2015 ACAJ Star Prize - media release


Photo caption: ABC Rural reporter, Charlie McKillop (right) from far north Queensland receives the Rabobank Australian Star Prize for Rural Broadcasting from Rabobank state manager for Queensland/Northern Territory, Brad James, at a Rural Press Club of Queensland lunch today in Brisbane.

Rabobank award recognises Australia’s top broadcast journalists

ABC Rural reporter from far north Queensland, Charlie McKillop, has won the country’s top award for rural broadcasting.

Charlie was presented with the Rabobank Australian Star Prize for Rural Broadcasting at a lunch hosted by the Rural Press Club of Queensland in Brisbane today.

The award recognises Charlie’s outstanding audio piece, “A duty to be kind in halal killing,” which explored the halal slaughter of cattle in far north Queensland on ABC Rural’s Country Hour radio program.

Her award-winning broadcast examined what happens on the killing room floor and saw her confront the uncomfortable reality that in order to eat meat, animals must die and somebody has to do it.

Apart from providing insight into the halal slaughter of animals in Australia, Charlie’s radio story also highlighted the challenges faced by Muslims in regional Queensland.

For full media release, click here 

CFA - new award exclusive to journalists


New award open exclusively to journalists

Have you reported on a major fire-related incident or issue in the past 12 months? 

Be recognised for your work! 

A new award is now open exclusively to MEDIA to recognise the contribution journalists make to promoting fire safety.

We are looking for outstanding fire-related reports published on:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Online
  • Podcast
  • Blogs

The Media Award recognises excellence in reporting on an issue related to fire safety or outstanding coverage of a fire-related incident by a content producer (such as a writer, journalist, blogger, photo journalist or other) from a recognised media outlet.

Entries may also include a series of stories on a similar topic or event, or an investigative piece that has led to increased awareness of fire safety through innovative and responsible reporting and promotion.

Eligibility: The media report must have been broadcast or published between 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2015 in Victoria.

This category is open to: Media Content Producers from a recognised media outlet. CFA, DELWP, MFB and EMV employees and members are ineligible to enter this category.

Enter today: (Entries close 30 September)

As this is a new award we are happy to answer any questions you may have about potential stories or coverage you wish to enter. Please contact Awards Coordinator Carlie Newman on 9665 4487.

ACAJ media release


Young Aussie rural reporter NZ-bound

The countdown is on for a young Victorian reporter to fly the Australian flag in New Zealand in October, as one of 10 agricultural journalists selected from around the world to take part in a prestigious leadership program.

ABC's western Victoria rural reporter Brett Worthington was selected by the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalist (ACAJ) as the Australian entrant in the global program organised by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ).

Brett went on to be chosen for the 2015 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism Award, which includes a trip to the annual IFAJ Congress and a professional development ‘boot camp’ in Hamilton, NZ, along with entrants from Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, UK and USA.

The Rural Press Club of Victoria (RPCV) will also assist in Brett’s professional development by funding his trip to New Zealand.

ACAJ president Genevieve McAulay congratulated Brett on his win.

“Australia continues to have good representation on the global front with the IFAJ/Alltech award,” Ms McAulay said. “Brett is another one of our young and upcoming rural journalists and it is fantastic that we can offer him and others with a passion for agriculture the opportunity to be part of the professional development and leadership program.

“Other young leaders in Australian rural journalism, such as Rebecca Jennings (Coretext), Carla Wiese-Smith (Stock Journal) and Nikolai Beilharz (ABC), are past recipients of this award. Just as they have gone on to continue to achieve excellence in their careers, the ACAJ also looks forward to following Brett’s career.”

Ty Yeast, managing director of Alltech Australia/Lienert Australia, said Alltech has been sponsoring the Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism program for more than ten years in order to identify and recognise future leaders in journalism.

“Our industry is in strong need of leaders and agricultural journalism is no exception to this,” he said. “We are delighted to see a strong global interest in the program but it makes myself and the whole Alltech Australia team proud, that the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism award again has a winner from Australia. Congratulations to Brett for the fantastic achievement.”

Rural Press Club of Victoria President, Stephen Cooke, said Brett’s selection was a highly deserved reward for his dedication to both his craft and his local community.

“The Rural Press Club of Victoria is delighted for Brett and very pleased to fund his flight to New Zealand,” Mr Cooke said.

“Journalists and photographers are integral members of their local community. We often see how reporting on issues of importance to the community can bring beneficial change.

“Investing in the professional development of journalists and photographers is important for both the individual and their community.”

