Melbourne Press Club announces 2020 Quill Awards winners

Winners include Nick McKenzie, Louise Milligan, Christine Ahern and John Silvester

Quill Awards winners for excellence in journalism were announced by the Melbourne Press Club on Friday. The winners for work in 2020 were mainly from Victorian journalism, but there were also two national awards – Harry Gordon Australian Sports Journalist of the Year and Harry Gordon Australian Sports Journalist of the Year. Hosting the Quill Awards was 10 News Melbourne presenter Candice Wyatt (pictured).


Russell Jackson, ABC News, ‘The Persecution of Robert Muir’

Judges’ citation: COVID-19 may have been THE story of 2020. But so too was racism. And, particularly here in Melbourne, racism in sport. Russell Jackson’s piece on the 1970s Aboriginal AFL star Robert Muir provides a compelling and confronting insight into the impact of racism. It uncovers little known facts about a talented and controversial footballer, spurned by his own club, and long maligned by the footy world. The writing is first-class; with the Judging Panel describing the story as a beautifully crafted piece. Russell’s meticulous research, and the clear trust he built with Robbie Muir comes through in every line. As well, the impact of this superb piece of journalism cannot be overstated. It has transformed Robbie Muir’s life, sparked long overdue apologies, and contributed significantly to a wider community conversation. It is – simply put – outstanding.


Colin Duck

For an outstanding contribution over more than 50 years as a journalist, editor and manager in newspapers and magazines, former Sun News-Pictorial editor Colin Duck was recognised with the 2020 MPC Lifetime Achievement Award. The honour, presented at the annual Quill Awards dinner each March, is bestowed at the discretion of the MPC board.

Colin Duck at the Quill Awards


Jess Malcolm, University of Melbourne, Guardian Australia, ‘Meet the bee brokers: “You never stop learning about bees, they’re just incredible”’

Judges’ Citation: Exploring the work of beekeepers who muster and rent out billions of bees along the east coast of Australia for Australian agriculture, Jess produced an outstanding feature on a fascinating topic about which little is known. With great research, attention to detail and commitment during COVID-19 travel restrictions, she told a beautiful story which touched on a range of important issues in regional Victoria. A truly compelling piece of storytelling.

Highly Commended: Gillian Aeria, Monash University, The Junction, ‘Size me up: The need for women’s tailored football boots’ and Maggie Zhou, Monash University, Broadsheet, ‘How my mum’s lockdown cookouts with relatives in China helped me connect to my cultural and culinary roots’


Paul Sakkal, The Age

Judges’ Citation: Paul was involved in breaking the biggest stories in Victoria last year, including the hotel quarantine scandal and Liberal Party branch stacking allegations. The judges were impressed by his ability to break exclusive stories in one of the most competitive environments in the country. His work had real impact and held the government to account.

Highly Commended: Michael Fowler of The Age


Tia Kass, The Saturday Paper, ‘We Feed’

Judges’ citation: The richness and detail of Tia Kass’ illustrations reveal the commitment the artist had to the stories of four temporary migrant workers in the food industry. The judges felt that the portraits demanded a respect for their subjects, their sincerity offset by the quirkiness of the accompanying story-telling illustrations. An expressive, media-rich combination, and one that propelled the reader through the package.

Highly Commended: Richard Gilberto of The Age for ‘State of Chaos’.


Sarah Danckert, The Age, ‘Bigger Than the Wolf of Wall Street’

Sarah Danckert demonstrated brilliant journalism in her series examining how crime gangs, posing as licensed traders of complex financial products, had ripped millions of dollars off Australian customers and how for years the corporate regulator had failed to do anything about it. Sarah’s attention to detail was meticulous. Her explanation of the inner workings of an elite segment of the financial market and the impact of rogue dealers, locally and globally, was fluent, compelling and authoritative.

She shone a bright light on an otherwise obscure area of financial criminal conduct and powerfully highlighted the insipid response of the corporate regulator. Almost every sentence brought head-shaking revelations. Judges were particularly impressed by the originality of the work, coming as it did almost out of the blue. Every now and then, one particular piece of writing or a series, cuts through, and Sarah’s pieces certainly did.

Highly Commended: Adele Ferguson, Lesley Robinson & Lauren Day, ABC Four Corners & The Age, ‘Immoral and Unethical’


The Herald Sun Breaking News Team, Herald Sun, ‘Police Horror’

In a news year like no other, the deaths of four police in a bizarre traffic smash as darkness fell on the Eastern Freeway posed a challenge for newsrooms and reporters to be fast, accurate and comprehensive. The Herald Sun team of Anthony Dowsley, Mark Buttler, Brianna Travers, Josh Fagan and Aneeka Simonis — with the back-up of a skilled production team — achieved this. They comprehensively covered the multiple angles of this breaking news event on digital, print and video platforms. They were judged the winners from an exceptionally strong field of entries.


