Don Whitington- Media Hall of Fame 1911-1977
Bertram Lindon (Don) Whitington an inductee into the Australian Media Hall of Fame, started his journalistic career while living in Bingara.
Keera Station Bingara was his launch pad and the landing point was arguably the remarks of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who described him as,
‘One of the ablest and most honourable men in Australian journalism’
An article published in Australian Dictionary of Biography by John Farquharson, describes Don as a political journalist and a man who carried his experience in the woolsheds with him all his life.
‘The wool-shed ethos – a strong sense of mateship and solidarity with fellow workers – would remain with him for the rest of his life.’
Don was born in Ballarat to Bertram and Hilda (nee Carkeet) in 1911 and he grew up in Tasmania.
Maurice Dunlevy when writing in the Canberra Times Saturday 18 March 1978 described Don’s tough early life following the separation of his parents:
‘He was nine or ten and his mother raised four children on 22 pounds a month, plus what she earned from her hairdressing salon. The family lived in a boarding house, but Don was accommodated in a tent in its grounds. One of his lungs was damaged, he developed a stutter, and an undistinguished school career ended when he failed his Intermediate Certificate.’
After school Don completed a wool classing course at the Institute of Technology Geelong. He then returned to Tasmania for a while, picking fruit, was a rouseabout and later bashed suckers in New South Wales.
It was not until he reached Bingara that his purpose in life began.
Munro –Keera Station
Don’s arrival at Keera Station in the middle of the Depression provided him with some stability when he was employed by Mr. H.R. Munro as a jackeroo, assistant bookkeeper and chauffeur.
However, he found time to pursue a journalistic career and started writing up Bingara football for the Sydney newspapers. He also contributed articles to the Bingara Telegraph, Northern Daily Leader, Bulletin and Walkabout.
When contacted Mr. Hugh Munro, the grandson of H.R. Munro, said of Don:
‘I remember my father talking about Don Whitington when he was at Keera. I am not sure how my grandfather came to employ him. But I remember my father talking about his cricketing ability and journalism.’
For many years after Don had left the town, he was referred to as “from Bingara”, obviously a result of his prolific writing when based in the town. (He had moved into Bingara for a while after being at Keera.) Also, it is likely he returned from time to time.
‘You can drink in peace in the bush’
Bingara Magazine recently published one of Don’s “bush” articles and the link to it is below. Others will be published in the future.
Sydney – two blankets and five pounds
In December 1933 or early 1934, Don was said to have left Bingara for Sydney “with two blankets and only five pounds in the bank”. There he become a casual reporter and in 1936 accepted a cadetship with Frank Packer’s Daily Telegraph.
In 1941 he was sent to the Telegraph’s Canberra bureau; however he was sacked by Packer in 1944 for supporting striking printers and journalists in a Sydney industrial dispute.
In 1946 with ex Liberal Party founding Publicity Officer Eric White, Don formed Inside Canberra and it was a masterstroke. For example, in his biography written by Michael Smith, the publication was described as:
‘The first and most successful political newsletter in Australia. It becomes compulsory reading for political journalists who often followed up its scoops from the political scene and the bureaucracy. Curiously, it was established with the help of Packer, who was close to White even though he had sacked Don.’
“Controversial book by Author from Bingara”
In 1954 Don published a book called the “The house will divide” which covered political events of the previous twenty-five years. The North Western Courier (Narrabri) on Monday 24 May 1954 reported:
‘Controversial book by author from Bingara – A behind-the-scenes book about Federal politics just published in Melbourne is causing keen controversy on the eve of the Federal election. ‘
The Courier concluded the article by saying:
‘A blunt final chapter deplores what the author describes as deterioration in the standards of political normality at Canberra in recent years, and says this could have fatal effects on democracy in Australia if it is not arrested.’
Eric White and Don in the 1950s started two regional papers, the Northern Territory News and the Mount Isa Mail. Both were later sold to Rupert Murdock when Murdock was buying up newspapers across Australia.
Don was married twice, the first in 1936 and remarried in1974. He died of a heart attack in 1977.He had three children in the first marriage.
Australian Media Wall of Fame
He was inducted into the Australian Media Wall of Fame in 2018, along with some very well-known personalities. The 2018 inductees were:
Joe Alexander, Bert Lillye, Charles Bean, Douglas Lockwood, Dulcie Boling, Hugh Lunn, Jim Bowditch Catherine Martin, Ted Bray, Ray Martin, David Brill, Ken May, Charmian Clift, Keith McDonald, Bob Cronin, Maxine McKew, James Cruthers, Bill Mitchell, Gay Davidson, Paul Murray, Neil Davis, John Newfong, Geraldine Doogue, Pat Oliphant, Shirley Stott Despoja, Andrew Olle, John B.Fairfax, Steve Pennells, Ian Fitchett, Alan Reid, Peter Game, Paul Rigby, Michael Gordon, Gerard Ryle, Max Harris, Howard Sattler, Derryn Hinch, John Silvester, Les Hinton, Trevor Sykes, Adelie Hurley, Hedley Thomas, Ken Inglis, Jack Waterford, George Johnston, Don Whitington, Tony Koch and Marian Wilkinson.
From the humble beginning of writing for the Bingara Telegraph, Bertram Lindon (Don) Whitington certainly made his mark on the political media scene, often controversial, but always respected by his peers he rightly takes his place as one of the best.