16 July 1947|
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Occupation||Television presenter, producer, author and landscaper|
|Known for||Burke's Backyard host|
Donald William Burke OAM (born 16 July 1947) is an Australian television presenter, television producer, author and horticulturist. He is best known as the longtime host of Burke's Backyard, a lifestyle program produced by his wife's company CTC Productions which ran for 17 years from 1987 to late 2004 on the Nine Network. He was also responsible for the creation of garden makeover program Backyard Blitz, starring former colleague Jamie Durie.
In 2017, Burke was alleged to have been a serial sexual harasser, a claim which he refuted.
Burke is a professional horticulturist and former board member of Landcare Australia and has been active in a number of other public roles. Burke spent 20 years working on his own home and garden. He has been an outspoken critic of numerous environmental advocacy groups. From July 2005 to late 2008, Burke was the Chair of the Australian Environment Foundation, a group that has links to the politically conservative Institute of Public Affairs.
Burke was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 26 January 2010 for service to conservation and the environment through advisory roles, to the horticultural industry, and to the media as a television presenter. Burke appeared on A Current Affair in July 2015, with his wife Marea, discussing her health battles including arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and breast cancer.
Sexual misconduct allegations
An investigation started when journalist Tracey Spicer announced on Twitter that she was investigating the sexual harassment by powerful men in the Australian entertainment industry. Spicer said "One name kept recurring - Don Burke". On 26 November 2017 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Sydney Morning Herald published a joint investigative piece containing claims that Burke had sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and bullied women throughout his television career. The report, of alleged female victims, as well as both female and male witnesses, David Leckie the former head of the Nine Network, on which Burke’s programs aired, comparing Burke to American producer Harvey Weinstein. Other former Channel Nine executives went "on the record" to comment on the allegations – Sam Chisholm "Don Burke was a disgrace because of his behaviour internally and externally. This precluded him from ever becoming a major star" and Peter Meakin "There was gossip about inappropriate language and he was incredibly demanding," Mr Meakin said. "If someone fell short of the mark, he would excoriate them. He was unforgiving."
In response to the allegations, Burke released a lengthy statement which said he was "deeply hurt and outraged at the false and defamatory claims" and suggested the "baseless" claims were from former employees who "bear grudges against me". Burke also stated that he has had a "life-long opposition to sexism and misogyny".
Burke claimed to have self-diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and, in a media interview following revelations about his alleged misconduct, said that these "genetic failings" were to blame for some of his conduct. In response, Autism Awareness Australia stated that Burke's claim was "beyond appalling" and "gobsmacking".
In the following days, many celebrities came forward to recount their observations of Burke's sexist and offensive behaviour, including Susie O'Neill, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Di Morrissey, Debra Byrne, Tottie Goldsmith, Amity Dry and Mike Carlton.
- "Australia's 50 richest entertainers". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 7 April 2005. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- "Enough Rope interview with Andrew Denton". Retrieved 16 August 2016.
- Mahosey, Jennifer (23 September 2008). "Don Burke Retires as Chair of the Australian Environment Foundation". jennifermarohasy.com. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- "Australian Environment Foundation". aefweb.info. Archived from the original on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- "Don Burke OAM". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
- Grimshaw, Tracy (28 July 2015). "Don and Marea Burke". A Current Affair (Interview: video). Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- "Don and Marea Burke's secret fifteen-year battle". 9news.com.au. 28 July 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- McClymont, Kate (27 November 2017). "'A high-grade, twisted abuser': Don Burke a sexual harasser and bully, claims series of women". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- Spicer, Tracey (28 November 2017). "The Australian media industry operates a protection racket for men like Don Burke". smh.con.au. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- "'He was trying to take my top off': Don Burke accused of sexual harassment". ABC News. 27 November 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Don Burke admits affairs, blames Asperger's". The Morning Bulletin. 27 November 2017.
- Colangelo, Anthony; Bowden, Ebony (28 November 2017). "Head of Autism Awareness Australia blasts Don Burke's 'appalling' Asperger's excuse". Retrieved 28 November 2017 – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
- McClymont, Kate (27 November 2017). "Olympic swimmer Susie O'Neill 'flabbergasted' at Don Burke comments: 'It was crude and it was belittling'" – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Weir, James (1 December 2017). "Inside the Channel 9 boys' club". news.com.au.
- McClymont, Kate (2 December 2017). "In their own words: Women speak up against Don Burke" – via The Sydney Morning Herald.