Matt Golding, The Sunday Age, “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?”

Judges’ citation: Matt Golding’s cartoon based on the famous World War I Savile Lumley recruitment poster was a beautiful concept, executed skillfully. It carried a rapier message that cut through the noise of the pandemic about people’s atrocious behaviour during the Victorian COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020. The judges thought the idea and execution lifted it slightly above the other high quality entries in an action packed year for cartooning.

Highly Commended: Andrew Dyson of The Age for ‘Pandemic Parade’ and Jim Pavlidis of The Age, for ‘Easter Bunny’


The Age Online Team

The Age Online Team’s coronavirus pandemic coverage best represented the teamwork, multi-platformed and audience-first approach that 2020 demanded. Its live blogs were a comprehensive and dependable pillar of this coverage, but the team’s work extended far beyond rolling breaking news and scoops. Innovative data-led visualisations and in-depth analysis from its Explainer team stood out as fine examples of public benefit journalism, all of which was backed by an impressively versatile distribution strategy.

Highly commended: Louise Milligan, Mary Fallon & Lauren Day, ABC Four Corners, Boys Club


Charmayne Allison, Shepparton News, ‘Homelessness: A 21st Century Tragedy’

Charmayne Allison’s series of articles and outstanding podcast covered the full spectrum of the causes and consequences of homelessness in regional Victoria, with meticulous attention to evidence-based research. This is great advocacy journalism, dealt with sensitively and highlighting the need for increased social housing in regional Victoria. A worthy winner of the Father Bob Maguire Foundation Cobberwealth Award, which recognises and encourages reporting that contributes to social inclusion.

Highly Commended: Luke Henriques-Gomes of Guardian Australia for ‘The Jobless Older Women Languishing in Poverty’


Nick McKenzie, Good Weekend, ‘One Last Mission’

Judges’ Citation: Almost nothing about the creation of this story was easy. Through patient research and fine writing, it reaches the most impenetrable places and gently draws out profound insights about trauma, grief and forgiveness. This extraordinary piece helps to heal the anguish of an army doctor who felt he didn’t do enough and an Afghan family who lost their father to the brutality of Australian soldiers. It is truly beautiful reporting.

Highly Commended: Cheryl Hall, Belinda Hawkins & Megan Mackander of ABC online for ‘Bad Romance’

Quill Awards


Christopher Hopkins, The Age, ‘I Want to hold her Hand’

Judges’ Citation: Judges need to consider a photographer’s success in distilling the essence of a story or providing new insights into an issue. They look for impact and technical excellence in a single photo or series. In a strong field of contenders, Chris Hopkins’ work stood out. His poignant image depicts two sisters, one terminally ill with cancer, the other trying to say goodbye. Their reunion is hamstrung by COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, after the latter travelled from overseas to be by her bedside.

Highly Commended: Justin McManus of The Age for ‘Life in Isolation’


Nick McKenzie & Chris Masters, Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, ‘War Crimes’

Judges’ Citation: The investigation into alleged war crimes by Australian forces in Afghanistan has had profound consequences. This entry is the latest story broken as part of a sustained investigation by Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters dating back to 2017. It is the result of years of perseverance and unflinching commitment to digging into the criminal behaviour and moral failures of Australian soldiers. The story of former SAS medic Dusty Miller’s quest to make amends with one victim’s family reveals the deep trauma and lifelong consequences of actions that for too long had been hidden from view.

Highly Commended: Louise Milligan, Peter Cronau & Lucy Carter of ABC Four Corners for ‘Inside The Canberra Bubble’


Rachael Dexter & Justin McManus, The Age, Documenting life in lockdown

Judges’ Citation: This entry found an innovative and interesting way of presenting the individual stories of people whose lives were disrupted by Victoria’s major COVID-19 lockdown. It combined well-written print, beautifully-presented stills and video with a compelling social media presence, ticking all the boxes for this category. Several of the case studies were followed up when restrictions eased, to update their stories and provide a generally hopeful view of lessons learned and the way ahead for lives disrupted by COVID-19.

