Bill Leak’s son Johannes takes up cartoonist position at The Australian

The void left at The Australian by cartoonist Bill Leak – who passed away in 2017, aged 61 – will be filled by his son, Johannes.

“If anyone could teach cartooning it would be Bill Leak, whose virtuosity graced this newspaper until his death in 2017,” an article in The Australian said today. “And ­ascending the cartoon world’s throne today is Bill’s son ­Johannes, who absorbed his father’s love of cartooning from infancy.”

Johannes Leak’s cartoon in The Australian today accompanying the announcement

The Australian’s editor-in-chief Christopher Dore said Johannes Leak was the perfect person for the job, while Leak said the role would be a “very complete challenge”.

“If you get it right — bang, hit the nail on the head — it rings true to people. You’ve put into an image what they were ­already thinking, but they didn’t know how to express it. If you can do that, well, that’s the magic of it,” Leak said in today’s edition of The Australian.

Bill Leak’s career achievements included two News Awards for cartoonist of the year, nine Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism, 19 Stanley Awards from the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, and being an Archibald Prize finalist 12 times.

There were, however, also significant controversies and backlash associated with his work.

A cartoon depicting an Indigenous man holding a drink who did not appear to know his own son’s name was labelled racist, and ultimately received over 700 complaints to the Press Council.

The 2016 Bill Leak cartoon which angered readers

Despite the volume of complaints, the Press Council refused to rule on the inflammatory cartoon, instead saying “the best outcome in the public interest is to promote free speech and the contest of ideas through the publication of two major op-ed pieces in The Australian, providing Indigenous perspectives on the cartoon and shedding light on the underlying issues”.

“With the agreement by The Australian to publish these items prominently, we believe that the complaints have been effectively resolved through an appropriate remedy and no further action will be taken by the Press Council,” the decision in 2016 said.

At the launch of his book, Trigger Warning, just before his death, Leak said political correctness was a “a poison that attacks the sense of humour” that “infects an awful lot of precious little snowflakes”.


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