About Brett:

Brett is the ABC's western Victoria rural reporter, joining the ABC in 2013 as the Mildura-Swan Hill rural reporter, having previously worked for newspapers in Bendigo, Colac and Cambodia and for ABC TV's Offsiders.

He lives at Horsham, in the Wimmera region of western Victoria, and studied journalism at RMIT six years ago. In 2014, he was selected for an IFAJ Exposure-4-Development media tour to Tanzania, Africa.

Brett said he is excited to represent the ACAJ in New Zealand and will use this experience to further hone his skills, learn from experienced reporters and immerse himself in another culture.

“Covering agriculture is not simply about producing content for farmers. It’s about giving the broader community an understanding of the role of agriculture and the contribution it makes to regional and global economies,” Brett said.

“Australian farmers tend to look internationally to our north – with a particular focus on Asia – and often forget our neighbours on the other side of the ditch and the major overhaul the country has undergone to transition from sheep-based industries into dairy. I am eager to learn more about the role agriculture plays in New Zealand’s economy and the impact its transition to dairy has had across the country.”


Interview contacts

  • Brett Worthington, (03) 5381 5320
  • Genevieve McAulay, President of ACAJ, 0428 279 576
  • Stephen Cooke, President of the Rural Press Club of Victoria, (03) 9478 9779

Award details

IFAJ Congress


Click here for PDF format

The Nationals in transition


photo supplied by Rex Martinich


Vice president of the Rural Press Club of Victoria and Hamilton Spectator journalist 

The Victorian National Party appears to be going back to basics for election campaigning under its newer, younger leaders Peter Walsh and Steph Ryan.

However, the policies developed by the Nationals will have to change to meet the changing types of people in their own electorates.

Mr Walsh and Ms Ryan were interviewed by ABC 7.30 national affairs correspondent Heather Ewart, who made the acclaimed ‘A Country Road’ on the Nationals, at a Rural Press Club of Victoria function in Melbourne last week.

Stung by a surprise defeat to an independent candidate in Shepparton last year, the Nationals will be getting back on the road and going door to door in electorates to avoid a repeat next election.

Mr Walsh, as the new party leader, acknowledged the difficulty in getting voters to “connect” with large financial numbers and indicated a preference for highlighting tangible local projects.

“I think if you look back with hindsight, which is a great tool, we could have had our message better about what (the party) was delivering for families and individuals,” Mr Walsh said.

“One of the traps of politics is talking about the billions (of dollars); people don’t relate to the billions of hundreds of millions, they relate to what is going to have an impact on their lives.

“I don’t think we connected with people, on their level, on what we actually did for country Victoria.”

Health, education and wealth outcomes for individuals and families will also become a greater focus for the party.

Ms Ryan, the new deputy leader, credited the tried and true methods of a long campaign, face-to-face meetings and an experienced election staff for her victory in Euroa, rather than social media.

The Nationals have made, and will continue to make, very visible changes to the types of candidates they run.

Ms Ryan joked that the traditional National Party candidate, a former footballer, was now an “endangered species” as the number of female candidates increased.

The party’s election win in the western Victorian seat of Lowan and the by-election in Gippsland South were held up by Mr Walsh as examples of how the National Party could take on the threat of independent and minor party candidates.

“You can also look at quite a few other seats with independents who have been rather persistent in getting elected, but it didn’t happen,” Mr Walsh said.

Changing demographics have also directed the Nationals to make changes to the core of the party, as well as the front-of-house candidates.

“We are no longer a farmers’ party” would have been an astonishing statement for a National

Party leader to make in years gone by, but that is exactly what Mr Walsh said last week.

“You look around our team now: ex builder; football coach; CEO of a hospital; real estate agent; editor of a newspaper; and the list goes on,” Mr Walsh said.

“Out in our branches in country Victoria we have different demographics being members of the party.

“The traditional farmer issues aren’t the ones to be discussed.”

Mr Walsh said that education and Year 12 attainment rates were the main topics of discussion by the party branch in Echuca.

Ms Ewart did hint that the Nationals had not quite shed some of its old self.

“When I grew up, women in the Nationals served scones and cakes. There’s probably a bit of that still going on, more than there should be?” she asked during the interview.

“Well in their defence, they generally make excellent scones and cakes,” Ms Ryan said.

“Except for me. I cannot cook to save myself.”


ABC journalist Heather Ewart interviewed Nationals Victoria leader Peter Walsh and deputy leader Steph Ryan at the May Rural Press Club of Victoria lunch on Monday, May 25. Topics included the loss in Shepparton to independent Suzanna Sheed, why they won’t amalgamate with the Liberals, and what they stand for.

