About the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism

Applications are now closed for the 2020 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism. Our judges are reviewing all entries and winners will be notified by the end of June.


Established by the Walkley Foundation, the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism aims to encourage more and better journalism about the Pacific islands region by Australian media professionals and outlets.

A grant of $10,000 will be awarded annually to assist an Australian journalist to produce a significant work of journalism in any medium. The work will give voice to Pacific island perspectives on an under-reported issue or development of importance to Australia and the region.

The judges are looking for original journalism with public interest value and impact. Stories that surprise, educate and make a difference.

Quick links: Terms & Conditions | Frequently Asked Questions | Judging Criteria


With thanks to the following organisations and individuals:

Who can apply?

  • Journalists from all sectors, backgrounds and experience levels, including freelancers and those employed by media organisations. Please note the terms and conditions before applying.
  • Academics, public intellectuals and former journalists working in Pacific-related fields. These applicants must have a strong track record in the media as an independent voice or writer.
  • Group applications may include up to three names, with one person nominated as the primary contact.

Applicants must be an Australian resident or citizen but may live outside Australia, preferably in the Pacific.

How to apply

Applications are now closed – winners will be notified by end of June.

Apply using the online application form. It is free to apply. Applications close at midnight on Friday May 29, 2020. Applicants should:

  • Give a brief outline of their project
  • Show they have a realistic understanding of the budget for their project and provide details with their application
  • Show they have in principle support of a publisher or broadcaster to publish the work they produce as a result of this grant
  • Submit up to three examples of their work to support their application

Terms and conditions

Please see the full terms & conditions here.

Judging Criteria

Please see the full judging criteria here.

Key dates

March 2, 2020: Applications open

May 29, 2020: Applications close at midnight AEST

Why a grant for Pacific journalism?

This grant aims to provide:

  • an incentive for more and better reporting of Pacific issues by the Australian media in all formats.
  • increased opportunities for Australian journalists who cover the Pacific to develop their practice further.
  • 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 island region to Australian audiences.

Who is 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.

Contact us

For questions on the grants program, please contact Lauren Dixon via email or call 0413 212 890.

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.

Congratulations to Ben Bohane, winner of the 2019 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism

Ben Bohane with Sean Dorney in Brisbane in November 2019. Photo: Dan McGarry.

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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Want to support great storytelling in the public interest through a grant? Get in touch with us.