Highly Commended: ABC Digital Stories Innovations Team, for ‘Visualising the climate crisis’


John Silvester, The Age, Naked City

Judges’ Citation: These selections from the veteran writer on crime demonstrate his well-honed ability to take serious issues and treat them with respect and humour simultaneously. They highlight not only his depth of knowledge in his area of expertise, with superbly researched and reasoned arguments, but a light touch that keeps the reader interested to the final, pithy point.

He backs up his own assertion that “if you can’t entertain, you can’t inform”.

Highly Commended: Waleed Aly, The Monthly & The Age, Tribal Counsel and Osman Faruqi, The Saturday Paper, On Black Lives Matter & Policing


Alex Coppel, Herald Sun, ‘Malua Bay Fires’

Judges’ Citation: In unprecedented scenes Alex Coppel’s outstanding image has captured the myriad of emotions from calm to fear on the faces of both locals and holiday makers, seeking the comparative safety of the beach at Malua Bay, with bushfires closing in on their township.

Highly Commended: Eddie Jim of The Age for ‘Inferno’ 5


Luke Henriques-Gomes, Guardian Australia, ‘Robodebt failure exposed by leaked documents’ Judges’ Citation: Luke’s story was the first to reveal the deep impact of the Government’s failed Robodebt scheme on some of the nation’s most vulnerable. His dogged pursuit of the story over months paid off with the leak of Cabinet-level documents that were the basis of a clearly written exclusive of national significance.

Highly Commended: Aneeka Simonis of the Herald Sun for Celeste Manno intervention order and stalking law reform, and Wendy Tuohy of The Age for ‘Sex discrimination and harassment widespread in Ambulance Victoria say paramedics’


Rachael Brown, Josie Taylor, Tim Roxburgh & Martin Peralta, ABC, Trace: The Informer Judges’ Citation: Exhaustive effort to build trust over days, weeks and months secured this team exclusive access to their subject, including recording at an international secret location. The host’s presence in the story added a welcome dimension – her vulnerability made for a truly authentic delivery. The piece balanced suspense and delivery of information through its narration, first-class audio production values and use of cross-platform curation. All the ingredients of best-practice podcasting.

Highly Commended: CBAA From the Embers Team, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), ‘From the Embers’


Belinda Hawkins, Andy Burns, Rebecca Armstrong & Ian Harley, ABC Australian Story, ‘Making his Mark’

A clear winner in this category, which allowed Marlion and his family to tell their story in their own voice. Marlion Pickett’s story, like many stories of Indigenous sports champions, is mostly filtered through the lens of sport. But this piece was about Marlion’s journey of facing adversity, including drugs and time in prison, and was relayed openly and powerfully. Marlion’s courage in telling his story allowed the audience to share a journey that many Australians know little about. The story powerfully touched on the institutional barriers facing Indigenous Australians, the experience of entrenched disadvantage and racism. Richmond’s leaders spoke revealingly about how they had to break down these barriers and their own prejudices if Marlion was to get his chance. It was also a compelling exploration of the power of family. Marlion’s story is ultimately one of overcoming adversity and fighting for change, and how Australia can benefit by recognising how much our First Nation people contribute when given a chance. It should inspire us all.

Highly Commended: Charlotte Grieve of The Age for Gomeroi Heritage and Miki Perkins of The Age for a portfolio of work


Matilda Marozzi, Virginia Trioli, Katrina Palmer & Julz Hay, ABC Radio Melbourne, ‘Mother and child call out Victoria Police for domestic abuse failures’

Judges’ Citation: This compelling piece by ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings exposed the problem of police-perpetrated family violence, using the medium of radio to provide a safe environment for a mother and her 13-year-old son to tell a chilling story of how the system had failed them. It resulted in an IBAC investigation, saw an assistant commissioner moved from the family violence portfolio, prompted an apology from the Police Minister about the way the case had been handled and led to follow-up national TV and newspaper coverage of this important issue.


Richard Willingham, ABC Radio News, ‘Did Health Minister Jenny Mikakos mislead the hotel quarantine inquiry?’

Judges’ Citation: Willingham broke the story that led to the resignation of the Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos. Reporting on a tight deadline, he quickly identified inconsistencies between her testimony to the hotel quarantine inquiry and what was on the public record. It was a story of immense importance to the state with the hotel quarantine bungle ultimately leading to one of the world’s longest COVID lockdowns.


Charlotte King & Andy Burns, ABC Regional & Background Briefing, ‘Regional stillbirths: No one told these country mums why their babies died’

Judges’ Citation: Charlotte King and Andy Burns, in reporting jointly produced by ABC Regional and Background Briefing, contributed a well-researched and written piece detailing frequently inadequate maternal care, specifically in auditing and responding to stillbirths, in regional parts of the country. A powerful and well-told story that contributed to a national stillbirth audit program, which will improve data collection around preventable deaths.

