Kerry O'Brien (journalist)

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Kerry O'Brien
Kerry O'Brien.jpg
Born (1945-08-27) 27 August 1945 (age 72)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Residence Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Nationality Australian
Education Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland
Occupation Television journalist/presenter
Employer Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Kerry Michael O'Brien (born 27 August 1945) is an Australian journalist based in Byron Bay. He is the former editor and host of The 7.30 Report and Four Corners on the ABC. O'Brien is one of Australia's most respected journalists, having been awarded six Walkley Awards during his career.


Kerry O'Brien was born into a Catholic family in Brisbane, Queensland, where he attended St Laurence's College.[1] He started as a news cadet at Channel 9 in Brisbane in 1966. He has worked in newspapers, wire service and television news and current affairs, as a general reporter, feature writer, political and foreign correspondent, interviewer and compere, and served as press secretary to Labor Leader Gough Whitlam.[2]

O'Brien said: "I guess it was my curiosity that drove my attraction to political journalism—and drove my desire to work for Gough Whitlam when that opportunity came up—because I wanted to see what it was like behind the scenes. I wanted to see what it was like to be a part of the process, rather than just reporting on it. When I came back to journalism, I realised that the experience I'd had in the back rooms of politics was like gold for me—in terms of being able to understand and second guess what was really going on behind that sort of opaque screen that the political processes, the processes of government throw up."[3]

The 7.30 Report[edit]

After six years as compere and interviewer of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline program, O'Brien moved in 1995 to The National 7.30 Report, as editor, compère and interviewer. He also anchored and moderated the ABC's election telecasts for 20 years. O'Brien has won many awards, including the top award in Australian journalism, the Gold Walkley in 2000. He has also made several appearances on The Chaser's War on Everything.[4]

With respect to effective interviewing, O'Brien revealed: "It’s very much about being prepared. Think through the issues related to what you’re talking about—think them through. Look for the logic. Try to understand as best you can, then you try and cut to the heart of the issue in the same way, I suppose, a lawyer might."[5]

O'Brien announced in September 2010 that he would be resigning as the editor and presenter of The 7.30 Report at the end of the year, and would move on to new roles within ABC in 2011.[6][7] He concluded his time at The 7.30 Report on 9 December.[8]

Four Corners[edit]

On 14 October 2010, the ABC announced that O'Brien would host Four Corners, beginning in 2011.[9][10]

On 6 November 2015, O'Brien announced he would be stepping down as host of Four Corners.[11] He was replaced by Sarah Ferguson in 2016.


During his career as a journalist, O'Brien has won six Walkley Awards for his journalistic work.[12] His first two awards came in 1982, when he won the award for the best television current affairs report and the ceremony's top prize, the Gold Walkley. He again received prizes in 1991 and 2000. In 2010—his final year on The 7.30 Report—he received two awards: one for broadcast interviewing, and the other for journalism leadership.[8]

He has been awarded two honorary doctorates: Doctor of the University from the Queensland University of Technology in April 2009, and Doctor of Letters honoris causa from the University of Queensland in December 2011.[13]

In 2011, O'Brien was a recipient of the Queensland Greats Awards.[14]

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien has been married twice and has six children, three from his first marriage, and three with Sue Javes, whom he married in 1981.[15]

Political views[edit]

O'Brien, the son of university-educated hospital administrator, says that in his head his youth was "working class".[16] Educated by the Christian Brothers, he became a non-believer in his mid-20s, but said in 2015: "I don't regret the Catholic culture I was exposed to in terms of social justice and basic fairness, that sense of all people being born equal."[16] O'Brien worked as press secretary to the sacked Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1977, while Whitlam was Opposition Leader. After Whitlam lost the 1977 Election, O'Brien worked for Deputy Labor leader Lionel Bowen.[17]

From various of his own interviews O'Brien says: of South African President Nelson Mandela: "To be close to that kind of greatness, I would regard as a privilege." He describes US President Obama as having a "generous nature", former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as "impressive", and British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as "looking down her nose at you". In 1988, Thatcher terminated an interview with O'Brien and, by O'Brien's account: "She hissed, 'You just had to go too far.'"[17]