Premier Daniel Andrews preview to budget


photo supplied by Rex Martinich 


Vice president of the Rural Press Club of Victoria and Hamilton Spectator journalist 

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews gave a preview of the vision behind his first budget to a Rural Press Club of Victoria function in Melbourne last week.  

Mr Andrews pledged to implement an “affordable policy agenda” in this week’s State Budget to address the challenges and make the most of opportunities in regional Victoria. 

Throughout a speech to the RPCV function, Mr Andrews paid tribute to regional Victoria’s current economic contribution to the state and its future potential.

Mr Andrews said “food and fibre” was one of the six types of industry in Victoria with the best prospect for growth.

“(The chief executive of Australia Post) said that now the mining boom was nearing an end, next would be a ‘dining boom’,” he said.

“I thought that was a good line.”

Mr Andrews pledged that he and his ministers would listen to people in the industries that they were making decisions about.

“I think the best kind of governments are ones with a clear plan and a clear vision, but also have an open door and a listening ear,” he said.

“One of (Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford’s) great strengths is her preparedness to master her brief, but also to know and understand that she will never know as much about individual industries as those who run those industries.

“There are some things that I know a lot about and there are some things that I will never know as much about as the people I engage with every day, and that is why an open door is very important.”

Mr Andrews announced at the function that a pledge to has reverse $32 million of cuts to ‘Local Learning and Employment Networks’ (LLEN) would be honoured in the budget.

 “Anyone from regional Victoria knows how important these have been over a very long time helping match, particularly young people, their skills to the best economic and employment outcome for them,” Mr Andrews said.

“They have a strong presence everywhere from Geelong, Hamilton, Warrnambool, down in ‘The Valley’, Bairsdale, the Bass Coast, Ballarat Horsham, Kilmore,  Benella, Wodonga, ‘Shep’, Swan hill, Charlton and Mildura.

“Those networks were not funded, that was the wrong decision to make and we promised to reverse it…there will be $32m to reinstate those LLENs in (the) budget.”

Mr Andrews said the LLENs provided regional kids and adults, as well as businesses themselves, the support they needed.

“We just can’t have our country kids left behind any longer,” Mr Andrews said.

“We just can’t have a situation where there is a skills gap and a growing knowledge attainment gap, and therefore a lifetime earning capacity gap, between kids in the city and kids in larger regional centres, let alone small towns.”

Other policy hints included reform to Victoria’s rail gauges, an issue where the previous Coalition State Government had intended to start a $400m project to standardise gauges in some areas.

For general spending, Mr Andrews said the Government was the largest purchaser in Victoria and should “buy local”.

“There will be a policy announcement on that soon,” he said.   

Speaking in broader terms about his Government’s first budget, Mr Andrews said e would see an “affordable policy agenda” to address the challenges and make the most of opportunities in regional Victoria.

“I hope I’ve given you a sense of the culture of our government and how we are going to go about that task,” he said.

Mr Andrews also took questions from the crowd, many of which came from agricultural industry members and representatives with issues relating to the new State Government’s policy decisions.

Mr Andrews was asked, given the money raised from selling the Rural Finance Corporation, what proportion of the budget would be spent in rural and regional areas. 

“A very good question, one that I keep asking the Treasurer,” Mr Andrews said.

“The proceeds from the sale ($400m), by a factor we’ll go beyond that.”

Mr Andrews said country transport projects in the forthcoming budget would not be as big as the recently proposed $5.5 billion Yarra River alternative crossing tunnel project but “everybody in south west Victoria will be supporting of an alternative to the West Gate Bridge”.

A Goulburn Valley local asked Mr Andrews to intervene in the transported water market which had seen huge prices charged to growers.

“Our farmers are struggling, struggling unbelievably with the price of water,” she said.

“This time last year it was $61, this year $151; they simply cannot afford this.

“Water is being profiteered; every day with farmers their biggest concern is water and they cannot make ends meet. We need your help, Premier.”

Mr Andrews said that he needed “to sit down and talk about” the issue.

“I don’t think I’m going to resolve this standing here now.

“I’ve had a number of MPs from that region contact me, it’s been an issue this season and probably last.

“This is an example of where I’m not going to claim that I know more about something than the people that live it every day.”

Mr Andrews said he was visiting the region soon and said he would be happy to meet with locals about the water issue.

Seafood Industry Victoria executive director Johnathon Davey challenged Mr Andrews to justify the impact of a net fishing ban in Port Phillip Bay.