Highly Commended: Charmayne Allison of Shepparton News for ‘Her Voice, Our Voice’


Russell Jackson, ABC News, ‘The Persecution of Robert Muir’

Judges’ Citation: A piece with deep impact. It put you in the shoes of 1970s Aboriginal AFL star Robert Muir and took you on a harrowing journey through decades of racist abuse and mistreatment. The piece required immense mutual trust between subject and writer and great sensitivity in its telling. It was constructed from over 40 hours of interviews. It changed the conversation at a deeply sensitive time for Australian sport.

Highly Commended: Greg Baum of The Sunday Age for ‘The Wright Stuff’


Sam McClure, The Age, Crows Camp Catastrophe

Judges’ Citation: A two-year investigation that took you inside the Crows inner sanctum to explore the team’s infamous 2018 pre-season camp and the fallout among players and management. Despite repeated denials by the club and difficult reporting, Sam didn’t give up until he got the story.

Highly Commended: Michael Warner of the Herald Sun for ‘Danny’s Tragic Secret’


Jason Edwards, Herald Sun, The Crux

Judges’ Citation: This outstanding image of rock climber Tom Perkins was taken in complete darkness. Climbing under these conditions is unbelievably hard and dangerous, with the climber having to make every move by memory. The judging panel thought while it was a technically difficult photo to take Jason had captured it well, shining a light on a sport that requires both mental and physical toughness.

Highly Commended: Darrian Traynor, Getty Images, ‘In the moment’


Olivia Shying, Geelong Advertiser, ‘High Stakes’

Judges’ Citation: Olivia Shying’s excellent reporting for the Geelong Advertiser covered issues relating to elderly drivers’ safety and drug-affected driving. During COVID-19, when Victoria experienced the lowest road toll in years, Olivia’s reporting was a clear standout to the judges. The judges also commend the Geelong Advertiser for the attention it brings to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs, which has eclipsed the problem of drink driving in the Geelong region.


Travis Nemtsas, Nine News, After Curfew

Judges’ Citation: Travis’s extraordinary pictures and montages of the deserted Melbourne CBD during lockdown are both a visual feast and will serve as a stunning historical record. The piece was captured over five nights with a variety of apparatus and was edited by Travis himself. His vision provided millions of Victorians with images of Melbourne that they were unable to see for themselves. Travis captured the beauty of the empty streets and landmarks in a hauntingly memorable way.

Highly Commended: Simon Winter of ABC Australian Story for ‘To Catch a Stalker’


Oli Bourguignon, 7NEWS Melbourne, Road Trip with Cardinal George Pell

Judges’ Citation: Oli’s pictures showed Cardinal Pell for the first time since his release from prison. Seven’s exclusive pictures capture the Cardinal clearly in a variety of different situations as he travelled to Sydney. The degrees of difficulty and uncertainty in the shots are not felt by the viewer, demonstrating Oli’s intuition about what is needed to be in the right place and maximise a shot. The exclusive vision gave the first insight into the demeanour and appearance of our most senior Catholic, who fell from grace, was imprisoned, then was exonerated and freed.

Highly Commended: Stephen Ramplin of Nine News for ‘Wonder Woman’ 


Louise Milligan, Mary Fallon & Lauren Day, ABC Four Corners, ‘Boys Club’

Judges’ Citation: Louise Milligan and her Four Corners colleagues unearthed a hidden culture of toxic masculinity and predatory grooming of minors at a Christian private college, a world that usually keeps within its ranks. She was able to obtain on-air interviews with subjects that would have been difficult to get to agree to disclose such sensitive information. Her story led to changes in the school’s governance and attitudes.

Highly Commended: Nick McKenzie, Joel Tozer, Sumeyya Ilanbey & Paul Sakkal, Nine Network 60 Minutes, ‘The Faceless Man’


Christine Ahern, Nine Network A Current Affair, Epping Disgrace

Judges’ Citation: Ahern worked for weeks to lock down interviews with whistleblowers inside the aged care catastrophe during COVID-19. In gaining their trust, she was able to report for the first time how conditions led to out-of-control infections in the community. The emotion conveyed gave the audience a real insight into the ordeal. After the story aired, carers featured in the piece expressed their relief and gratitude about how their side of the story was finally told.

