grandly, Victorian Country Hour
Judges’ comments: A beautifully told story behind the story’ of the appearance of the giant portraits on grain silos in the Mallee township of Brim. In acceding to the artist’s wishes for the identities of the locals featured on the 30-metre-high murals to remain secret, the reporter takes listeners into a tale of mystery and intrigue as colourful speculation begins weaving a whole new folklore for this small community that embodies so much of rural Victoria’s history and modern-day circumstance.
Winner: Abuse victims confront nuns caring for dying bishop, Charlotte King, ABC radio – PM
Judges’ comments: The reporter, with microphone on, joins a group of elderly women who confront, and are shunned, by nuns caring for one of the witnesses due to appear before the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Sex Abuse. The polite, almost shy, confrontation by women who were young convent girls and the effect on them 50 years later, starkly captures their lifelong distress and pain. The reporter showed initiative and cool-headedness in an emotional atmosphere and laid bare the humanity of this long-running saga.

Best Feature Story – Non-daily newspapers

Sponsored by Deakin University

Commended: Michelle looks forward after cancer journey, Tiana Richardson, Portland Observer

Judges’ comments: Tiana Richardson’s story of breast cancer for local dentist Michelle Throw offers a sensitive view of the harrowing twelve months journey for this mother of three. Just as importantly it highlights the advantages where treatment was available locally and the importance of early diagnosis for women not considered in the most at-risk age groups.
Highly Commended: Lettuce bagged in salmonella outbreak, Jeanette Severs, Good Fruit and Vegetables
Judges’ comments: A well researched story following a salmonella poisoning cluster linked to bagged fresh lettuce. Presented as a full page feature this story gained authority by canvassing the range of different industry perspectives associated with this issue.
Winner: Breaking free of ice scourge, Skye Grigg, Hamilton Spectator
Judges’ comments: This story which led the Spectator on Saturday May 28 offered a chilling, first-hand account of a young Hamilton woman’s addiction to ‘ICE’ and subsequent recovery to provide a message of hope. This was only possible because of the trust writer Skye Grigg was able to establish with her subject, all the more difficult in a regional community where many of the audience will have known the subject and members of her family.

Best Feature Story – Daily and State-based newspapers

Sponsored by Coles
Commended: Miracle on dirt bike track, Nigel McNay, The Border Mail
Judges’ comments: This piece is a fine example of painting with words. The picture created by Nigel is vivid; we’re there, living every moment of Richard’s fight to live. A beautifully constructed and written feature, from start to finish. Well done.
Highly Commended:Gerard Henderson, Anthea Cannon, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: If anyone is in doubt about the impact of domestic violence, then Anthea’s excellent piece on the terrifying story of Gerard Henderson is a must read. It leaves you shell-shocked.
Winner: The special envoy, Natalie Kotsios, The Weekly Times – DecisionAg
Judges’ comments: Politics can be a bland subject but Natalie Kotsios has produced a gem with her story on former Trade Minister Andrew Robb. She produced an intriguing and fascinating account of this very private man and what drove him, using good old fashioned legwork. A standout piece.

Best Feature Series – Non-daily newspapers

Sponsored by DEDJT
Commended: Brides speak out, Luke Horton, Wimmera Mail Times
Judges’ comments: A classic example of a newspaper standing up for their local community.The Wimmera Mail Times took on the concerns of three different brides upset about the services of a photography agency. In a small rural community, this was a good example of brave reporting to confront an issue of broad concern.
Highly Commended: Bay school finds a new home, Benjamin Fraser, Portland Observer
Judges’ comments: Another prime example of a newspaper standing up for its local community.The Observer took on a campaign to seek funding for a new school for local people with disabilities. The resulting $7million allocation was welcomed by the community.
Winner: Yes, I have cancer, Andrew Mole, The Riverine Herald
Judges’ comments: This series of stories provides a detailed and compelling insight into how a woman faces life-threatening breast cancer, and how medical support services respond to her needs. Using graphic and confronting images and personal story-telling, the articles take us on a journey that highlights the benefits of early detection.The photographic image of the cancer being removed from the woman may have been distressing to some readers, but it is a valid and complementary display.

