Home' InDaily : October 4, 2012 Contents 8|Vol23No3Spring2012
Head of News and Media
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Ashton Claridge, iStockphoto.com
The Media Team
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Benefits flow from ABR sponsorship
SA Premier Don Dunstan’s relationship with
the media could be volatile, but he also
helped to shape its critical role in modern
politics, according to Flinders academic Dr
With $5,000 funding from an Australian
Book Review Patrons Fellowship, Dr Starke’s
project ‘Media Don’ will track and analyse
Dunstan’s involvement with the media.
Her research will draw on the extensive
resources of the Dunstan Collection held in
the Special Collections of the Flinders
University Library, which include numerous
scrap-books of newspaper clippings and
DVDs of Dunstan’s television appearances,
as well as his personal correspondence and
ABR Fellowships – Dr Starke’s is the fifth to
be awarded – aim to reward outstanding
Australian writers, to enhance ABR through
the publication of major works of literary
journalism, and to advance the magazine’s
commitment to critical debate.
A charismatic politician with a strong social
reform agenda, Dunstan was among the
first Australian political figures to recognise
fully the media’s role in informing and
influencing public opinion, Dr Starke said.
His “firsts” included the appointment of
press secretaries and media advisers, the
creation of a media centre to monitor
broadcasting and the use of government
While some, particularly the parliamentary
Opposition, saw the practices as politically
motivated or sinister – Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’
was invoked – they are now universal.
Dunstan used monitoring and polling to
keep himself informed of the electorate’s
knowledge of key issues, Dr Starke said, and
also liked to know what the media was
saying. He was not afraid to question
perceived bias or inaccuracy;
in press conferences, Dunstan would
frequently challenge journalists on the
quality and veracity of their sources.
“The thing that irritated him most was
ill-informed criticism,” Dr Starke said.
Lights, camera, Dunstan!
Flinders has extended its sponsorship of
Australian Book Review (ABR) for an eighth
year. ABR, founded in Adelaide back in 1961,
is the country’s premier literary review.
Principally based in Melbourne (with an
office at Flinders University), ABR recently
moved into a major new community arts
hub called Boyd. Located in the Southbank
precinct, close to Victoria’s key cultural
organisations, Boyd offers staff and students
at Flinders frequent exposure to Flinders
alumni and the public-at-large.
ABR editor Peter Rose, noted poet and
novelist who has academic status at
Flinders, said the continuation of this
sponsorship agreement will benefit the
University and magazine alike.
“In the first phase of our partnership, the
benefits for both parties were mostly
editorial, because of my regular visits.
Previously we published relatively few folk
from Flinders. Now we publish many more
Flinders academics and postgraduates than
we do from any other university,”
Mr Rose said.
“People like Robert Phiddian, Graham Tulloch,
Ruth Starke, Gillian Dooley and Ian Gibbins
have become frequent contributors. With
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our move to Boyd, though, the partnership
will become much more public – much
more entrepreneurial, in a sense,” he said.
Each year ABR publishes about 250 writers
in its ten issues, of whom roughly fifty have
never published a review before.
“We’re serious about introducing a wide
range of Australian writers to our readers.
It’s part of our commitment to raising
critical standards in this country,”
Mr Rose said.
“Often young writers are surprised by the
speed with which we commission them.”
The media, for its part, played a central role
in the creation of the Dunstan persona –
the bespectacled and conservatively
dressed former QC who entered State
politics went on to become a flamboyant
and influential figure on the national stage
in the 1970s.
While hostile press hastened his departure
from office, Dr Starke said it did not mark
the end of Dunstan’s media infatuation –
in retirement he made a 10-part series for
ABC-TV, The Dunstan Documentaries,
as well as a TV cooking series, Fun in
Dr Ruth Starke in the Dunstan Collection
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