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Ferguson wins Gold Quill for 7-Eleven investigation

Adele Ferguson’s acceptance speech for the Gold Quill award. All speeches can be viewed here. Fairfax Media’s Adele Ferguson has won the highest honour in Victorian journalism, the Gold Quill, for her investigation into systematic wage fraud occurring across the 7-Eleven convenience store chain. The senior business writer and columnist received the honour at the Melbourne Press Club’s...

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Adele Ferguson’s acceptance speech for the Gold Quill award. All speeches can be viewed here.

Fairfax Media’s Adele Ferguson has won the highest honour in Victorian journalism, the Gold Quill, for her investigation into systematic wage fraud occurring across the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.

The senior business writer and columnist received the honour at the Melbourne Press Club’s annual Quill Awards dinner on Friday night where she became the first journalist to win the award two years in a row.

Ms Ferguson also picked up the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award and articles relating to the 7-Eleven investigation also won Best Business Story in any Medium and Best Use of Digital or Social Media.

In her acceptance speech for the Gold Quill, Ms Ferguson thanked the victims of the wage scandal for coming forward and the 7-Eleven whistleblower who provided critical documentation, among others.

“We couldn’t do our job without such brave, brave people,” she said.

“There are so many people who go into making an award like this and it goes back to quality journalism and investigative journalism, and when we’re talking about (news)rooms getting decimated we really have to make a stand and say work out how to grow revenue instead of cutting costs.”

Of the 29 Quills awarded this year, journalists and work from News Corp Australia’s Herald Sun won seven awards, The Age won eight including co-productions with ABC Four Corners, The Sunday Age won two and Leader Community News, Bayside Leader and Geelong Advertiser each received one award.

Herald Sun’s Annika Smethurst won the Best News Report in Writing for the article ‘Choppergate’ about Bronwyn Bishop’s use of a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser.

Her pursuit of the story, along with Rob Harris, also won Best Coverage of an Issue or Event. Judges said despite official denial and obfuscation “they broke several stories over the next fortnight, in particular making clever use of the Herald Sun’s digital platforms”.

“Their relentless pressure finally told when Ms Bishop, one of Mr Abbott’s closest allies, was forced to resign.”

The Herald Sun’s Grant Baker, Michael Warner and Carly Crawford won Best Sports News Story in any Medium for their eight-page investigation and online interactive about the Essendon doping scandal.

The Age’s Waleed Aly took home the Keith Dustan Quill for Best Columnist/Blogger. Judges said Mr Aly’s analysis is “clear-eyed and his logic effortless”.

Waleed is a deep thinker who dismantled the cynical but prevailing arguments on deaths at sea with a clarity that punctured hypocrisies with the sharpest of insights,” the judges said.

Community newspaper Bayside Leader won Best Suburban Reporting in Writing for its The Grass Ceiling campaign, which investigated the gender-divide in sporting facilities available to females in suburban Melbourne.

The judges said the campaign “demonstrates how a suburban newspaper is an integral part of the fabric of a community and can prompt change within the community”.

A full list of winners and the judges’ comments is below:


The Gold Quill  – Adele Ferguson (The Age)

Adele Ferguson’s expose of systemic corruption and abuse across the national 7-Eleven retail empire was an outstanding feat of investigative journalism. It triggered the resignation of 7-Eleven’s Australian founder and chairman, Russ Withers, high-level inquiries and big compensation payouts. The story was especially compelling because it revealed the wholesale exploitation of some of the most vulnerable migrant workers in Australia. It gave voice to voiceless. The` judges were deeply impressed by Ferguson’s forensic investigative techniques, her determination to see justice done and her powerfully dispassionate reporting style.

The Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award – Adele Ferguson (The Age)


Adele Ferguson holds the torch to the belly of the big end of town. Her fearless accounting of financial malpractice delivers us journalism equal to the power of the regulators she often leads to the scene of the crime. In a series of exclusive stories she unpicked complex transactions and highly technical documents to expose wages fraud at Australia’s biggest convenience chain 7-Eleven, serious misconduct within NAB’s financial planning arm and insider trading in one of the nation’s biggest wealth management companies, IOOF. Heads rolled in these institutions as authorities responded with Senate hearings and further investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission while those disadvantaged by corporate deceits were given avenues for redress through compensation schemes established as a result of Ferguson’s rigour.