Best Feature Series – Daily and state-based newspapers

Sponsored by AFD
Commended: The lower Darling in crisis, Christopher Testa, Sunraysia Daily
Judges’ comments: Drought is a common topic but, in the lower Darling region, it has special meaning to locals who suffer because water is taken out of the river system from users thousands of kilometres upstream. Christopher worked his way up and down the river to talk to locals who spoke about the injustice, the need for a sustainable approach to water management, and the lack of action from state and federal governments. That Christopher’s work shamed a NSW cabinet minister and senior water bureaucrat into separate tours of the region was proof of the power of his words
Highly Commended: Tough Toll, Erin Pearson, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: As a police reporter, Erin Pearson fully understood the impact the road toll had on the Geelong community. But getting members of Geelong’s highway patrol to open up on the impact that attending fatal road accidents had on them and their personal lives meant earning their complete trust. Her aim was simple – to use their stories to encourage public discussion in the hope that it would change dangerous behaviour on the roads. So for 10 weeks she listened to stories about everything from missed dinners and cancelled appointments through to failed relationships and post- traumatic stress. And, above all, the heartbreak they see and feel when delivering tragic news to a family after a fatality. The series launched at the start of the December holiday period and Erin’s stories were poignant and powerful.
Winner: Worried sick, Mandy Squires, The Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Getting Year 12 students to open up publicly about the pressures they faced was a major coup for Mandy Squires. Armed with their revealing – and often confronting – honesty, Mandy delivered a thought-provoking series into the stresses, anxieties and suicidal thoughts suffered by so many teenagers undertaking Year 12. One of the great strengths of the series was publishing students’ words unedited, which allowed readers into the minds of teens in distress. Importantly, it also sought out experts for advice on how teenagers could deal with exam pressures and the expectations of their families, their friends and themselves. And Mandy made sure that the key message of the series shone through – that there IS life after VCE!

Best Campaign

Sponsored by TAC
Commended: Foreign worker exploitation, Emma Field, The Weekly Times
Judges’ comments: Emma Field’s dogged pursuit of the story of farm worker exploitation and the rorting of the visa system gained momentum throughout 2015/16, earning her a Walkley along the way, and a ‘commended’ in these awards in 2015. Her strong accounts of affected workers bring a human face to an often-hidden problem. In the past year, The Weekly Times’ campaign has led to Federal Government changes to close a loophole in the visa system, plans for workplace reform, a $20m boost to the Fair Work Ombudsman, a State Government inquiry and has seen farm operators cutting ties to dodgy labour-hire firms.
Highly Commended: Royal Commission into church sex abuse, Melissa Cunningham, The Ballarat Courier
Judges’ comments: In a highly sensitive campaign, Melissa Cunningham built trust with some of the most damaged survivors of clergy sex abuse, and encouraged them to share their stories. Their poignant crowdfunded trip to Rome to witness Cardinal Pell’s testimony was partly due to the national attention Melissa secured. The paper also backed the ‘Loud Fence’ ribbon movement, which gave the community a way to express support. Melissa’s clear rapport with survivors led to her being sent to Rome to help convey their story and the resulting articles, videos and posts led the national coverage for Fairfax newspapers and online.
Winner: Save Our Uni, The Warrnambool Standard
Judges’ comments: ‘Save Our Uni’ is a textbook grassroots campaign, ramped up a notch for the social media age. The paper exposed the threat to Deakin Uni’s viability and mobilised the community to fight. The campaign was rarely off the front page: it sparked online petitions, hashtag selfie campaigns, a call-to-arms rally attended by 800 and live-streamed to another 6,000. It allowed the wider community to articulate how important the uni’s presence was to them. It did such a good job of highlighting the uni’s value and recruiting new students that Deakin has dropped takeover talks and committed to staying

Best Multimedia

Sponsored by Dairy News Australia
Commended: Warrnambool Deakin rally: Hundreds gather to save regional university campus, Bridget Judd, ABC News South West Victoria
Judges’ comments: A good tight package covering a significant local. The package featured multiple elements and entry points for the online reader, including a tidy video which nicely complemented the written texts, as well as social media snapshots to add the element of live coverage and timely reporting.
Highly Commended: Chines tourists flood isolated gain town, throwing drought-stricken community an unexpected lifeline, Danielle Grandly, ABC Victorian Country Hour
Judges’ comments: This entry was a very strong package, well-researched and excellent choice of subject. The story successfully portrayed the challenges of a dwindling small town population struggling to cope with unexpected growth and cross-cultural interaction. Good use of photography, excellent audio package, well-written text, and whimsical use of video to break the tension.
Winner: Silvers Circus – the changing world of the circus, Caleb Cluff, Luka Kauzlaric, The Ballarat Courier
Judges’ comments: The stories of Silvers Circus stood out for the combination of engaging text, exceptional photography, creative digital display and complementary video. Importantly, the reporters did not approach the story as outsiders describing circus life – the Q&A format of the texts allowed for the revelation of personal insights from the circus staff. Combined with beautiful photography, the package pulled back the mask of the entertainer and humanised their way of life.

