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The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism 2024

2024 entries have closed. Winner will be announced at the Mid-Year Celebration on 20 June.

The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism honours the work of legendary ABC journalist Sean Dorney. It provides for a grant of $10,000 to a journalist to produce significant content in any medium profiling issues in the Pacific region. In 2024, up to two grant applications will be selected.

The grant aims to provide:

  • an incentive for more reporting of Pacific issues by the Australian media in all formats
  • increased opportunities for Australian journalists who cover the Pacific to develop more detailed stories on the region
  • support for Australian journalists and media outlets who want to embark on Pacific journalism for the first time
  • greater exposure and publicity for journalism that brings the stories of the Pacific islands region to Australian audiences

About Sean Dorney

Sean Dorney is an undisputed icon of Pacific reporting within the Australian media. In 2018 his illustrious 40-year career as a journalist in Papua New Guinea and throughout the Pacific islands region was recognised with the Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism

Sean’s passion for the region, and for the work of the Australian media in telling Pacific stories to Australian audiences, is legendary and unquenchable. Sean is living with Motor Neurone Disease and this grant is one way in which his impact and legacy can be carried forward by and for the industry he loves.

About the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism

  • The judges are looking for original journalism with public interest value and impact, and which gives voice to Pacific island perspectives on an under-reported issue or development of importance to Australia and the region. 
  • The grant is open to journalists from all sectors, backgrounds and experience levels, and to both freelancers and reporters employed by media organisations. We encourage applications from diverse and early career reporters as well as experienced and well-known journalists. Academics, public intellectuals and former journalists working in Pacific-related fields may also apply. These applicants must have a strong track record in the media as an independent voice or reporter.
  • Applicants must be an Australian citizen or have working rights in Australia. Applications can be made by people who meet these criteria who reside outside Australia, preferably in the Pacific.
  • Group applications may include up to three names, with one person nominated as the primary contact.
  • Grantees will be required to publish their finished work within 12 months of the grant being awarded in July 2024.
  • Winners will be offered access to a mentor to support their project development.

What applicants will need to submit

  • A 300-word description of your story idea, proposed angle, and why this story and proposed angle are important to Australian audiences.
  • A 200-word statement explaining how your story responds to the Judging Criteria, including how you might work with local content producers.
  • A description of where you plan to publish your story, including the proposed outlet/s, platforms, and programs.
  • A letter of commitment from a publisher and / or broadcaster, agreeing to publish the finished work and to use a supplied Walkley Public Fund branding toolkit to brand the finished work.
  • A 100-word statement explaining why you are the best person to tell this story.
  • A completed budget template explaining how the $10,000 will be spent.
  • Three examples of your best published work.
  • A 100-word description of the kind of guidance and support you would hope to receive from a mentor.
  • A 50-word biography and a photo of yourself suitable for publication.

Judging Criteria and Terms and Conditions

Before starting your application, please refer to the full Judging Criteria and Terms and Conditions to determine your eligibility and what will be expected if your application is successful.

How to apply

Before starting your application, please refer to the full Judging Criteria and Terms and Conditions to determine your eligibility and what will be expected if your application is successful. Then click the online form here to start your application.

Judging Process

  • Entries close 11.59pm, Monday 15 April 2024. The application deadline is final and there will be no extensions provided. The system will automatically prevent submissions after the deadline.
  • The judges will review entries and select a shortlist of finalists.
  • Finalists will be invited to an interview with the judging panel during April-May 2024. Interviews can be done remotely.
  • The winner will be notified by 24 May 2024.
  • The winner will be announced at the 2024 Mid Year Celebration of Journalism on 20 June 2024 in Sydney.
  • The grant program will run from 1 July 2024 to 30 June 2025.

Webinar: Frequently Asked Questions

On 7 March 2024 we hosted a webinar explaining how to apply for the grant and prepare a budget. You can download the slide deck and a list of Pacific news sources here. The webinar recording is below: 

Further questions?