The Harry Gordon Australian Sports Journalist of the Year Award – Gerard Whateley

Gerard Whateley sets agendas. His work across radio, television and print has a no-nonsense directness about it that treats the audience with respect. His entry showed journalistic versatility combined with a knowledge and understanding of a wide range of sport. He can move comfortably from a forensic and combative interview to the color and enthusiasm of calling a Melbourne Cup or a cricket Test. His television interviewing can be penetrating. His questioning of James Hird showed a confident grasp of complex detail. His analytical assessment of the booing of Adam Goodes was fresh and uncomplicated. In interviews and analysis Whateley does not take a backward step but he works with dignity and resists the temptation to hector.  His enthusiasm for the theatre of sport is obvious in his live calling while his passion for sport and interest in its participants shines in all his work. He is both incisive and eloquent, a genuine all-rounder.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Mike Sheahan

The Young Journalist of the Year Award – Tom Minear (Herald Sun)

Journalism can take heart that the next generation of industry leaders is ready to accept the challenges of our times. Entries in the Young Journalist of the Year demonstrated flexibility, multi-skilling, clever use of social media and innovation. One entrant developed a piece of software to create a tool that produced a good story by synthesizing data bases. CITATION FOR WINNER Tom’s persistence and contacts exposed the identity and backgrounds of Islamic State supporters in Melbourne, including those with links to the men accused of plotting the Anzac Day bombing. Tom also secured the vision of Bill Shorten using his phone while driving and wrote an impressive narrative of the Christmas Day bushfires. Breaking news coverage of the Wyndham Lake tragedy and his help with a Herald Sun campaign for swimming lessons in schools completed a distinctive portfolio.

Best News Report in Writing – Annika Smethurst (Herald Sun) 


Annika Smethurt’s explosive story on Bronwyn Bishop’s use of a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser in Geelong had enormous implications for national politics. It led to the removal of Ms Bishop as Speaker and had a decisive effect in bringing about Tony Abbott’s demise as Prime Minister. Annika demonstrated persistence in pursuing the story both in print and online as new details emerged. It is a fine example of print journalism.

Best Feature in Writing – Margaret Simons & Dave Tacon (The Monthly) 
Fallen Angels – What Australian Sex Tourists Leave Behind

Margaret Simons has produced a well-researched and compelling piece of long form journalism underpinned by a strong sense of law and justice, and social responsibility. The story highlights the exploitative behaviour of men in a vulnerable society, and questions the role of Australian agencies in holding such men to account.

Best Business Story in any Medium – Adele Ferguson, Sarah Danckert & Klaus Toft (ABC Four Corners/The Age)

TITLE: 7-Eleven: The Price of Convenience

The 7-Eleven exposé by Adele Ferguson, Klaus Toft and Sarah Danckert, stands out as exceptional in a strong field of nominees. It has the lot: a billion dollar private company, a global brand, whistleblowers, undercover surveillance, explosive documents. The story is told deftly across multiple platforms and it continues to unfold.

Keith Dunstan Quill for Best Columnist/Blogger – Waleed Aly (The Age) 
Zooming Out

Waleed Aly’s columns stand up off the page and argue his case powerfully, as if in person. His writing takes you by the shoulders and shakes you. His analysis is clear-eyed and his logic effortless. Waleed is a deep thinker who dismantled the cynical but prevailing arguments on deaths at sea with a clarity that punctured hypocrisies with the sharpest of insights.

Best Breaking News Coverage – Jacqueline Felgate & Emily Angwin (Seven News)
 Lake Rescue

Jacqueline’s coverage of this tragic breaking story ticked all the boxes, exclusive footage of the failed attempt to rescue four children trapped in a car, the first interviews from the scene,and an accurate account of the event all done under intense deadline pressure. The value of her rep.ort was underlined by the fact Victoria Police used her vision to help investigate the incident.

The RACV Transport Quill – John Trevorrow & Jesse Wray-McCann (Leader) 
Keep 70 campaign

The Leader campaign across 33 mastheads, dubbed #Keep70, persuaded the Victorian Government to abandon a bureaucratic decision to automatically reduce the 70kph speed limit on almost 2000 roads across Victoria. The Leader journalists who had campaigned for the change then reported the back down on the front page of the Herald Sun.

The Victorian Government Quill for Reporting on Disability Issues – Ruth Lamperd (Herald Sun) 
Play On, Neale

Lamperd’s inspirational, compelling and brilliantly-presented account of football legend Neale Daniher’s battle with Motor Neurone Disease, powerfully demonstrated the reality of how disability can randomly strike even the fittest among us. The judges were deeply impressed by her skill in winning the trust of Daniher and his family over many months and in distilling that work in a brilliant, long-form multi-media package. The Herald Sun campaign built on the story raised more than $1 million for MND research – an example of journalism at its best.

