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Freelance grants support public interest reporting

Encouraging more and better reporting from freelance journalists

Image: Nicole Curby/The Wait

Image: Nicole Curby/The Wait

Since 2019, the Institute has worked with the Walkley Foundation to provide funding for freelancers to undertake important reporting projects.

Most recently, JNI supported grants to encourage more and better reporting on Asia by Australian journalists. The Institute has previously funded freelance reporting on topics of public interest, including Nina Funnell’s award-winning #LetHerSpeak campaign.

Freelance grants for Asian journalism

What happens in Asia shapes what happens globally. The continent is home to half the world’s population and its economy is bigger than the rest of the world combined.

Few countries are as closely tied to Asia as Australia. Yet coverage of Asia does not always keep pace with its importance.

Established with the Walkley Foundation, the Judith Neilson Institute Grant for Asian Journalism aims to encourage more and better reporting on Asia by Australian journalists and media outlets.

In 2020, Grants worth a total of $25,000 were awarded to three freelance journalists.

  • Aarti Betigeri “Lucky You: A podcast exploring the perils of inter-country adoption”

The judges said Aarti Betigeri’s pitch for a podcast series on the inter-country adoption of children into Australia from Korea and elsewhere in Asia promises a revelatory look at a practice that was commonplace for decades. The telling of this story is essential not only for those directly affected and their families, but for policymakers considering this complex issue. The decision to fund the project was a vote of confidence for both the depth of the idea and Aarti Betigeri’s proven ability to deliver meaningful journalism in an Asian context.

  • Mell Chun, “Podcast: Tasmania’s Chinese history”

The judges were excited by Mell Chun’s plan to tell the story of the long and rich history of Chinese settlers in Tasmania via her podcast. She will explore the Chinese influence on Tasmania’s culture and economy and illuminate forgotten or little known facts about the impact of Chinese settlement. Mell writes, “We often view people of colour as ‘newcomers’, but learning about the history of immigration helps us to understand that Australia’s heritage is not so white as we might imagine.” This is a timely project, in the judges’ view, and will provide an insight into under-explored community history in Tasmania’s rural and regional areas.

The judges said The Wait podcast, to be co-hosted by Nicole Curby and Mozhgan Moarefizadeh, seeks to explore one of the most damaging but little known ramifications of Australia’s asylum policies – that of refugees stuck in transit in Indonesia. Drawing on Mozhgan’s personal experience as a refugee caught in transit for seven years, they hope to provide context to Australia’s often simplistic immigration debate, to unpack difficult issues around border protection and national identity, and to raise questions about the political rhetoric of immigration, the nature of protection and where borders lie.

The winners were selected by an experienced judging panel.

  • Zoe Daniel, Journalist, ABC
  • Patrick Elligett, News Director, The Age
  • Ben Doherty, Acting Pacific Editor, Guardian Australia
  • Prue Clarke, Senior Executive Officer, Judith Neilson Institute
Mozhgan Moarefizadeh
Mozhgan Moarefizadeh, host of The Wait, is a refugee from Iran. (Image: Muhammad Fadli)

Grants for freelance journalism

The 2019 Walkley Grants for Freelance Journalism funded 11 projects pitched by freelancers.

Recipients were selected from a strong field of 117 applicants. The funded journalists were:

  • Carol Altmann
  • Jessica Cockerill
  • Michael Cruickshank
  • Nicole Curby
  • André Dao, Michael Green & Tia Kass
  • Erin Delahunty
  • Nina Funnell
  • Vivienne Pearson and Margaret Paton
  • Kylie Stevenson and Tamara Howie
  • Dale Webster
  • Brian Wilson

The grants supported vital reporting in Australia and the Pacific, including stories on Bougainville’s referendum for independence, climate change in Tasmania, the #LetHerSpeak campaign and the NDIS.

Articles have been published by outlets including Guardian AustraliaThe Sydney Morning Herald and The AgeEssential KidsThe Saturday Paper and Overland.

The Walkley Foundation

About the projects

The Institute has worked with the Walkley Foundation to provide funding for freelancers to undertake important reporting projects, focusing on public interest journalism and Asia.