Walkley Foundation gives $134,000 in grants to 11 projects

The Walkley Foundation has awarded 11 projects a total of $134,000 in grants to fund projects reporting on regional Australia, the Pacific and Asia.

The judges said the winners reflect the diversity of the applications, “as well as the commitment of applicants to tackling different and sometimes controversial Australian stories”.

“The freelance journalists rewarded in this round of grants range in age, experience and skill sets, but their projects promise to surprise, educate and move audiences.”

Across seven projects, eight freelancers including Nina Funnell, Patrick Abboud, and Simon Cunich won a combined $89,000 in grants to report on regional Australia.

In addition to Funnell, Abboud and Cunich, Bob Burton, Jessica Malcolm, Emma Masters, Kim Nguyen, and Dale Webster were chosen for projects centred on a range of topics impacting regional Australia, including sexual assault and domestic violence, coal miners’ thoughts on climate change, and post offices forced to keep cash onsite after the exit of local banks.

The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism was awarded to two recipients, with $10,000 in funding going to each. Jo Chandler will pursue the project ‘Degrees of Change: The fight for climate justice in the Pacific’, while Nic Maclellan will report on ‘France and Pacific self-determination during the COVID crisis’.

And three Judith Nielsen Grants totalling $25,000 were awarded to fund Asian journalism, going to Aarti Betigeri for a podcast exploring inter-country adoption, Mell Chun’s podcast on Tasmania’s Chinese history, and Nicole Curby’s project, also a podcast, reporting on refugees stuck in Indonesia.

The winning projects were chosen based on their originality, public interest, value, and impact. Chief executive of the Walkley Foundation, Louisa Graham, said she is thrilled with the “diversity of entries and stories selected”.

“It is clear there are many stories to be told in these under-reported areas. We thank our grant partners and only wish we had more money to fund this sort of public interest journalism,” she said.

The winners are as follows:

1. Walkley Grants for Freelance Journalism on Regional Australia

Patrick Abboud and Simon Cunich, “The Greatest Menace”
Bob Burton, “Who pays the piper?”
Nina Funnell, “Shadow Pandemic: Sexual assault and domestic violence in regional Australia during COVID-19”
Jessica Malcolm, “Bee brokerage”
Emma Masters, “Listen and Learn: A report card from the bush”
Kim Nguyen, “Conversations with coal miners about climate change”
Dale Webster, “Sitting Ducks: Post offices left carrying cash can after banks pull out of regional Australia”


Natalie Ahmat, Walkley Judging Board and Presenter/Producer, NITV
Monica Attard, Head of Journalism, UTS
Di Thomas, Former Editor, The Border Mail and The Shepparton News
Helen Trinca, Associate Editor, The Australian
Chad Watson, Managing Editor (NSW Central), Australian Community Media
These grants are funded by the Walkley Public Fund and Twitter Australia, with additional support provided by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

2. Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism

Jo Chandler, “Degrees of Change: The fight for climate justice in the Pacific”

The judges were impressed by Jo Chandler’s proposal to examine the pressing issue of climate change in the Pacific. They were taken with her idea to bring us not a narrative of passive and powerless victims, but instead one of how individuals and communities are adapting to this dangerous and dynamic new state, and to ask what tools and resources they are working with to adjust, with a particular focus on the burden on women.

Nic Maclellan, “France and Pacific self-determination during the COVID crisis”

The judges were excited by Nic Maclellan’s proposal to examine the dynamic relationships between Australia, France and the Pacific in the context of anxiety about growing Chinese influence. His proposal to focus on the perspectives of the Kanak and Maohi peoples – including strong independence movements – in an environment where Australia is increasingly working in partnership with France raises a fascinating set of issues which will play out as New Caledonia heads towards another self-determination referendum and the region recovers from COVID-19.


Sean Dorney, Former Pacific Correspondent, ABC
Sue Ahearn, Journalist and Consultant
Michael Bachelard, Walkley Judging Board and Investigations Editor, The Age
Jemima Garrett, Freelance Journalist specialising in the Pacific
Alexander Rheeney, Co Editor, Samoa Observer
With thanks to the following organisations and individuals:

Supported by: Stephen Howes and Clare Holberton, Bob and Helen Lyon, Ian and Denise Macintosh, Pacific Island Living Magazine, TNC Pacific Consulting and Anonymous (1)

3. Judith Neilson Institute Freelance Grant for Asian Journalism

Aarti Betigeri, “Lucky You: A podcast exploring the perils of intercountry adoption”

The judges said Aarti Betigeri’s pitch for a podcast series on the inter-country adoption of children into Australia from Korea and elsewhere in Asia promises a revelatory look at a practice that was commonplace for decades. The telling of this story is essential not only for those directly affected and their families, but for policymakers considering this complex issue. The decision to fund the project was a vote of confidence for both the depth of the idea and Aarti Betigeri’s proven ability to deliver meaningful journalism in an Asian context.

Mell Chun, “Podcast: Tasmania’s Chinese history”

The judges were excited by Mell Chun’s plan to tell the story of the long and rich history of Chinese settlers in Tasmania via her podcast. She will explore the Chinese influence on Tasmania’s culture and economy and illuminate forgotten or little known facts about the impact of Chinese settlement. Mell writes, “We often view people of colour as ‘newcomers’, but learning about the history of immigration helps us to understand that Australia’s heritage is not so white as we might imagine.” This is a timely project, in the judges’ view, and will provide an insight into underexplored community history in Tasmania’s rural and regional areas.

Nicole Curby, “The Wait”

The judges said The Wait podcast, co-hosted by Nicole Curby and Mozhgan Moarefizadeh with supervising producer Michael Green, explores one of the most damaging but untold ramifications of Australia’s asylum policies – refugees stuck in Indonesia. Drawing on Mozhgan’s personal experience as a refugee caught in transit for seven years, they provide context to Australia’s often simplistic immigration debate. Together they unpack difficult issues around border protection and national identity, and raise questions about the political rhetoric of immigration, the nature of protection, and where borders lie.


Zoe Daniel, Journalist, ABC
Patrick Elligett, News Director, The Age
Ben Doherty, Acting Pacific Editor, Guardian
Prue Clarke, Senior Executive Officer, Judith Neilson Institute

These grants are supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.


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