Image: David Gray

We break down the key differences between the Walkley grants currently open for applications.


The Walkley Foundation is offering a total grant pool of $110,000 to fund public interest journalism on Asia, the Pacific islands region, and regional Australia. The grants are for freelance journalists, but to apply you must have a commitment from a publisher or broadcaster. Got questions? Find the answers below.

What is the difference between the three grants on offer?

There are three separate grant opportunities on offer:

1. The Walkley Grants for Freelance Journalism on Regional Australia award a total of $75,000 in grants, funded by the Walkley Public Fund and Twitter Australia, to assist Australian freelance journalists to produce a significant work of journalism in any medium on the theme “Reporting Regional Australia”. “Regional” includes areas and towns outside of Australian capital cities and the ACT, but does include Darwin. The judges are looking for stories that haven’t been told before, from and about regional communities, industries, environments, economies, justice and politics. You can pitch a story or project in any medium (or multimedia), so long as it is in the public interest. The grants are open to all Australian freelance journalists based in regional or metropolitan areas, and you can enter as an individual or groups of up to three members (all freelance journalists).

2. The Judith Neilson Institute Freelance Grant for Asian Journalism awards a total of $25,000 in grants, supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, to support Australian freelance journalists doing high-quality journalism that tells the Asia region’s most important stories in intelligent and compelling ways, in any medium. For the purposes of this grant, “Asia” includes South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia includes Timor Leste but not Papua New Guinea. Open to freelance journalists who are Australian citizens or permanent residents. Applicants can enter as individuals or groups of up to three members (all freelance journalists).

3. The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism awards one grant of $10,000 annually to assist an Australian journalist to produce a significant work of journalism in any medium that gives voice to Pacific island perspectives on an under-reported issue or development of importance to Australia and the region. Journalists from all sectors, backgrounds and experience levels can apply, 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 can also apply — 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.

Why is the Walkley Foundation giving out grants for reporting?

The Walkley Foundation benchmarks the best in Australian journalism and also supports the industry through training, mentoring, scholarships, fellowships and a public program that encourages all Australians to value quality journalism. Providing grants to fund the production of original public interest journalism not only supports Australian journalists, but Australian news organisations as well.

Who judges the grant applications?

Each grant program is judged by a committee of senior journalists and editors from a range of media backgrounds. All the judges will be announced when the grant winners are announced.

What are the judges looking for?

The judges are looking for original journalism with a focus on an under-reported issue or development in the relevant area (regional Australia, Asia or the Pacific islands). They want stories that are original, timely, newsworthy and will have impact.

They are looking for applications that have a clear plan for how to tell the story, a clear understanding of the costs, and a commitment from a publisher or broadcaster to get the story to an Australian audience.

The judges also want to see proof that the applicant is able to produce high quality journalism and has excellent skills in written/verbal communication and/or technical/production skills. It is desirable although not mandatory that the stories pitched be innovative or creative in their storytelling style.

How do I apply?

Apply using the online application form. It is free to apply. As well as your contact details, you will be asked to describe your story idea in detail, demonstrating that you have a plan for sources and research, and contingency plans.

You’ll be asked to upload a one page CV, and a letter of commitment from a co-publisher who is interested in working with you on the story (download a template here — if the file doesn’t automatically download, disable your pop-up blockers or open in a different browser). You’ll also need to complete a budget for the project using our template (find it here).

Your application will need to be verified by an editor/producer who is willing to publish/broadcast your work. Applications close at midnight AEST on April 26, 2020.

What kind of work can I pitch?

You can pitch a story or project on any topic, for any medium (or multimedia), so long as it relates to the relevant area (regional Australia, Asia or the Pacific islands).

How long a story should I pitch?

It’s up to you and your publisher. Be realistic about what your story needs and what you are capable of, and budget accordingly. It may be a single piece, a series of articles, a podcast series or a multimedia project. Just have a clearly defined outcome you are confident you can deliver.

Can I apply with an idea that is already in production?

As long as it hasn’t been published elsewhere and is still a freelance project, yes. For example, a project that you ran out of resources for and couldn’t finish. But a project that is completed and awaiting publication/broadcast would not be eligible.

Why do I need to provide a budget?

Seeing an outline of the costs you anticipate helps the judges decide how much funding to allocate, and also gives them insight into how you plan to approach your reporting. We have provided a simple template for you to complete, which you can find here. You should include any additional funding and budget to be paid for your time.

What should I include in my budget?

The grants are intended to cover reporting costs directly related to the project, which may include reporters’ time, travel, research, insurance and support.

How much can I apply for?

The total pool of funding available is $75,000 for reporting on regional Australia, $25,000 for reporting on Asia, so you can’t apply for a project bigger than that.

The judging committee will allocate grants according to merit and the budgets submitted, to fund reporting costs directly related to the project. Don’t be afraid to think big, but be realistic about the costs.

In the case of the Sean Dorney Grant, there will be one $10,000 grant allocated so you should plan your budget to that amount.

Can I seek additional funding from other sources?

Yes. Please mention any additional funding when you outline your budget in your application.

What is public interest journalism?

Public interest journalism is journalism that informs citizens as part of our democratic system. It is journalism that aims to make a difference, with tangible public benefit to the community. It could include: Good civic journalism which gives a voice to the voiceless in our community; journalism which starts a public debate on an important issue; journalism which exposes incompetence or wrongdoing by those who should be working for the common good, especially in government or any institutions affecting the public; journalism which points to solutions to important issues within the community or society which it serves.

When does it need to be published?

Projects should be completed and published within nine months of the winners announcement. But we recognise that we’re living in unprecedented times, so adjustments may need to be made around timelines particularly for stories where travel is required.

When will I know if my application has been successful?

Successful projects will be announced at the 2020 Mid Year Celebration of Journalism on the evening of June 17, 2020. All applicants will be contacted.

Can my publication pair up with a project or republish the funded stories?

If you’re a commissioning editor you should definitely reach out to your favourite freelancers to encourage them to pitch you a project.

If you’d like to express interest in republishing a funded story, please email walkleys@walkleys.com.

How can I support the grants/fund?

You may like to consider making a donation of any size to the Walkley Public Fund. You can find out more about the fund and donate here.

Can I talk to someone about this?

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


Thank you to those who support these grants: