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By Michael Andrew

A Pacific Media Centre collaborator has won the inaugural Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism at the 2019 Walkley Mid-Year Celebration.

Vanuatu-based Australian photojournalist Ben Bohane was awarded the $10,000 grant out of 22 applicants for his ongoing work in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

According to academic and principal of TNC Pacific Consulting, Dr Tess Newton Cain, who helped establish the grant, the money will allow Bohane to spend a period of about four weeks in Bougainville as the people of that province prepare to cast their votes in an independence referendum on October 17.

READ MORE: Ben Bohane: China? No, let’s face the elephant in the Pacific room

“His was one of several proposals that focused on Bougainville,” she said.

Bohane has covered the Pacific for 30 years. His work has been both acclaimed and arresting and has featured photos and interviews from all South Pacific conflicts, including West Papua and East Timor.


He has the largest personal photo archive of the South Pacific in the world and two of his portfolios have featured in Pacific Journalism Review.

While travelling and living with tribal groups in the Solomon Islands in the early 1990s, he was able to secure the first pictures of Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader Francis Ona and the only interview and pictures of Guadalcanal warlord Harold Keke.

Civil War coverage
“Ben has been covering Bougainville for many years, including during the civil war period,” Newton Cain said.

“It was in Bougainville that he and Sean Dorney first met.”

Grant namesake Sean Dorney is an Australian journalist and foreign correspondent who covered Papua New Guinea and the Pacific for 40 years.

The grant was sponsored in recognition of his huge contribution and the importance of getting the real stories of the Pacific and of Pacific people in front of Australian audiences, Newton Cain said.

“I hope this grant will go some way to stimulating an interest in the Australian media to tell their audiences more and better stories about the countries in their immediate region.”

“Next to seeing this grant awarded, the best news I could hear is that an editor has said to one of the unsuccessful applicants “that Pacific story you pitched is an important one, we are going to do it anyway.””

Award recipients in other categories included Oliver Gordon who won the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year for his ABC investigation: The Black & White Hotel: Inside Australia’s Segregated Hotel Rooms.

Another was Laura Murphy-Oates who won the Public Service Journalism award for her SBS story exploring historical abuses against Aborigines. 

A dozen other journalists won awards for coverage ranging from the Australian African community to the gender disparity in the Australian theatre.

The full list can be found at the 2019 Walkley Mid-Year Celebration website.

  • Michael Andrew is contributing editor of the PMC’s Pacific Media Watch project.
Ben Bohane, winner of the the inaugural Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism at the 2019 Walkley Mid-Year Celebration. Image: Walkley Foundation
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