Marshall Wallace was sentenced to 15 months’ prison for driving offences in Queensland, despite having a prognosis of six months to live. Jane Bardon followed up with Legal Aid and the Justice Department, who both proposed an exceptional circumstances parole application, but in the meantime Bardon briefed the federal minister, who intervened. Her reporting was picked up across the media and prompted 17,000 signatures on a citizen petition. Wallace’s release was announced within six days of her first report. As Bardon sees it, a death in custody was prevented, while the farcical case drew enough heat as to to deter future repetitions. 

In a powerful body of work about how the legal system affects Indigenous Australians, Bardon also advocated for a rehabilitative response to youth crime in the Northern Territory. A story on the child protection system elicited a commitment from the Families Minister to address the disproportionate numbers of NT Indigenous children being taken into care. 

The breadth of Bardon’s work shows a journalist committed to covering Indigenous affairs, framed with positivity and possible solutions. It is a current and well-crafted multi-platform body of work. Bardon started out as a newspaper reporter in Country Antrim during the Northern Ireland Troubles in 1996. She reported and produced at the Irish News Online, BBC News Online and BBC Radio Current affairs in Belfast for five years during the peace process. She moved to Melbourne in 2003 and worked at SBS and The Age online, before going to Canberra to annoy John Howard and Kevin Rudd as the ABC Rural national political reporter. She has worked at ABC News Darwin since 2008 as an environment reporter, political reporter, producer and reporter for 7.30 NT and the National Reporting Team.

Judges’ comments:

Jane Bardon has explored three different cases which pivot on three difficult subjects: monstrously high incarceration rates, the need for diversionary and non-custodial alternatives, and the widely held fears of another stolen generation. Bardon consistently demonstrates a commitment to the story, maintaining a sense of urgency and a flair for originality