Catherine Martin MBE was a multiple award-winning Australian journalist who is recognised for her tireless devotion to her work and as a trailblazer for women journalists.
She was seen as an agent for change by the medical industry, and a silent but powerful influence on the health of the population of her home state, Western Australia, for nearly 30 years.
Martin began her career at the end of World War II. She worked in London’s Fleet Street, the United States, Europe and the Middle East before settling in Western Australia.
During her time as a journalist at the West Australian she received 20 National and State awards for her work, including four Walkley Awards.
She won the inaugural Gold Walkley, Australian journalism’s highest honour, in 1978, for exposing one of the country’s biggest workplace disasters — the deadly toll of blue asbestos among workers at the Wittenoom mine.
Martin also won the Lovekin Prize, the University of Western Australia’s award for distinguished contributions to journalism, a record five times.
Between 1970 and 1981 Martin also won eight national prizes awarded by the Australian Medical Association for her journalism dealing with medicine and health.
In 1982, Catherine Martin was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ list, in recognition of her outstanding service to the community. She is the only Western Australian journalist to have ever received that honour.
Catherine Martin’s daughter, Kaye Martin spoke, at the launch of JNI’s Journalist-in-Residence Program about her mother’s trailblazing journalism and the impact her reporting had on West Australians’ lives.
“Her exclusive reports on life-threatening diseases, Aboriginal health, and the dangers of smoking and drinking initiated changes in people’s social habits and have been referred to by the medical fraternity as ‘historical documents’,” Kaye Martin said.
“These feature stories focused Government and public attention on serious community health problems, which provoked measures for change.”