Julie Duncan Memorial Award presented to UniSA student

Julie Duncan Memorial Award presented to UniSA student

Image Source: Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)

By Leon Georgiou | @Leon_Georgiou

On the Record editor Thomas Kelsall won the ‘Julie Duncan Memorial for Student Journalism’ award earlier this month.

The award, given in honour of the late Julie Duncan, is open to students of the University of South Australia’s journalism program.

Awarded at the annual SA Media awards event, it honours a student whose work “reflects outstanding initiative, newsworthiness and technical skill; while adhering to ethical and legal standards”.

Though honoured to have won, Mr Kelsall never felt in competition with the two other nominees, one of whom is close friend, Isabel Gawel.

“We are very aware of each other’s talents, and I would have been ecstatic to have seen her [Ms Gawel] win the award because she is a fantastic writer as well,” Mr Kelsall said.

Beyond his full-time study load, Mr Kelsall is also the editor of the student-run publication On the Record.

Describing his experience with the publication as one of the best things he has done throughout his degree, his tenure at the helm of On the Record has seen it flourish.

He explained that it has taught him a lot about being a journalist; seeing what works, what editors want, and how to manage and motivate people.

“Not only has it been a great reward for me, but it’s also been a great insight for my career,” he said.

“Being able to see this bunch of university students grow and enjoy their writing… it’s been fantastic.”

But as always, Thomas’s humility is never far away.

“To see so many [students] want to be a part of On the Record, to see it flourish… and to see us really engaging with the student community, I think is a huge credit to all the journos that work here.”

After graduating, Mr Kelsall said he hopes to move into political reporting or investigative journalism.

“Being able to break stories and reveal information for the public interest would be something that would make me very happy with my work as a journalist.”

But despite his interest in this avenue, Mr Kelsall has many concerns pursuing such work in light of recent raids by the Australian Federal Police into News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home and the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters.

Mr Kelsall said the raids have “had a chilling effect on me in terms of [questioning whether] I really want to risk jail time being an investigative reporter”.

But he tries not to get ahead of himself, as he first needs to graduate and land a job.

And this is perhaps his biggest concern.

Even with honours such as the Julie Duncan Memorial award, he notes that previous recipients of the award have struggled to find full-time employment.

Coupled with recent staff redundancies being made by News Corp, along with budget cuts at the ABC, Mr Kelsall describes the job market as “terrifying”.

When asked what drew him to journalism, given his concerns,he takes a moment of introspection.

“It’s cliche, but there’s something about being able to tell stories, reveal information about people, or give something the attention that it deserves,” he said.

“When things are wrong in society, or when things should be fixed, being able to influence that in some way is something that gives me a lot of esteem in this career path.”

However, Thomas is still hopeful that the future of journalism will hold great opportunities not just for himself, but other journalists too.

“I think at the end of the day it comes down to being ok with where you are at in your career and being able to respect yourself for the work you do,” he said.

“Everything you get in journalism you have to work for. That’s a huge part that motivates me.”



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