The Walkley Documentary Award


2016 finalists

The shortlist has been announced!

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War, Chris Hilton, Alan Erson, Victoria Midwinter Pitt (Essential Media and Entertainment, ABC TV and Screen Australia)
Hitting Home, Sarah Ferguson, Nial Fulton and Ivan O’Mahoney (In Films and ABC TV)
Sherpa, Jennifer Peedom, Bridget Ikin and John Smithson (Felix Media)

See the 2016 longlist.

These six outstanding longlisted documentaries will be screened free at the State Library of NSW in Sydney in October. Join us at the State Library of NSW on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and Wednesday, Oct. 19. Registration is essential.

The Walkley Documentary Award, part of the annual Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, recognises excellence in documentary production that is grounded in the principles of journalism – accuracy, impact, public benefit, ethics, creativity, research and reporting – together with rigorous filmmaking. The award is open to a variety of documentary storytelling styles and the judges look for courage and creativity in concept, approach and execution.

About the award

Entries for 2016 have closed.

Eligibility: Any non-fiction film made for cinema, broadcast or web release with a running time of at least 40 minutes and a maximum time of three hours, not including entirely or scripted or improvised fictionalisations of actual events. If the documentary is part of a series that exceeds the three-hour limit entrants must choose the three hours of content they wish to be judged on i.e the first three episodes.

Entries that have appeared within regularly scheduled television current affairs programs must be documentary in nature and execution.

Number of entrants: The named entrant(s) should be the individual(s) most involved in the key journalistic and creative aspects of the filmmaking process. A maximum of three persons may be designated as entrants, at least one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control.

You must submit six DVD copies of the work entered.

Documentary Award Chair – Quentin Dempster

Quentin Dempster AM, contributing editor Sydney Morning Herald, currently is chairman of the Walkley Trustees. He was staff-elected director of the ABC 1992-1996. He has 46 years experience in print and broadcast journalism starting as a cadet onQuentin The Maryborough Chronicle, then police, courts, industrial and political rounds and column writing for the Brisbane Telegraph. He was awarded an Australian Journalists’ Association Gold Honour Badge for meritorious service in 1982 and served as AJA Queensland branch president 1975-1984. He was appointed associate producer of Nationwide on ABC TV in 1984, Queensland political editor and presenter 7.30 Report 1987-1990, presenter 7.30 Report NSW 1990-1994; head investigative unit to 1996; presenter Stateline NSW and 7.30 NSW from 1996 to 2014.   In 1986 he wrote and produced the documentary The Sunshine System about institutional corruption in Queensland. He is the author of three books: ‘Honest Cops’ 1992, ‘Whistleblowers’ 1997 and ‘Death Struggle’ 2000. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1992 for services to the media particularly in journalism and current affairs. In 2002 he was awarded the Walkley Award for ‘outstanding contribution to journalism’.

Walkley Documentary Touring Program

The Walkley Foundation partners with film and cultural festivals to showcase the work of finalist and award-winning documentary filmmakers.

Showcase: Photo/doco finalists

See the 2015 finalist photos and doco shortlist.

How to enter the Doco Award

Eligibility, dates and more information.

Past Winners

2015: Only the Dead, Michael Ware

Only the Dead is Australian correspondent Michael Ware’s documentary retrospective of seven years, beginning with the “Coalition of the Willing’s” invasion of Iraq in 2003. It records the birth of the Islamic State in 2003, reveals a US war crime committed by soldiers in 2007, and takes you to the front lines of the conflict’s greatest battles. The film also crosses over to the other side, to insurgent training camps and attacks against US forces. Ware’s work as a frontline reporter resulted in his extraordinary access to the creator of IS, Abu Mousab al Zarqawi, and IS’s videoed atrocities of suicide bombings in Baghdad and the first of its ritualised beheadings.

Judges’ comments: Only the Dead is exceptional because it draws from Michael Ware’s 300 hours of (mostly handheld) battlefront footage to structure an observational timeline including his covert encounter with Zarqawi’s network. Ware faced death constantly through what seemed like irrational exposure without respite over seven years. He survived, but at the cost of traumatic stress. Regardless, he is determined to share his handycam reality with confronting honesty. Never before has video journalism taken us to the heart of violence and atrocity perpetrated by a monster and the invader who created it. Our Orwellian never-ending “war on terror” is the result. Only the Dead confronts us with our misjudgement and is the most powerful document as a result.

2014: Code of Silence, Dan Goldberg and Danny Ben-Moshe

Code of Silence is the story of a fight for an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse at an Orthodox Jewish boys’ school in Melbourne. As the case against the abusers continues to make news, the documentary is timely and groundbreaking. Danny Ben-Moshe and Dan Goldberg followed the story for a year from July 2013, the only TV crew to gain access to courtrooms. Manny Waks, the former pupil of the boys’ school who blew the whistle on the rabbis he claimed covered up abuse, left his religion as a result of his abuse, and his orthodox father was shut out by his community. Waks’ perpetrator was jailed, but Waks hopes a royal commission may yet bring to account the rabbis he alleged covered up the abuse.

2013: Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, First Footprints, Contact Films/ABC TV

In 2013, Martin Butler and Bentley Dean won the Walkley Documentary Award for First Footprints – a televisual archaeological ‘dig’ which comprehensively explores the history of Aboriginal tribal structures and land management techniques which prevailed for 50,000 years on the land mass which became known as the island continent of Australia.

2012: Celeste Geer, Then the Wind Changed, Rebel Films/ABC TV

Celeste Geer is an independent filmmaker based in a small bush town just outside Melbourne. Throughout her incarnations as a lawyer, academic and mother, the one constant in Celeste’s working life has been her desire to tell powerful stories. A graduate of the VCA, School of Film and TV (1999), Celeste also worked at AFTRS. Her documentaries are intimate, character-based films that explore the complexities and frailties of the human condition: Mick’s Gift (ABCTV 2002), Veiled Ambition (SBS 2006) and Then The Wind Changed (2011). She is currently working on the acclaimed online digital stories project Big Stories Small Towns. In 2012 she won the Walkley Award for Best Documentary.

2011: Darren Dale, Tony Krawitz and Chloe Hooper, The Tall Man, Blackfella Films

Darren Dale began his career with SBS Television in 1997. He produced short films Mimi and Flat, both of which screened at numerous overseas festivals including Sundance and Edinburgh. He has co-curated the film program for the Message Sticks Indigenous Festival at the Sydney Opera House since 2002. Since 2001 Darren has been a company director of Blackfella Films, Australia’s premier Indigenous production company. Darren also produced, together with Rachel Perkins, the landmark multi-platform history series First Australians, broadcast on SBS in 2008 to over 2.3 million viewers. Following the premiere of The Tall Man at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival, he produced Mabo, a telemovie written by Sue Smith and directed by Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae, First Australians).He also produced two series of Redfern Now, a drama series for the ABC, overseen by renowned UK writer Jimmy McGovern.

Chloe Hooper won a Walkley Award for her writing on the inquest into the death of Cameron Doomadgee, published in The Monthly and internationally. Her first novel, A Child’s Book of True Crime, also received critical acclaim around the world.

Tony Krawitz wrote and directed the film Jewboy which premiered in Un Certain Regard at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to screen at many major festivals including Pusan, Jerusalem and Sundance. For television he has directed on The Surgeon for Channel Ten and City Homicide and All Saints for Channel Seven. Tony was the second unit director on the telemovie The Silence for ABC TV. He also directed Dead Europe, based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas.