WA Governor

Vice-regal occasions

Queensland Governor
The Governor of Queensland, Paul de Jersey (front, third from right) with Bundaberg Regional Councillors and executive team members, 2019.

I’ve personally met two State Governors, been in the presence of two others and been close to a Governor-General.

This is largely trivial, of course, but from an historical perspective it may be of interest.

Governors and Governors-General are the Queen’s representatives. How much longer we remain a constitutional monarchy remains uncertain.

Vice-regal Michael
Michael Gorey in vice-regal mode, waiting to meet the Governor of Queensland.

In October 2006, then Western Australian Governor Ken Michael visited the Kalgoorlie Miner.

A former civil engineer and public servant, Mr Michael was interested in the heritage of the Kalgoorlie Miner building, which dates back to the 1890s.

In 2013, I attended the swearing in of my Minister at Government House in Adelaide by retired Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce.

My earliest memory of the vice-regal office is from 1977-78 (I can’t remember which year) when Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen visited Traralgon.

I was a primary school student at St Michael’s and we were bussed to the Traralgon Showgrounds to meet him. I can’t imagine that happening today.

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Brahminy kite

Seeing a Brahminy Kite on the beach is something special. I like where I live, albeit I’m moving soon, and that will be the subject of a future post.

Walking along Moore Park Beach, I often see Brahminy Kites. I admire these birds of prey. They are like the wedge-tailed eagles I came to know in Victoria, but smaller and more agile.

I’m not an ornithologist but I appreciate that where I live there are more birds than one would normally see. Kookaburras are my favourite. They are numerous, wake me up with their call and sing happily in the evening.

According to Birdlife Australia:

The Brahminy Kite occurs throughout southern and South East Asia, and in Australia it is widespread along the north coast, though individual birds may wander inland along the course of large rivers. These raptors often perch inconspicuously for long periods on exposed perches before swooping down onto prey in the water or on the ground. Their prey usually comprises fish and insects, and they often steal food from other birds, such as gulls, terns, ibis and other raptors. They also often scavenge carrion on the ground.

I’ve seen plenty of these birds on Moore Park Beach.

The Brahminy Kite is widespread across northern Australia, mainly along the coastline from Western Australia to northern New South Wales, and is more common in the north of its range. It is widespread throughout tropical Asia.

A force of nature.


Michael Gorey has lived almost everywhere in Australia.

I’ve been everywhere man!

I’ve been everywhere man! The map shows the 16 towns and cities I’ve called home through my 51 years on this planet from Gippsland to Queensland.

I don’t remember anything about Warragul because I was a year old when my parents moved from there to nearby Traralgon in 1968.

Warragul is special as my place of birth. It’s a name I often have to write on forms and so forth.

Traralgon is where I consider home to be. It’s changed a lot since I grew up there in the late 60s, 1970s and early 80s. I started primary school at St Michael’s in 1972 and finished at Lourdes College in 1984.

The city had a population of 14,000 when I was young; at the 2016 census it was 25,485. I remember when there were no traffic lights and a single-lane road to Melbourne.

The nicest place I ever lived was Porepunkah. Maybe I just have happier memories from there. We had a lovely home and my older kids grew up with an idyllic lifestyle, playing outdoors, swimming in the river and attending a small school.

After my divorce I came to like Adelaide for its vibrancy, cultural scene and fantastic restaurants. Canberra was good like that too, but it’s very expensive. I now live 200 metres from a sandy beach; that’s pretty special too.

The map doesn’t reflect that I often changed address in the towns and cities where I lived. In Adelaide, for example, I lived at five different places in four years. I had two stints at Alice Springs, in 1988 and 2014-16.

I’ve been fortunate to live in some lovely homes.

The only significant gaps on the map are North Queensland and Tasmania. I doubt I’ll ever end up at either of those places during my everywhere life, but you never know.


Journalists should have life experience

Journalists should have life experience.

Does a journalist’s background matter? Not for the individual journalist, reader or listener it doesn’t, but a publishing enterprise benefits from having a diverse group of people. This is even more important today than it was 20+ years ago.

