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The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism

Judging criteria

The kind of stories that inspire news editors and audiences alike. The judges are looking for original journalism with public interest value and impact. The work gives voice to Pacific island perspectives on an under-reported issue or development of importance to Australia and the region. 

The judges will keep in mind the overall aims of this Grant, which are 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 island region to Australian audiences.

The following Judging criteria will also be applied:


  • The story proposal must focus on an under-reported issue or development that relates to one or more Pacific island countries. (For the purposes of this grant, the Pacific islands region comprises all states and territories that would ordinarily be considered to be in Melanesia, Micronesia or Polynesia. A project which focuses solely on New Zealand will not qualify; however a project which focuses on New Zealand in addition to somewhere else in the region will be considered).
  • The story proposal must display originality and timeliness.
  • The proposal should explain the potential impact and newsworthiness of this story for Australian audiences. Why is it important that they know about this topic?
  • The story proposal and all accompanying documents and examples of past work must satisfy the judges that the applicant is able to produce high-quality and accurate journalism, conduct necessary research, apply investigation skills, ensure source attribution, adhere to journalistic ethics and be able to deliver the finished work by the 30 June 2025 deadline.
  • The story proposal must be accompanied by a written undertaking from a publisher or media outlet to publish the finished work, to make it publicly accessible to an Australian audience, and to incorporate Walkley Public Fund branding in the finished work.

Highly Desirable

  • The judges will give preference to proposals that include a plan to work in collaboration with Pacific island journalists or media organisations.
  • The judges will give preference to proposals that demonstrate innovation and creativity in storytelling including through the best use of formats for the project, including multimedia.

Terms and Conditions

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must be Australian citizens or permanent residents with working rights in Australia.
  • Applicants may be based outside Australia. Preference to applications received from abroad will be given to applicants based in the Pacific.
  • The grant is open to journalists from all sectors, backgrounds and experience levels.
  • The grant is open to applications by both freelancers and reporters employed by media organisations.
  • Academics, public intellectuals and former journalists working in Pacific-related fields are also eligible to apply. These applicants must have a strong track record in the media as an independent voice or reporter and be able to submit examples of published work.
  • Each applicant may apply only once per year.
  • Group applications may include up to three names, with one person nominated as the primary contact.

Grant Conditions

  • Applicants may be working journalists either on a freelance, full-time or part-time basis.
  • In the case of a journalist working for a media organisation, the grant is to go towards supporting an individual journalist to complete a project. It is to be applied to items such as travel, accommodation, or research. The grant cannot be paid to an employer to subsidise an employee’s salary or use of the organisation’s facilities.
  • Each applicant is responsible for their own insurances; editors will also be asked to verify that insurance is in place.
  • Applicants must declare any other financial support committed for the project.
  • The Walkley Foundation is not liable for any legal issues which result from the project or story.  
  • Judges have the right to reject an application which in their opinion does not comply with the requirements of the competition. The judges’ decision will be final. The Walkley Board reserves the right to withdraw a grant if it later finds the entrant did not comply with the conditions and criteria.
  • The $10,000 grant will be paid in three installments: $5000 on receipt of a signed MOU agreement, $3000 on receipt of initial receipts demonstrating that grant spend is underway, and $2000 on publication.

Publication Requirements

  • For editorial projects submitted for the purposes of this grant, the Pacific islands region comprises all states and territories that would ordinarily be considered to be in Melanesia, Micronesia or Polynesia. A project which focuses solely on New Zealand will not qualify; however a project which focuses on New Zealand in addition to somewhere else in the region will be considered.
  • Applicants must certify that their application is their original work and that they have adhered to the MEAA Code of Ethics in the work preparation, undertake to continue to abide by the Code of Ethics and to comply with all copyright requirements.
  • All applicants must declare any legal complaints, defamation actions, contempt of court actions, suppression orders, challenges to the accuracy, corrections or claims of plagiarism they are subject to at the time of application.
  • The published work needs to be accessible to an Australian audience. For work published behind a paywall, a publicly-accessible version of the published work must be made available, and / or provided to the Walkley Foundation for publication on its website.
  • The Walkley Foundation is under no obligation to publish the finished work.
  • Applicants must provide a written agreement from a media organisation to publish/broadcast the finished work, to do so in a format that is publicly accessible to an Australian audience, and to include Walkley Foundation Public Fund branding using a pre-supplied branding toolkit.
  • Applicants must provide contact details for their editor, who will be contacted as part of the verification process to consent to the terms and conditions.
  • The applicant acknowledges that the Walkley Foundation may reproduce, broadcast and communicate materials submitted for the purpose of promoting the Grant, conducting the presentation ceremony and making the published stories available to the public, and agrees and warrants that the Foundation may use the material for these purposes. The applicant also agrees that if they are successful in winning a grant, their work may be published under a dedicated Walkley banner on external platforms.
  • Grant recipients and publishers are responsible for the editing process, legal and fact checks.
  • The author (or their employer in the case of journalists applying as staff of a media organisation) retains the copyright for the piece.
  • Funded projects may be entered in the Walkley Awards, provided they meet all eligibility requirements of the Awards.

Prospective grantees must:

  • Be available to be interviewed via video call by the judging panel in May 2024 as required.
  • Agree to an MOU including dates, deliverables and payment instalments.

Produce the finished work and have it published no later than 30 June 2025.

  • Keep the budget updated with expenditure against the grant and submit quarterly updates on spend, together with receipts, to the Walkley Foundation.
  • Promote the published story to their networks and on their social channels.
  • Be available for Walkley events & publicity as required.
  • Support activities and events undertaken by lead donors to the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism, to the extent that they are able to do so and subject to other commitments and any relevant contractual and/or employment terms.

Have questions? 

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

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