Congratulations to the 2020 Sean Dorney Grant recipients

The judges were so impressed with the quality of the applications this year that they decided to award grants of $10,000 each to two deserving recipients. Congratulations!

Jo Chandler, “Degrees of Change: The fight for climate justice in the Pacific”

The judges were impressed by Jo Chandler’s proposal to examine the pressing issue of climate change in the Pacific. They were taken with her idea to bring us not a narrative of passive and powerless victims, but instead one of how individuals and communities are adapting to this dangerous and dynamic new state, and to ask what tools and resources they are working with to adjust, with a particular focus on the burden on women.

Nic Maclellan, “France and Pacific self-determination during the COVID crisis”

The judges were excited by Nic Maclellan’s proposal to examine the dynamic relationships between Australia, France and the Pacific in the context of anxiety about growing Chinese influence. His proposal to focus on the perspectives of the Kanak and Maohi peoples – including strong independence movements – in an environment where Australia is increasingly working in partnership with France raises a fascinating set of issues which will play out as New Caledonia heads towards another self-determination referendum and the region recovers from COVID-19.

  • We would like the French state to apologise,Inside Story, July 27, 2020: reports on French legislation to compensate survivors affected by radiation exposure during French nuclear testing in the South Pacific from the 1960s right through until 1996.
  • Before Noumea, there was only London, Washington and Ottawa,” Inside Story, Islands Business and Pacnews, September 18, 2020: looks at historical relations between Australia and New Caledonia and how, 80 years after helping defend New Caledonia against Japan, Australia is mobilising to counter another rising Asian power.

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 news outlets.

“I am delighted that through the generosity of donors who obviously share my passion for greater and high-quality news coverage of the Pacific region that this year we are able to make two Walkley Foundation Grants to enable gifted journalists to get out there and report on significant issues affecting this region which is so important to Australia.”

Sean Dorney


  • Sean Dorney, Former Pacific Correspondent, ABC
  • Sue Ahearn, Journalist and Consultant
  • Michael Bachelard, Walkley Judging Board and Investigations Editor, The Age
  • Jemima Garrett, Freelance Journalist specialising in the Pacific
  • Alexander Rheeney, Co Editor, Samoa Observer 

With thanks to the following organisations and individuals:

Supported by
: Stephen Howes and Clare Holberton, Bob and Helen Lyon, Ian and Denise Macintosh, Pacific Island Living Magazine, TNC Pacific Consulting and Anonymous (1)

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

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.