Highly Commended: Sallese Gibson & Nina Funnell, Network Ten The Project, ‘Let Us Speak’


Christine Ahern, Nine Network The Today Show, Quarantine Catastrophe

Judges’ Citation: This was the story all networks were after, a whistleblower in hotel security who was prepared to go on camera to share the details of what was really happening behind closed doors. Christine worked around the clock to get the story to air in a day, highlighting the urgency and need for Victorians to hear the guard’s story.

Highly Commended: Paul Dowsley, 7NEWS Melbourne, ‘George Pell’s First Interview as a Free Man’


Chris Gillett, ABC 7.30, Molly and Coral Taylor

Judges’ Citation: This well-crafted 7.30 report captured the passion, skill and no-nonsense approach of two of the country’s most successful female motorsport competitors. It highlighted the strong mother-daughter bond in a tough male-dominated sport where they’ve earned respect and acceptance – inspirational, because it was not based on their gender but on their hard-fought achievements.


André Dao, Michael Green & Tia Kass, The Saturday Paper, ‘We Feed You’

Judges’ Citation: ‘We Feed You’ presents multicultural voices – temporary migrants, working at the margins of the food chain – through inspired storytelling, using a collaborative approach among journalists, sources and the illustrator. The piece is highly creative, conveying the strength and complexity of the workers, the challenges they face and the important but often invisible role they play in our community. The apparent simplicity of this reporting, its use of first-person narratives, belies the deep thinking and effort behind the multimedia composition.

Highly Commended: Tamara McDonald, Geelong Advertiser, ‘Doctor speaks out after racist attack’


Chris Gillett, ABC 7.30, ‘Olivia’s Story’

Judges’ Citation: In telling Olivia’s deeply personal story from the heart, Chris Gillett not only exposed the raw fears, challenges and struggles her family faced but also the absolute joy they experienced of a life together. In retracing their path – from the joy of birth to the fears something was not right, the battle for a diagnosis, planning for a life ahead and eventually acceptance and celebration of who Oliva is – Gillett provides the world a wider glimpse of the realities faced by so many others living with a disability. The depth of emotion captured in Gillett’s work builds positive understanding of the issues and of the love experienced by those living with disability, enlightening his audience rather than lecturing to them.

Highly Commended: Matilda Boseley, Guardian Australia, ‘Melburnians with disabilities fear aftermath of long lockdown’



Nick McKenzie

Nine Network’s 60 Minutes and Good Weekend Magazine

Judges’ citation: Nick McKenzie’s impressive body of work in 2020 added to the breadth and depth of his investigative journalism over many years. The scope and ambition of his work, matched with a commitment to pursuing the story beyond the scoop, make him a good fit with the intentions of the Graham Perkin award. McKenzie’s work on war crimes, Crown casino, and corruption in the Victorian branch of the ALP, in particular, continues to make a difference, not just by prompting official actions and inquiries but by encouraging other media to investigate issues and building a more open public conversation about key institutions and values. McKenzie shines a powerful light. His is quality journalism critical to our democracy.

“The Faceless man”, 60 Minutes, June 2020
“One last mission”, Good Weekend, 27 June 2020
“The Final Battle”, 60 Minutes, November 2020
“Crown Unmasked (Update 2020)”, 60 Minutes, February 2020 “Law Unto Themselves”, 60 Minutes, December 2020

Lorena Allam, The Guardian
Jacqueline Maley and Kate McClymont, SMH, The Age
Mark Willacy, ABC

Quill Awards

Nick McKenzie


Julian Linden The Daily Telegraph

Judges’ citation: The judges selected Julian Linden’s folio from a field strong in quality and numbers. That Linden’s stories were well-written is a given in a category that attracts some of journalism’s most polished writers. But his work impressed with its other qualities: it broke new ground, it was bold and genuinely investigative. The panel praised Linden’s fearless investigation of the death of a teenage Olympic skater and his probing of dysfunctional Hockeyroos management. His Tokyo Olympics story displayed knowledge and insight about the games behind the Games. We believe Harry Gordon would approve his grit as well as his grace.

“The alarm bell rings: Why the Tokyo Games must be put on hold”, Daily Telegraph, 15 March 2020 “It’s Games over for Australian athletes”, Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2020
“The tragic toll of a medal dream”, Daily Telegraph Sunday Extra, 22 August 2020
“Shanya swam against the fiercest tide”, Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2020
“Hockeyroo starts legal battle over contract termination”, Daily Telegraph, 9 December 2020

Greg Baum, The Age
Belinda Hawkins, ABC
Russell Jackson, ABC

See also: Melbourne Press Club: 2019 Quill Awards winners

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