Michael Gawenda

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Michael Gawenda, AM (born 1947) is an Australian journalist and was editor of The Age from 1997 to 2004. He was appointed inaugural Director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne, launched in 2009. The centre's mission is to improve the practice of journalism through the creation of new partnerships – between journalists and media organisations and the University; and between journalists and the general community to stimulate public debate on important issues facing journalism. Upon Gawenda's appointment to The University of Melbourne, Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said, "Michael Gawenda is one of Australia's best known and most distinguished journalists. The University is fortunate to have him on board to oversee the development of this important project."[This quote needs a citation]

Life as a refugee[edit]

Gawenda was born 1947 in a refugee camp in Austria.[1] His family moved to Melbourne, Australia, in 1949. Gawenda attended Caulfield North state school. He studied economics and politics at a university.[2]


He started his career in 1970, joining The Age as a cadet journalist. In 1997 he became an editor and in 2003 the editor-in-chief. Before that, was a senior editor with TIME. During 2002 he became the subject of controversy when, as Editor-in Chief, he rejected a Michael Leunig cartoon which juxtaposed an image of a Jew standing at the gates of Auschwitz with an image of a Jew with a gun standing at the border between Israel and Palestine. The two images were clearly ironic and Leunig subsequently claimed that Gawenda did not understand the point he was making. Gawenda said "I think it's just inappropriate. Anyone seeing that cartoon would think it inappropriate."[3]

In 2004, The Age endorsed the Liberal Party in the 2004 federal election. The website Crikey claimed he had caved to pressure from The Age's owners, Fairfax Media.[4] In an interview with Jon Faine on 774 ABC Melbourne, Gawenda defended his editorial stance and said the allegation from Crikey was a lie.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Gawenda has a wife and two children, Evie and Chaskiel/Husky ,[6] and resides in Melbourne. Gawenda is the uncle of television producer and former sports writer and founding executive produce of The Footy Show, Harvey Silver.[7][8]


American Notebook[edit]

On 15 April 2004, Gawenda announced that he would return to reporting as The Age's Washington correspondent.[9]

Gawenda's final article from Washington was published on 28 May 2007 when he announced he will be returning to Australia and would no longer be writing for The Age. This led to the publication in August 2007 of a book, American Notebook, sub-titled A Personal and Political Journey, about American politics and rationalising his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[10]

Rocky and Gawenda[edit]

Gawenda's canine companion inspired him to join the blog revolution to escape from the stresses and frustration of journalism.[11] The blog ran on the Crikey website from February to November 2009.[12][13] The posts from February to June were collected in a volume titled Rocky & Gawenda [1]. The book, published by Melbourne University Press, is composed of short essays, observations and recollections, mostly reflecting on aspects of his own life: family, especially his two children; dogs; blogging; the pleasure he finds in food; friends and funerals.

Leo Meo[edit]

The birth of his first grandchild inspired Gawenda to write a poem every two weeks for the first year of Leo's life. In 2017 he published the book of poetry Leo Meo - songs to my grandson containing these and other poems he had written.

The Powerbroker Mark Leibler, an Australian Jewish Life[edit]

An unauthorized biography of Australian laywer Mark Leibler. This book shows how Leibler rose to a position of immense influence in Australian public life by skilfully entwining his roles as a Zionist leader and a tax lawyer to some of the country’s richest people. The book has interviews with former Prime Ministers Paul Keating, John Howard, Julia Gillard and Indigenous leader Noel Pearson.


Year Awards Category
1982 Walkley Award Best Feature – "Ghettos in the Sky", The Age[14]
1988 Walkley Award Best Feature – "Echoes of a Darker Age: Australia's Nazi War Crime Trials", TIME Australia[14]
1996 Walkley Award Best Feature – "In Cold Blood", as part of The Age news team[14]


  1. ^ "Michael's story", Refugee Council of Australia, 11 April 2011
  2. ^ ABC Online, The Media Report transcript, 23 October 1997 (retrieved 2 May 2006)
  3. ^ "Lost Leunig", Media Watch, 6 May 2002 (retrieved 1 November 2017)
  4. ^ "Uproar over The Age's election editorial". Crikey. 7 October 2004. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2006.
  5. ^ Crikey.com Archived 20 July 2005 at the Wayback Machine, Gawenda responds to Crikey, 12 October 2004 (retrieved 2 May 2006)
  6. ^ "Husky have scratched together an LP and joined the folk boom" by Bruce Elder, The Age (28 October 2011)
  7. ^ "Australia's many media dynasties", Crikey, 21 March 2005
  8. ^ About Us, Silver Spoon Productions
  9. ^ Press release (retrieved on 2 May 2006)
  10. ^ Altman, Dennis (11 August 2007). "All gone to look for America". The Age. p. A2 section, p. 22. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  11. ^ Attwood, Alan (14 November 2009). "A dog and his master's voice". The Age. p. A2 section, p. 27.
  12. ^ "Introducing Crikey's latest blogger: Michael Gawenda (and Rocky)". Crikey. February 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Goodbye from Rocky and Gawenda... for now". Crikey. November 2009. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  14. ^ a b c Walkley Winners Archive

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Bruce Guthrie
Editor of The Age
Succeeded by
Andrew Jaspan