Please contact Corinne Podger, Senior Manager for Programs and Education.

The Walkley Public Fund for Journalism

These grants are funded by the Walkley Foundation’s Public Fund. The industry needs more from us, and to provide that kind of support, we need help to grow the Walkley Public Fund. The Fund is an opportunity for individuals and organisations to come together and show their support for journalism and the vital role that it plays in supporting democracy, with a tax-deductible donation.

You can find out more about the fund, what we support, and how to donate here.

If you believe supporting more and better reporting of Pacific issues is important, consider making a donation to the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism today. Donate online and add ‘Sean Dorney Grant’ in the comment box.

Show your support

Current winners

2023 winners: Stefan Armbruster and Marian Faa

Stefan Armbruster is the Brisbane-based correspondent for SBS World News and has reported on the Pacific for almost 30 years – regularly travelling in the region. He began as a broadcaster at community radio 4ZZZ in Brisbane, and worked overseas at the Fiji Broadcasting Corp, BBC, Dow Jones, CNBC, and the ABC in Australia. His reportage on Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander, Pacific, environment and multicultural issues has been recognised with numerous awards. 

Marian Faa is a multi-platform reporter within the ABC’s Asia Pacific Newsroom. Born in Papua New Guinea, Marian’s stories are focused on the Pacific. She has covered politics, natural disasters, climate change, health, development and issues relating to women’s rights in the Pacific. In 2020 she was named Queensland’s new journalist of the year for her investigative reporting.

Past winners

2022 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism winner: Lucy Murray

Lucy Murray is a cross platform reporter and video journalist with SBS World News covering stories from Australia and aboard. She has reported on the China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Fiji, sat down with the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia for an exclusive interview and was nominated for an 2021 Amnesty International Media Award. (Lucy Murray, right, at the 2022 presentation with Grant Adviser, Dr Tess Newton Cain)

Funded by the 2022 Sean Dorney Grant, Lucy investigated the impacts of deep-sea mining in the Cook Islands and the effects it could have on the Pacific’s fragile ecosystem.


2021 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism winner: Natalie Whiting

Natalie Whiting is the ABC’s Papua New Guinea Correspondent. For almost three years Whiting has been at the forefront of coverage of PNG, including the 2019 political upheaval and election of Prime Minister James Marape, the Bougainville independence referendum, the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the hosting of APEC, the death of Sir Michael Somare, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whiting is a video journalist and cross-platform reporter who has previously worked for ABC News, radio current affairs and 7.30. Before moving to Port Moresby, she filed for the ABC from across Australia, with a particular focus on stories from outback and regional areas. She started her career with the ABC in Broken Hill and was later based in Orange, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart. Natalie Whiting has received numerous awards for her reporting, including the ABC’s prestigious Andrew Olle Scholarship.

2020 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism winners: Jo Chandler

2020 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism winners: Nic Maclellan

2019 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism winner: Ben Bohane

Australian photojournalist, author and TV producer Ben Bohane was announced as the winner of the inaugural Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism at the 2019 Walkley Mid-Year Celebration. Read more about the announcement here

With the support of this grant Ben was able to produce a number of stories covering Bougainville’s referendum for independence for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Follow the links below to read the stories featured throughout November and December in these publications.

A new generation maintains pre-Christian traditions. Photo: Ben Bohane.

John Sisiesi, the returning officer for Bougainville’s referendum, stands with boys wearing Upe hats as they emerge from the bush. Sisiesi is from a community nearby, along the north-west coast of Bougainville, one of the few areas where the Upe tradition continues after Christian missionary activity over the past 100 years curbed it elsewhere. The boys are isolated in the bush for some years learning tribal law, bush skills, fighting and house building, bush medicine and love magic. As the Upe symbolises maturity, some see it as a fitting symbol for Bougainville as it comes to maturity in nationhood. Photo: Ben Bohane.

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