Australia has produced extraordinary journalists across three generations: Wilfred Burchett (deceased in 1983), John Pilger (80 years old but still active) and Julian Assange (48 years old, currently in London’s Belmarsh prison).
Each of these journalists made unique contributions to our understanding of the world. Although Australia is part of the western world, each of these journalists exposed and criticized Western foreign policy.
Wilfred Burchett lived from 1911 to 1983. He was a farm boy and his experience in the depression shaped his dislike of oligarchs and preference for the poor. He went to Europe trying to volunteer for Republicans in the Spanish Civil War but that did not work out. Instead, he assisted Jews escaping Nazi Germany.
Burchett became a journalist by accident. Having seen the reality in Germany, he started writing many letters to newspaper editors. One of the editors took note of his fluid writing style and intensity. They contacted him to ask if he would like to report for them. Thus began a forty year writing career.
He covered WW2, first stationed with British troops in India then Burma. Then he covered the Pacific campaign stationed with U.S. troops. He was the first international journalist to report on Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. He evaded US military restrictions to go to Hiroshima and see reality for himself. In his story “The Atomic Plague”, published in the London Daily Express, Burchett said, “I write this as a warning to the world” and “Doctors fall as they work”. Immediately the US launched a campaign to smear his reputation and deny the validity of his story. The US military was intent on preventing people from knowing the long term effects of nuclear radiation.
Burchett’s report from Hiroshima was broadcast world wide and called the “scoop of the century”. It exemplified his career based on first hand observation and experience.
Over his 40 year career he reported the other side of the story from the Soviet Union, China, Korea and Vietnam. He wrote thousands of articles and over 35 books. On China he wrote “China’s Feet Unbound” in 1952. Two decades later he wrote (with Rewi Alley) “China: The Quality of Life”.