The Walkley Foundation apologises for founder’s ‘racist views,’ reviews sponsorship policy

The Walkley Foundation has apologised for racist views expressed by late founder Sir William Gaston Walkley – who also started fuel company Ampol – as the organisation reviews its sponsorship policy following an industry boycott.

Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald in 1961, Walkley detailed his concerns about Australia ceasing to be “a white man’s country” as part of his response to the political debate around the nation’s rising population.

In a statement, The Walkley Foundation said it has “condemned and expressed deep regret” for the comments by Walkley, who died in 1976.

“His views do not reflect the values, views and ethics of the Walkley Foundation. We apologise for the deep hurt and offence these statements will have caused for journalists and the broader community,” the board of directors said over the weekend.

“As an ethical organisation, we must call out the mistakes of the past.”

The column resurfaced after The Walkley Awards came under fire last week over its association with Ampol, a fuel company founded by Sir William Gaston Walkley. The company remains a platinum sponsor of the awards, prompting a group of editorial cartoonists to initiate an industry boycott because of the links to fossil fuel.

The Foundation acknowledged the cartoonists’ concerns and said it is in the final stages of formalising a revised sponsorship policy, to be announced soon.

“We recognise their concerns about fossil fuel sponsorship and hope to welcome them back as entrants in future years,” the board said.

“The Foundation has a responsibility to show leadership in the journalism community. It will continue to pursue excellence in all its activities and actions to ensure they reflect a modern and diverse Australia.”

Conversations around Ampol’s involvement in the Walkley Awards were sparked by a blog post from the Walkley-winning cartoonist Jon Kudelka, whose works appeared in publications including The Australian and The Saturday Paper. He outlined his decision not to enter the awards after reading an opinion piece by Comms Declare founder Belinda Noble on Mumbrella.

Speaking to Mumbrella about this decision last week, Kudelka said it’s a very simple proposition: “If they’re going to be sponsored by a large fossil fuel company in 2023, while the world is falling apart, then I’m not going to get involved.”

The Walkley Awards are presented to recognise journalism excellence in the Australian media. This year’s ceremony is due to take place on 23 November.


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