Best Agribusiness Story

Sponsored by Rural Finance, Rural Bank
Commended: Bale Boom, Nathan Dyer, RM Williams OUTBACK magazine
Judges’ comments: Well written and packed with facts on the expanding cotton industry in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Also a good example of modern photo-journalism, the images and narrative combined by the writer into a comprehensive insight into an industry, its people and its economic impact.
Highly Commended: Fishermen fear their lives are on the line, Anthea Cannon, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: A gutsy feature that brings urgency and relevance to the closure of a local bay fishing industry that politicians and bureaucrats would rather disappear quietly for the sake of political convenience. Well researched and written it exposes the power of political populism over scientific objectivity and gives voice to a small industry not well understood and which has been easy to malign – as the journalist discovered when she found herself on the receiving end of the same dogmatic outrage.
Winner: A sticky business, Alex Sampson, The Weekly Times, DecisionAg
Judges’ comments: A skilfully written, entertaining, and informative profile of Capilano Honey’s triumph-over-adversity. A strong example of engaging business writing, taking readers into the realities of modern beekeeping and honey production in a changing rural landscape, and the harsh realities of agribusiness – in this instance the story of how a regional company hit by the Global Financial Crisis was able to rebuild. This feature is enjoyable to read, packed with facts and leaves no question unanswered.

Best On-Farm Story

Sponsored by RASV
Commended: Drought prompts change in farm system, Carlene Dowie, Australian Dairyfarmer
Judges’ comments: Carlene Dowie’s article on how the Singleton family had overhauled their dairy enterprise to deal with climate change and a lack of irrigations water – while expanding the farm operating and making a profit – was timely and contained a wealth of information.
Highly Commended: Bairnsdale wheat reaches 5t/ha…plus more, Jeanette Severs, Ground Cover
Judges’ comments: Jeanette Sever’s article on the Caithness family’s move into high rainfall cropping in East Gippsland dealt with innovation, productivity and sustainability.The article contained a wealth of information and technical detail on how the family approached their cropping enterprise in terms of varieties, inputs, soil conditions, yields, and marketing options. It also set out how Trevor and Toby Caithness had accessed information from outside the district and subsequently incorporated innovative practices in their cropping operation
Winner: Duxon’s measured success, Fiona Myers, The Weekly Times
Judges’ comments: This story dealt with innovation in using sheep genomics and Australian Sheep Breeding Values as a way of making more money from Merinos.Fiona Myer’s article examined how Ben Duxson from Marnoo used a range of genetic technologies, alongside other management innovations, to not only improve the productivity and profitability of his flock, but also the flocks of his ram clients. The story ticked all the boxes. It was engaging, well written and informative

Best Sports Story

Sponsored by AWI/The Fibre of Football
Commended: The day India came to Portland, Samuel Ord, Portland Observer
Judges’ comments: A great example of the truism that the best stories often start with the simplest question. The writer asked an old hand about the best cricket ever played in the town and the story went from there. Clearly, it was a labour of love. The writer enjoyed his research. He had the skill to make the town a character as much as the players. The judge shared his sense of wonder as the story unfurled.
Highly Commended: The final siren, Tim Lee, Landline, ABC Television
Judges’ comments: Superb use of the travails of two clubs to describe the wider problem of falling population and its effect on country football. Plenty of leg work, first of all with a trip to the Mallee, but then shooting at training and on match day. Voices are all strong and genuine. Writing is crisp and clean. Vision a wonderful evocation of the Mallee’s low horizons. The judge cared about the people and the clubs, which is no small thing.
Winner: Sam Moorfoot, secret weapon, Greg Dundas, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Great idea. Slightly outside the square. Would have taken some leg work to up. Done with humour, compassion and sensitivity. Quite a coup to get the Geelong captain, Joel Selwood, to comment so effusively. And a good job to give Sam his own voice without contriving a mawkish tone. Excellent use of detail to describe Sam’s popularity, with the players wanting to be in photos. The story brought a massive smile to the judge’s face. Also a strong sense of connection. The judge liked Sam and his parents. He wanted to meet them!