Best Sports News Story in any Medium – Grant Baker, Michael Warner & Carly Crawford (Herald Sun) 
TITLE:1,294 pages of secrets

This trio gained exclusive access to 1294 revealing pages of transcripts from the secretive 17-day AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal hearings in the case against 34 Essendon players. An eight-page investigation was published in print and all 1294 pages went online in an interactive expose that included bombshell stories about the physical effects of supplements on players, the Bombers’ supplements schedule and that Stephen Dank also sourced drugs for Geelong. A genuine scoop.

Best Sports Feature in any Medium – Mark Robinson (Herald Sun) 

When Phil Walsh revealed to Mark Robinson that his all-consuming passion for football meant he had disconnected with his son, no one realised how prophetic his words would be. Walsh admitted he had not been a good father in the past but was desperate to be there for his boy in the future. When Walsh was murdered and his son Cy charged, Robinson’s interview and accompanying first-person feature gave a rare insight into the troubled relationship and Phil Walsh the man.

Best Suburban Report in Writing – Nicholas Payne, Fiona Sexton & Jon Andrews (Bayside Leader)

TITLE: The Grass Ceiling campaign

This campaign – which investigated the gender divide in sporting facilities available to girls in suburban Melbourne and particularly the Bayside area – was a classic grassroots campaign for this paper. It identified a community issue, raised its profile and ultimately, affected worthwhile change. The judges were particularly impressed with the journalists’ ability to convince a council to provide self-incriminating data which was a critical part of this campaign. The reporters unearthed an issue of great relevance to the local community and digital executions added depth and interest to the campaign. This campaign demonstrates how a suburban newspaper is an integral part of the fabric of of a community and can prompt change within the community.

Best Cartoon – Andrew Dyson (The Age) 
Remote Control

Great line, great idea, with his simple timeless image about ‘lifestyle choices’, Andrew Dyson speaks for the nation.

Best Three Headlines in any Medium – Duska Sulicich (The Sunday Age)

TITLE: The Elephant in the Womb; The Unbearable Triteness of Being; The Malcontents

All three headlines used word plays that worked on several levels. ‘The Elephant in the Womb’ works on many levels: pregnancy, US abortion debate, Republican party symbol and sounds good if read out aloud.

Best Illustration or Graphics in any Medium – Richard Giliberto (The Sunday Age)

TITLE: Saving the Planet

The judges felt this entry was of an international standard. The artist illustrates a clear message about the imminent destruction of our planet by climate change, and challenges the delegates of the Paris Summit to clear the air. The strong use of colour and graphic elements are integrated with excellent typography to create this winning work.

Other finalists: Andrew Dyson (The Age); Jim Pavlidis (The Age)

Best use of Digital or Social Media – Mark Stehle, Felicity Lewis, Nathanael Scott, Tom McKendrick & Adele Ferguson (The Age)

TITLE: Revealed – How 7-Eleven is ripping off its workers

This is a true multi-platform, multimedia offering on this important investigative story. No matter how much you read about the Seven-Eleven investigation, you could learn more by accessing this online version, with its effective use of video, original documentation, text and photography.

Best Coverage of an Issue or Event – Annika Smethurst & Rob Harris (Herald Sun)

TITLE: Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal

Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter ride became a defining moment for Tony Abbott’s reign as Prime Minister, and the effects are still being felt today. Annika Smethurst and Rob Harris’s story came out of a forensic trawl of MPs’ expense claims. Despite official denial and obfuscation they broke several stories over the next fortnight, in particular making clever use of the Herald Sun’s digital platforms to exclusively reveal a picture of Mrs Bishop’s helicopter. Their relentless pressure finally told when Ms Bishop, one of Mr Abbott’s closest allies, was forced to resign.

Best TV or Video News Report – Cameron Baud (Seven News) 
Puneet Puneet exclusive

Cam’s dogged pursuit of hit-run killer Puneet Puneet led to a genuine exclusive that had been sought after by all TV networks for many years. Pictures of the fugitive in medical mask and with his parents were compelling, and it was the first time we’d heard from Puneet since he fled Australia.

Best TV or Video Current Affairs/Feature under 10 minutes – Tom Whitty & Waleed Aly (The Project, Network Ten) 
 ISIL Is Weak

Using a powerful and innovative style of storytelling, Tom Whitty and WaleedAly’s editorial feature captured national and international attention, during a time of saturation coverage following the Paris attacks. Highly researched, well written and passionately delivered, this piece helped audiences contextualise the arguments around ISIL and their tactics. The relevance and impact of this video was measured by in its staggering online reach – almost 160 million views to date.

