Marlion Pickett Story Wins Indigenous Affairs Reporting Quill

Belinda Hawkins, Andy Burns, Rebecca Armstrong and Ian Harley of ABC Australian Story have won the inaugural 2020 Quill for Recognising Excellence in Indigenous Affairs Reporting Quill. The winning piece, 'Making His Mark', is an exploration of the journey of Indigenous AFL star Marlion Pickett to the 2019 Grand Final, told by Marlion and members of his family. 

Djab Wurrung/Gunditjmara woman, founding partner and co-CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting Jodie Sizer delivered a speech on the night after the announcement of the award. Sizer's speech also followed Russell Jackson's Sports Feature win for an ABC Digital piece that explored the mistreatment of Indigenous AFL footballer Robert Muir in the 1970s and '80s.

"It is not easy to come forward, stand tall and reveal to the world your truth. I commend all who have. I hope others tap into this power and begin to heal by speaking from the heart," Sizer said.  

"What was clear in these stories is that sport is not color blind. Sport creates a place for Aboriginal people where society often ignores or excludes them but not often in an unconditional way."

This new Quill Award has been developed to celebrate excellence in Indigenous Affairs reporting. It is open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous journalists, and encourages journalism that: i) highlights and amplifies Indigenous voices and stories; ii) facilitates and brings about societal debate and/or policy change; and iii) builds strength, visibility and pride in Victorian Aboriginal culture, history and achievement. The Quill comes with a $3,000 prize. 

CEO Cathy Bryson said "the creation of the Quill award to recognise excellent Indigenous Affairs Reporting was the initiative of the Melbourne Press Club Diversity sub committee."

"We have listened and taken on the feedback from journalists of colour, and recognise that the lack of diversity in the media industry is not the sole responsibility of newsrooms and that with our status we have an opportunity to lead by example."

The Melbourne Press Club thanks the members of the diversity advisory committee for their work in putting together this new award. The committee is co-chaired by Bridget Brennan (ABC) and Rachael Dexter (The Age and Press Club Board member). Other members include Madeline Hayman-Reber (former NITV correspondent), Arsisto Ambyo (RMIT lecturer, Media Diversity Australia Board member and former ABC journalist), Nick McKenzie (MPC President) and Heidi Murphy (MPC Vice-President). The club also thanks Jason Mifsud, who co-chaired the committee until late 2020.

Judges' citation

A clear winner in this category, this story allowed Marlion and his family to tell their story in their own voice.

Marlion’s story, like many stories of Indigenous sports champions, is mostly told in sporting terms. But this story was about Marlion’s journey of facing adversity, including drugs and jail, and was relayed openly and powerfully. It is a story that is too common among indigenous communities because of entrenched disadvantage and racism. Marlion’s courage in telling it allowed the audience to share a journey that many Australians know little about.

The story also powerfully touched on the institutional barriers facing Indigenous Australians. Richmond’s leaders spoke revealingly about how they had to break down these barriers and their own prejudices if Marlion was to get his chance. This story also compelling explored the power of family.

Marlion’s story is ultimately one of overcoming adversity and fighting for change and how Australia can benefit by recognising how much our First Nation people contribute when given a chance. It should inspire us all.

The winning entry

Making his Mark | Marlion Pickett, ABC Australian Story, 2 March 2020

From prison to premiership: Why all of Australia is cheering on Richmond Tigers' Marlion Pickett, ABC Australian Story, 2 March 2020

Richmond Tigers Indigenous stars kick back with Year 7 students, ABC Australian Story, 8 March 2020

Highly commended

Charlotte Grieve, The Age, Gomeroi Heritage

Miki Perkins, The Age, Indigenous Affairs Portfolio

Please note: the above link/s may not comprise the entirety of an entry submitted for consideration.

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