“For the people around the room that’s going to result in about 400 tonnes of seafood that will be unavailable, of which 90 per cent goes into the markets in (Victoria),” Mr Davey said.

“I just wonder where seafood fits into your grand scheme of food security given it’s one of our greatest renewable resources.”

Mr Andrews said they “could have a debate about how renewable that resource is”.

“We took a very clear plan to the election and Victorians voted for it,” he said.

“I think you’ll find it was a bipartisan commitment so no matter who won the election there was going to be a fundamental change to how our fisheries worked.

“We want to treat people respectfully as for some it will be a challenging time, but beyond that I think we are entering a period with some very exciting announcements for the seafood industry.”

Mr Andrews said his Government had a “long term view” for Avalon Airport as a “freight hub into Asia” and there were opportunities to grow the seafood industry along the coast outside of Port Phillip Bay. 

Watch the Premier's address live.

Premier Daniel Andrews speaks at a Rural Press Club lunch


Premier Daniel Andrews addressed a full house at the Rural Press Club of Victoria lunch on Thursday, April 30, revealing his Government’s priorities in the lead up to his first budget.

How Sheed “knocked off the Nationals”



Vice president of the Rural Press Club of Victoria and journalist at The Hamilton Spectator. 

Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed has given her explanation as to how she, as the locals say, was able to “knock off the Nationals” at last year’s State election.

Shepparton had been held by the National Party since 1967, but Ms Sheed won with a 32 per cent swing after a campaign lasting just 29 days.

Ms Sheed outlined her personal history and the background for her unlikely win at a Rural Press Club of Victoria function in Shepparton on March 25.

Along with independent MP Cathy McGowan, who won the federal seat of Indi from the Liberals in 2013, Ms Sheed has triggered a debate over whether more surprise victories can be won in so-called ‘safe seats’.

Ms Sheed was asked if her type of campaign could be replicated in other seats around Victoria.

“It’s only going to be in some electorates with that high level of discontent,” she said.

“Why would Ballarat or Bendigo or Geelong? They are seen as having the best of both worlds because they are marginal.

“There’s really general acceptance, although people don’t like to articulate it, that being a marginal seat is what gets you the attention.”

Shepparton was one of Victoria’s safest seats until late last year, so what made that regional seat a hotbed of rebellion against the political status quo?

One answer may be the local economy: like other regional centres it is a town of haves and have-nots.

Some shops appear to be thriving, others are just empty.

One of the local hotels had a cardboard box marked ‘resumes’, clearly half full with paper and in plain view from the front counter.

Apart from a constant theme of Government underinvestment compared to similar electorates, Ms Sheed also nominated high youth unemployment as an issue that energised Shepparton voters.

However, Ms Sheed’s personal motivation for putting her hand up to run was investment in local infrastructure.

“I’ve privately lamented the fact that our public transport, our roads, our hospitals, social services and education systems have, for years, not got the investment they needed,” she said.

“I knew there was deep discontent in the community and that people felt disillusioned with political party.

“People felt that the loyalty they had shown the National Party for years was not being repaid.”

Ms Sheed nominated Gippsland as a region that could have seen a strong independent stand a chance of victory.

The surge of media attention after the Shepparton win contained much speculation as to what external factors could have pushed the locals to change their voting patterns.

Ms Sheed believed that the biggest factor was wholly local.

“To get people who were Liberals to vote for me, to get people who were Labor to vote for me, and to get rusted-on Nationals to vote for me, meant that it was about us, about our electorate,” she said.

As a former family lawyer and a life-long Shepparton area local, Ms Sheed said that communities were sick of being offered candidates with little real world experience.

“There are a lot of people in Parliament now who are almost professional politicians who’ve come up through the unions or the party,” she said.

“People are starting to think that maybe that’s not a good thing.”

After the heady days of the campaign, Ms Sheed still wants to focus on the big picture.

“I can’t help but offend people by saying this, but I’m not interested in getting a few thousand dollars for the local hall or the small things,” she said.

“I want to spend my time focusing on the things that will make the big difference: good rail and health services.”

However, the mundane tasks involved in being a local MP, especially one without a party system for support, appear to be creeping up on Ms Sheed.

One question from the audience suggested that she had struggled to get coverage from the local media organisations, which Ms Sheed then attributed to a lack of resources and experience in media management on her part.

Independent State MP - Suzanna Sheed speaks at Shepparton lunch


Independent MP Suzanna Sheed addressed a Rural Press Club lunch at Parklake Function Centre in Shepparton.  Addressing a strong crowd of over 90, she delivered a frank account of what it is like to be an Independent in politics.