Best TV Or Video Current Affairs/Feature over 10 Minutes- Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker & Klaus Toft (ABC Four Corners/The Age)

TITLES: True Detectives – Corruption witness murders

True Detectives is the culmination of years of dogged investigative reporting by Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker into Victoria’s gangland killings. With outstanding production by Klaus Toft, this report exposed corruption within Victoria Police and uncovered serious failings in its witness protection program. Baker and Mckenizie convinced George Williams and former police detectives to speak on camera, and used tasteful high impact re-enactments to detail the relationships between the criminal underworld and senior police detectives. The program also revealed one of Carl Williams cellmates at Barwon Prison had an association with former detective Paul Dale.

The TAC Towards Zero Road Safety Quill – Christie Cooper (Seven News) 
It Won’t Happen to Me

Cooper’s three outstanding reports on separate shocking fatal road accidents – including the death of Cooper Ratten in the Yarra Valley – sent a strong message about a range of random dangers on our roads. Each was an example of first-class television reporting – tight, thorough and well-edited with every angle covered. The judges applauded Cooper’s skill in reporting each tragedy with compassion, professionalism and an absence of cliche.

Best Radio News Report – Lauren Hilbert (Radio 3AW)

TITLE: Train and tram strike figures revealed

Lauren used her journalistic nous to break new ground in her coverage of a public sector pay dispute – putting in hours of legwork, sifting through hundreds of pages of documents. She revealed that striking train and tram drivers demanding an 18 per cent pay rise had already received a 28 per cent increase over the previous six years. Lauren went beyond the obvious – dug deep – and delivered on an angle no-one had covered.

Best Radio Current Affairs Report – Jon Faine, Daniel Ziffer & Tess Armstrong (774 ABC Melbourne)

TITLE: Rego-gate exposed: VicRoads’ broken system makes thousands of motorists criminals

The report exposed a serious administrative problem effecting thousands of motorists – forcing an admission of fault by the state authority. VicRoads apologised, agreed to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and withdraw demerit points. An external auditor was appointed to deal with a litany of systemic problems exposed. The report stemmed from a dogged investigation of a complaint by a single caller to the program – and was an example of radio current affairs at its best.

The Student Journalist of the Year Award – Bridget Davies (RMIT) 

TITLE: Women wounded on thin blue line

A powerful insight into the unique contribution to the community of women in the police force, their traditional role at the front line dealing with grief, victims of abuse and tragedy, and the impact of the work on their lives. Bridget operated under deadline pressures, turning her story around to incorporate the suicide of a female force member.

Grant Hattam Quill for Investigative Journalism – Caro Meldrum-Hanna & Sam Clark (ABC Four Corners) 
Making a Killing

This was a compelling and confronting investigation that continues to have far reaching consequences for the greyhound racing industry. Provided access to horrific covert footage, the team demonstrated extraordinary investigate skills and determination.

Best Regional or Rural Affairs Report in any Medium – Mandy Squires (Geelong Advertiser) 
Torn Apart by Ice

This is an investigation of the ice drug epidemic told in gripping words and detail. The series conveys the devastation and helplessness around a social problem with destructive tentacles deep into the community. The Addy also makes a bold bid for solutions, in the best tradition of regional media with uniquely local presence.

Best Camera Work – Will Pristel (Seven News) 
Cop push

Will’s exclusive shot was due to his intuition and years of experience. He sensed that something was about to happen, and was the only cameraman to capture the shot – not only pin-sharp but framed perfectly – that went all around the world.

Best News Photo – Joe Armao (The Age)

TITLE: A Miracle on the Mountain

When 11-year-old autistic boy Luke Shembrook was found alive in rugged bushland after being missing for more than 4 days, everyone believed a miracle had taken place. Here the photographer has captured the tender, heartfelt moment when Luke’s mother is reunited with her son. It was a moment all of Victoria had been hoping and praying for.

Best Sports Photo – Colleen Petch (Herald Sun) 
 Cup Queen’s quiet moment

When Michelle Payne became the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup she was instantly swamped by well-wishers and the media. Here Colleen Petch captures an historic moment after Michelle found a quiet place to sit down on her own and reflect on exactly what she had just achieved.

Best Features Photograph – Michael Rayner (The Weekly Review) 
TITLE: David Gulpilil – My Country

In this portrait, the photographer has connected the audience with actor David Gulpilil in a remarkable way. Gulpilil’s face carries the pain he feels over injustices shown to his people as he talked about his latest film. The image is captivating.

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