All Media: Public Service Journalism 2017

Winner: Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald and The Age, Fairfax Media, “Living a Nightmare”

I’m living a nightmare; We tried to warn them; Mesh move

“Dogged” is a word that comes up regularly in relation to investigative reporting, and Joanne McCarthy is a true terrier. Her reporting unravels injustice and makes a real difference for the vulnerable.

Thousands of women were implanted with pelvic mesh devices in public and private hospitals in the 1980s and 1990s. While doctors sounded the alarm about horrific complications, the manufacturers continued to aggressively market the devices and regulatory bodies remained largely silent. McCarthy put a human face to the women left suffering in silence, some left unable to have sex, “permanently incontinent”, distressed and depressed. Negligence cases sank without trace and systems that should have protected victims failed around the world, while McCarthy drew the threads back to our own backyard.

Her investigation spanned three years and more than 80 articles. It provided a local view of a global catastrophe, as sensitive to victims as it was unflinching in exposing negligence.

McCarthy is a Newcastle Herald journalist whose extensive coverage of institutional child sexual abuse contributed to the establishment of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Her campaigning reporting also won her the 2013 Gold Walkley and Graham Perkin Award. In 2015, she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Newcastle for her work exposing child sexual abuse in the Hunter region. McCarthy was raised and still lives on the Central Coast of NSW. She has proudly remained a regional journalist for nearly four decades. This is her third Walkley Award.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

Newcastle Herald reporter Joanne McCarthy’s exposé on the pelvic mesh implant trial revealed how Australian regulatory failures contributed to a tragedy affecting thousands of women both here and overseas. The investigative series spanning more than three years and 80 articles unravelled and exposed the negligence while providing support for victims seeking justice and compensation.