In previous eras, journalists were reporters. Their key skills were shorthand, typing, observation and curiosity.

As an editor I liked to employ people from different backgrounds. It meant they had diverse networks and sources.

Like most things I do it was intuitive and reactive. If I had four similar employees and one left, I sought to replace him or her with someone different.

While Editor in Chief of The Border Watch, I responded to a student’s questionnaire about journalist training.

I mentioned how I like to employ school leaver cadets using a merit-based assessment system.

After answering the questions, the student responded:

It is great to see The Border Watch offers opportunities for entry level cadets (especially when a number of the metropolitan dailies now require not only a degree, but also several years of industry experience). I think journalism should be a career that is accessible to a wider range of people than just the graduates of the top journalism schools, and it is a pity there appears to be less and less opportunities for others.

The response made me wonder if the industry was becoming elitist.

Journalists my age had all heard stories of the previous generation spending two years on shipping reports or racing results before writing a story.

By employing university graduates I questioned if we had relegated talents such as curiosity, eye for detail, shorthand, impartiality and determination. I think we did.

Are too many journalists academic achievers without an understanding of grassroots reality? Possibly.

Training a journalist from scratch provides an opportunity to constructively cultivate an individual’s personal skills over several years.

The student’s comment that “journalism should be a career accessible to a wider range of people than just the graduates of the top journalism schools” is a good one.

Providing the individual has good English, curiosity, confidence, strong general knowledge and a polite manner there is no reason they couldn’t make a good journalist.

Modern journalists lack experience

Update: How does this message apply in 2018? I think it’s the same. Anyone who’s reporting or commenting on current affairs should have relevant life experience.

The big shift in my time as a journalist was from reporter to commentator. As a young cadet, I learnt to suppress my opinions and simply report what I saw and heard. Today’s journalists are expected to interpret the news and explain it.

It’s disappointing that young journalists today are given responsibility greater than their experience as a matter of course.


Communications should be at the heart of decision making

Communications should be at the heart of decision making.

My first exposure to local government was reporting council meetings as a cadet journalist in country Victoria during the 1980s. A lot has changed in newspapers and municipal governance since then.

Journalists don’t use typewriters any more and digital cameras have made darkrooms redundant.

Since those early days, my career has taken me to various roles in media, state and territory ministerial offices and corporate communications.

A key learning I’ve drawn from those experiences is the importance of involving the “comms guy” (or girl) at the highest level of an organisation.

There should be a direct report to the CEO and decision makers.

In state governments, effective ministerial advisers are able to politely cut through red tape and reach senior bureaucrats to ensure policy and operational outcomes are sensitive to public opinion and don’t have unintended consequences.

At the federal level there are geographical and systemic hurdles to overcome. The Commonwealth public service is also notoriously moribund.

In Canberra, I became aware of communications officers who spent several hours crafting a Twitter or Facebook post, and then had to wait up to 24 hours for departmental approval, only to have it vetoed by a minister’s office.

It made me realise the ABC program Utopia is actually a documentary.

Local government communications

Local government should be much more agile, although I’ve observed in the past this isn’t always the case.

Communications and media staff should give a community perspective to operational matters. They should be like political advisers in a Minister’s office, sensitive to potential negative events that could damage a council’s reputation.

For example, a media enquiry to Bundaberg Regional Council involved the issuing of a compliance notice to the owner of a cockatoo, which was being kept contrary to a local law.

The bird was a companion to disabled children and there were no complaints from immediate neighbours. All the ingredients were there for this to be an extremely negative story for council.

Instead of giving media an officious regulatory response, communications staff worked across the organisation to compile a more compassionate message, highlighting the bird owner’s right to comply within a reasonable timeframe, which was at council’s discretion.

If my position didn’t interact directly with the Mayor and CEO it would have been much harder to achieve that outcome.

A recent restructure by Bundaberg CEO Steve Johnston means the position I now hold is part of the Executive Leadership Team and has broader management responsibilities.

It’s a good model which means that communications is at the heart of decision making.

  • A version of this article was originally published on the LGAQ website.