Best News Photography

Sponsored by Coretext
Commended: Milk money evaporates, Sittixay Ditthavong, Riverine Herald
Judges’ comments: A dramatically-lit photograph which illustrates the story of the impact of the dairy milk price crisis.
Highly Commended: Grand theft auto, Nigel Hallett, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Action accentuates the intense drama of the situation. The photograph makes few if any words necessary for the reader to get the picture of what has happened.
Winner: Protest breaks the line, Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser
Judges’ comments: The epitome of a good press photograph, it has the action and drama yet focusses solely on one face that tells the whole story.

Best General Interest Photography

Sponsored by V/Line
Commended: Best Mates, Robyn Agnew, Hamilton Spectator
Judges’ comments: This photograph has the “aww!” factor. Two happy friends expressed by a simple gesture, captured at the decisive moment.
Highly Commended: Bringer of fire, Mike Moores, Meander Valley Gazette
Judges’ comments: A dramatic photograph made more mysterious by the tonality, blur and colour and by not overpowering the subject with flash.
Winner: Queen Michelle, Kate Healy, The Ballarat Courier
Judges’ comments: This is a simple, joyful photograph that tells the story, which is what a good press photograph should do. Simply composed with no distracting elements, it captures the special moment which is the essence of good photography.

Best Sports Photography

Sponsored by Currie Communications
Commended: Brotherly Love, Tammy Brown, Colac Herald
Judges’ comments: An example of a simple gesture captured which presages the whole story and invites the reader to find out more
Highly Commended: Rodeo fun for Rattle n Hum, Mike Moores, Meander Valley Gazette
Judges’ comments: What needs to be said but “great action”! The photographer has taken this from the right angle to get an almost balletic shot. It’s crucial to be in the right spot at the right time.
Winner: Gai’s eye on the prize, Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Sometimes the best sports photograph is not on the field but in the crowd. Quite often a really good press shot doesn’t have to be dramatic but can be quite quirky or even naughty.

Ray Frawley Young Journalist of the Year

Commended: Bethany Tyler, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Bethany Tyler’s portfolio of work demonstrated a mature understanding of complex issues and showed the power of empathetic and hard reporting to achieve outcomes for battling community groups. Tyler’s frontline piece on the region’s domestic violence task-force went inside homes of victims and offenders to lift the lid on Geelong’s crime fight. She achieved a scoop on Target’s future, which made national headlines, and exposed failings in the NDIS, which garnered continued support for clients of the 366 Pathway program. The Geelong community has been well served by Bethany’s work
Highly commended: Christopher Testa, Sunraysia Daily
Judges’ comments: Christopher Testa has provided exceptional coverage of local government, political and environmental issues in his first 21 months as a full-time journalist at Mildura’s Sunraysia Daily. His extensive coverage of the water crisis gripping the lower Darling River over a period of more than 12 months has provided the small but thriving community with political exposure as they lobby the NSW Government for greater water security. He has a strong news sense, and also spent six weeks as acting editor of The Guardian newspaper in Swan Hill, just eight months after becoming a graded journalist, where he organised the only federal candidates forum for the seat of Mallee. A bright future ensues.
Winner: Bridget Judd, ABC Warrnambool
Judges’ comments: Bridget is the only journalist in the ABC’s Warrnambool office and despite the large distance to cover, has broken several stories on major local issues, including the Alcoa aluminium smelter, threats to the future of Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus and the dairy crisis. Bridget’s work has been aired on ABC Online, ABC Radio Current Affairs, ABC TV News and on local radio. Her body of work shows her ability to analyse and explore some of the highly complex issues facing rural and regional communities and present them to a broader, national audience.