Former conservative Liberal Prime Minister John Howard wrote in his autobiography Lazarus Rising that, "the politics of Kerry O'Brien, presenter of the ABC's 7.30 Report were a mile away from mine. Yet I appeared regularly on his program, because it was a serious current affairs presentation...".[18] Of the 1996 prime ministerial Election debates, Howard wrote: "I flatly refused to have Kerry O'Brien of the ABC [moderate the debates] because of the way he had handled the second Keating-Hewson debate in 1993" (in which, Howard wrote, O'Brien "went in to bat" for Keating).[19]

O'Brien opposed the Howard Government's budget cuts to the ABC, and said the appointment of John Shier as its Managing Director was a manifestation of the "conservative obsession with the ABC as a kind of biased, left-wing culture".[17]

After retiring from the 7.30 Report, O'Brien presented the 2013 ABC series, Keating: the Interviews from which he wrote a biography of former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, who co-operated with O'Brien, rather than write an autobiography.[20][21]

O'Brien welcomed the replacement of Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott by the less conservative Malcolm Turnbull in 2015, telling Fairfax that it was "a little burst of sunlight nationally..." and that "There's a surge of relief because things were so bad"[22]


  1. ^ "ABC Big Ideas". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "4 Corners - Kerry O'Brien Profile". Archived from the original on 3 December 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Interview: Kerry O'Brien — Leading Australian journalist (Includes interview)". 9 January 2015. Archived from the original on 20 March 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2018. 
  4. ^ Kerry O'Brien profile[permanent dead link],; accessed 14 December 2007.
  5. ^ Interview: Kerry O’Brien — Leading Australian journalist Archived 11 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed 10 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Kerry O'Brien to leave 7.30 Report". The Spy Report. Media Spy. 24 September 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "Kerry O'Brien to quit 7.30 Report". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 September 2010. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Kerry O'Brien signs off from The 7.30 Report". The Spy Report. Media Spy. 9 December 2010. Archived from the original on 14 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  9. ^ "Kerry O'Brien moves to Four Corners". The Spy Report. Media Spy. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  10. ^ "O'Brien to host Four Corners". ABC News. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  11. ^ Quinn, Karl (6 November 2015). "Kerry O'Brien stepping down as host of ABC-TV's Four Corners". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  12. ^ "2010 Walkley Award Winners". The Walkley Foundation. 9 December 2010. Archived from the original on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  13. ^ UQ News: Citation - Mr Kerry O'Brien Archived 30 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.,; accessed 18 September 2014.
  14. ^ "2011 Queensland Greats recipients". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Tony Wright, Very Kerry, The Age, 11 December 2010, Insight, p. 3
  16. ^ a b Quinn, Karl (6 November 2015). "Kerry O'Brien: I wish I'd invited Bette Midler to dinner". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c "Kerry O'Brien opens up about his critics, his family and a new life in Byron". Sydney Morning Herald. 30 November 2010. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2018. 
  18. ^ John Howard; Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography; Harper Collins; 2010, p.588
  19. ^ John Howard; Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography; Harper Collins; 2010; pp. 194 & 223
  20. ^ Rundle, Guy (9 December 2015). "Keating review: Kerry O'Brien's essential account of the man who made us". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  21. ^ Cormack, Lucy (21 October 2015). "Paul Keating uses one-on-one with Kerry O'Brien to renew call for a republic". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  22. ^ Kerry O'Brien stepping down as host of ABC-TV's Four Corners Archived 18 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine., Sydney Morning Herald; 16 November 2015.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by

1990 – 1995
Succeeded by
Maxine McKew
Preceded by
Separate state editions
The 7.30 Report
National presenter

4 December 1995 – 9 December 2010
Succeeded by
Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann as 7.30
Preceded by
Liz Jackson (Until 1999)
Unpresented (1999-2010)
Four Corners

February 2011 – November 2015
Succeeded by
Sarah Ferguson