“Lefty Cartoonists Boycott Walkley Awards”

With a couple days before we start reporting on The Reuben Awards ceremonies, let’s check with another award. The Walkley Awards.

The Walkley Awards are the Australian version of the United States’ Pulitzer Prizes; though, unlike the Pulitzers, the Walkleys still have a cartoon award.

“The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism are presented annually in Australia to recognise and reward the best in the craft. Finalists are selected by eminent journalists and photographers and overall winners judged by the Walkley Judging Board.”

Sky News, from which our headline is taken, reports:

The Australian Media Writer Sophie Elsworth says left-wing cartoonists and journalists boycotting the Walkley Awards over its links to oil company Ampol is a ridiculous case of “cancel culture gone crazy”.

“It is a case of the left eating the left here,” Ms Elsworth told Sky News host Chris Kenny.

© Jon Kudelka/The Saturday Paper

ArtsHub carries the story from the other side:

Australia’s most prestigious awards for journalism, the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, were established by Ampol Petroleum founder Sir William Gaston Walkley in 1956.

Ampol’s business model is intrinsically connected to the ‘era of global boiling’ as a result of its extraction of fossil fuels and contribution to human-induced climate change. It recently began sponsoring the Walkley Awards again after a hiatus.

The discovery of this move has driven nipaluna/Hobart-based cartoonist Jon Kudelka [link added] to boycott this year’s Walkley Awards – with an array of other cartoonists and now journalists joining the boycott in protest.

The resulting furor has compelled The Walkley Foundation to issue a statement:

The Walkley Foundation has condemned and expressed deep regret for racist views expressed by the founder of its major awards Sir William Gaston Walkley in a newspaper column in 1961.

“His views do not reflect the values, views and ethics of the Walkley Foundation. We apologise for the deep hurt and offence these statements will have caused for journalists and the broader community,” the board of directors said in a statement today.  

“As an ethical organisation, we must call out the mistakes of the past.”

The Walkley Awards, Australia’s premier awards for journalism, were initiated by Walkley, who was also the founder of Ampol, in 1956. The 68th awards will be presented on November 23.

The board also acknowledged recent concerns, spearheaded by cartoonists, about Ampol’s current sponsorship of the Walkley Awards. “We recognise their concerns about fossil fuel sponsorship and hope to welcome them back as entrants in future years,” the board said.

The Walkley Foundation is in the final stages of formalising a revised sponsorship policy which will be announced shortly.

Not all cartoonists are approving of the boycott:

Walkley Award winner Mark Knight [link added] is among a group of cartoonists that has accused colleagues in the industry of “virtue signalling” by boycotting this year’s prestigious media honours because of the event’s links to petroleum company Ampol, The Australian.

An excerpt from The Monthly report by Rachel Withers with supporting cartoonists:

Several journalists are today withdrawing their Walkley nominations, due to the journalism awards’ sponsorship by Ampol, which was founded by William Walkley, instigator of the awards. Led by The Saturday Paper’s cartoonist, Jon Kudelka, who pointed to a piece by Comms Declare’s Belinda Noble on how Walkley wielded cultural power, many are now boycotting Australia’s top journalism awards, based on Ampol’s sponsorship and the fact that calls for a climate category were denied (“not unreasonable to wonder if there might be a causal link there,” noted Kudelka). Some of the nation’s best cartoonists have joined the boycott (Fiona KatauskasMatt Golding, First Dog On the Moon and Glen Le Lievre, among others [add David Rowe]), as have a few writers, myself included.

Finalist and winner announcements:

When are finalists announced?

Finalists of the Business Journalism category will be announced on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.

Finalists in other categories will be announced on Thursday, October 12, 2023, along with the Walkley Book Award longlist.

The Walkley Book Award shortlist is announced Thursday, November 2, 2023.

When are winners announced?

Winners are announced at the 68th Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism gala dinner in Sydney on Thursday, November 23, 2023. 

3 thoughts on ““Lefty Cartoonists Boycott Walkley Awards”

  1. Sponsorship draws attention to the sponsor, in this case a fossil fuel company. There wouldn’t be an outcry in the right wing press if this protest was against a tobacco (or even vaping) sponsor.

    And climate change from burning fossil fuels is a bigger threat to the lives of Australians that smoking ever was. I’m a British-Kiwi, so these aren’t my awards, but I agree with the protest wholeheartedly.

Comments are closed.