An Unsung Hero Strikes a Discordant Note

The Sydney Morning Herald | 4 October 1996

A scene from the award-winning“The Search for Gravity Waves”, one of the 600 stories researched by Joy Mitchell.

By LEIGH DAYTON, Science Writer

THE AUSTRALIAN Science Communicators’ 1996 Unsung Hero of Australian Science took a swipe at ABC management after the award was announced yesterday by the Minister for Science and Technology, Mr McGauran.


Ms Joy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the ABC television show Quantum since it began in 1985, said: “I don’t believe we have champions for science among the ABC hierarchy. An interest is declared in science programming at the same time as the science unit is being run down.”


Ms Mitchell, who was honoured for her outstanding contribution in making science interesting and accessible to the public, has been directly responsible for more than 600 Quantum stories, including the award-winning“The Search for Gravity Waves”.


She blamed “bureaucracy and lack of resources” for cutbacks which will see the unit producing roughly half as many original programs as it did in 1994.


“I consider this slash and burn to be a form of cultural vandalism which is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the many cuts which have rained down on our organisation in the past,” Ms Mitchell said.


Previous award winners include the head of Sydney University’s Institute for Magnetic Resonance Research, Dr Caroline Mountford, and astronomer Dr Bobbie Vaille of the University of Western Sydney at Macarthur.


In presenting the award at the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Canberra, Mr McGauran praised Ms Mitchell as an “unsung hero in the real Australian tradition”.


He also presented the Michael Daley Awards for Science, Technology and Engineering Journalism, sponsored by the Institution of Engineers and the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism.


Winners included ABC’s Robyn Williams (Radio); Scott Coomber, of The Australian, and Helen O’Neill of The Weekend Australian (print media feature); the West Australian’s Rod Taylor (photograph); Raymond Moynihan of the ABC’s 7.30 Report (television news or current affairs); John Millard of ABC’s Hot Chips (television feature); freelance writer Wilson da Silva (telecommunications); ABC’s Quantum team - Alexandra Smith, Cathy Johnson and Owen Craig (innovation); Yvete Eckersley and Deane Hutton (non-journalist); and Will Berryman of ABC’s http:// (journalist under 25).

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