Photographer of the year

Sponsored by RACV
Commended: Dale Webster, The Weekly Times
Judges’ comments: Three authentic photographs of country Australia. Action is well represented in the rodeo shot, while the other two are fine portraits of rural people.
Highly Commended: Mike Moores, Meander Valley Gazette
Judges’ comments:This group of photographs shows quality in a range of situations. Best of the three is the rodeo shot which demonstrates the required press skill of capturing the peak moment.
Winner: Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser
Judges’ comments: The strength of this portfolio lies in the successful capture of three completely different subjects, showing the photographer’s competence across the press spectrum. The protestor image is a proper press photograph and clinches the deal for this photographer in a close field.

Journalist of the Year

Sponsored by RACV
Commended: Melissa Cunningham, Ballarat Courier
Judges’ comments: Melissa is commended for a good mix of writing versatility, original thinking and above all, the thoughtful approach to the way she covered the story of the year for Ballarat – the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Abuse, including being assigned as a regional journalist to travel to Rome with abuse survivors.
Highly commended:  Simone Smith, The Weekly Times
Judges’ comments: The rural story of the year has been the collapse of the dairy industry, interwoven with the behaviour of milk companies and the impact on dairy farmers, their families and their communities. The coverage by Simone Smith, The Weekly Times, exemplifies the highest standards of thoroughness, investigative research, breadth of coverage and sustained effort.
Winner: Mandy Squires, Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: Mandy’s body of work had sheer impact resulting from doggedness, courage and her clear sense of purpose as a journalist. Mandy’s coverage of the conflict and culture leading to the implosion and sacking of the Geelong Council is casebook journalism, and as her spread of entries shows, is a reflection of her approach generally to her role as a conduit for information that protects a community from abuses of power and breakdowns in social decency.

Media Outlet of the Year

Sponsored by the CFA
Winner: The Weekly Times
Judges’ comments: In the past 12 months The Weekly Times launched its website nationally with a print, TV and online campaign. It launched Crop Gear, a 40-page quarterly magazine, produced a special 20-page feature to help farmers at the height of the dairy price crisis and continued its strong tradition of breaking news, with Emma Field’s coverage of the mistreatment of illegal workers awarded a Walkley Award. This was the acknowledged catalyst for the investigation into the 7-11 convenience store workers. Five years after it was the first media outlet to highlight the dangers of quad bikes, the Victorian Government imposed safety rules on their use on farms and introduced rebates on rollover protection. Its work has seen online audience rise more than 100%, significant increases in its social media following and rises in print circulation.
Finalist: Geelong Advertiser
Judges’ comments: FEARLESS reporting that exposed corruption, brought about change, engaged print readers and grew an online audience has been the cornerstone of the Geelong Advertiser’s excellence this year. The Victorian Government’s sacking of the Geelong council came as a result of a 15-month Addy investigation exposing a culture of bullying, corruption and financial mismanagement. The “exclusive” tag became a familiar sight for Addy readers, with the paper first to report on vital regional issues including Target’s decision to close its Geelong headquarters. The paper celebrated the Addy’s 175th birthday in November with the publication of Our Geelong, a 12‐magazine collection mining the paper’s rich archives. This coverage has seen rises in print and online circulation.
Finalist: Bendigo Advertiser
Judges’ comments: The past year has seen a division in the Bendigo community over a proposal to build a mosque. The Bendigo Advertiser chose to tell story differently. Instead of reporting on the ugliness and giving a voice to the hatred, it came out in support of the Muslim community. As anti-mosque protesters planned their first rally in Bendigo, the Addy came out in support of its Muslim community. It made the decision that unless a newsworthy event happened during the protest, and subsequent demonstrations, it would largely ignore them. The paper was threatened, targeted on social media and became the subject of the hate speech it took a stand against. The Addy challenges it community through delicate reporting of issues such as euthanasia and gender rights, but also gives it a powerful voice.
Finalist: La Trobe Valley Express
Judges’ comments: The La Trobe Valley Express continues to champion its community by asking the questions specific to its readership. It explores these issues in great detail, leaving no stone unturned and demanding answers from Government. Its coverage of the second Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry was first class, exploring health, mine rehabilitation and health improvement in great detail. It also acted on behalf of the community with a series on the high price of fuel in the Valley, an ongoing sore point for locals. Following this coverage, fuel prices in the Valley began to decrease, and the Express has monitored them since. When the Government talked up a decline in unemployment rates, the Express took them to task, asking why unemployment continues to soar in the Latrobe Valley. The newspaper continues to ask questions in its bid to represent its community.