Phillip Adams

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Phillip Adams

Phillip Adams.jpg
Adams speaking at the
2010 Global Atheist Convention
Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams

(1939-07-12) 12 July 1939 (age 82)
  • Film producer
  • journalist
  • broadcaster
  • former advertising executive
Known forRevival of Australian cinema;[1]
Public intellectualism
Spouse(s)Rosemary Fawcett (div.)
Patrice Newell

Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams AO, FAHA, FRSA (born 12 July 1939) is an Australian humanist,[2] social commentator, broadcaster, public intellectual and farmer. He hosts Late Night Live, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program on Radio National four nights a week. He also writes a weekly column for The Weekend Australian.

Adams has had careers in advertising and film production and has served on many non-profit boards including Wikileaks, Greenpeace Australia, Ausflag, Care Australia, Film Victoria, National Museum of Australia, both the Adelaide and Brisbane festivals of ideas, the Montsalvat Arts Society and the Don Dunstan Foundation.

Adams has been appointed both a member and subsequently an officer of the Order of Australia; and he has received numerous awards including six honorary doctorates from Australian universities; Republican of the Year 2005; the Senior ANZAC Fellowship; the Australian Humanist of the Year, the Golden Lion at Cannes; the Longford Award; a Walkley Award; and the Henry Lawson Australian Arts Award. In 1997 the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter after him.[3] A National Trust poll elected him one of Australia's 100 national living treasures.[2]

Early years[edit]

Adams was born in Maryborough, Victoria, the only child of Congregational Church minister, the Reverend Charles Adams. His childhood was anything but idyllic and his parents separated when he was young. Interviewed in 2006, Adams said that:[4]

My first memories were my mother... absolutely dependent on the begging bowl – that little round dish with a piece of cloth at the bottom where parishioners would put a couple of bob. When dad went off to the war, I was taken up by my grandparents... and lived on a dirt-poor farm... I lived in penury for the first 10, 15 years of my life. ... Mother dumped [my father] in favour of a rather sleazy businessman ... a sociopath who tried to murder me ... I spent my latter part of my childhood trying to protect my mother from this psycho.

Of his education he has said: "I was forced to leave school before completing my secondary education and the only job I could get was working in advertising."[5]

Adams joined the Communist Party of Australia[6] at age 16, while employed in advertising, but left at age 19.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation kept a file on Adams. The file began at about the time he turned 16 years of age.[7]


Adams began his advertising career with Briggs & James and, later, with Brian Monahan and Lyle Dayman, became a partner in the agency Monahan Dayman Adams. He developed successful campaigns such as Life. Be in it.,[8] Slip, Slop, Slap,[9] Break down the Barriers' for the International Year of the Disabled Person and Care for Kids for the International Year of the Child, working with talent such as Fred Schepisi, Alex Stitt, Peter Best, Robyn Archer and Mimmo Cozzolino. Adams left the advertising industry in the 1980s. Monahan Dayman Adams purchased the successful Sydney agency MoJo in 1987 and carried on as MojoMDA.

He wrote regular columns for The Age, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The National Times, Nation Review, The Courier-Mail, The Advertiser (Adelaide), The Examiner (Tasmania), The Bulletin and was a contributor to The New York Times, the Financial Times and The Times of London. He currently writes a weekly column for The Australian.

Film work[edit]

Adams played a key role in the revival of the Australian film industry during the 1970s.[1] He was the author of a 1969 report[10] which led to legislation by Prime Minister John Gorton in 1970 for an Australian Film and Television Development Corporation (later the Australian Film Commission) and the Experimental Film Fund.

Together with Barry Jones, Adams was a motivating force behind the Australian Film Television and Radio School which was established under the Whitlam government.[3] Adams played a key role in the development of the South Australian Film Corporation,[3] which was created in 1972 and became a model for similar bodies in other Australian states; and in the establishment of the Australia Council and the Australian Film Development Corporation,[3] later known as the Australian Film Commission, the Film Finance Corporation Australia, and Screen Australia. As head of delegation to the Cannes Film Festival, Adams signed Australia's first co-production agreements with France and the UK. He was Chairman of the Australian Film Institute, the Film and Television Board of the Australia Council, the Australian Film Commission, and Film Australia. He helped establish the Australian Caption Service, which provides services for hearing-impaired television viewers.[citation needed]

In the 1960s Adams co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed (as well as serving as cinematographer for) his first feature film Jack and Jill: A Postscript (1969); the first feature to win the AFI Award,[11] and the first Australian film to win the Grand Prix at an international festival.

Adams produced or co-produced other features including the critically panned but hugely popular film adaptation of Barry Humphries' The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, directed by Bruce Beresford, which became the most successful Australian film ever made up to that time. Other films include The Naked Bunyip, Don's Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Lonely Hearts, We of the Never Never, Grendel Grendel Grendel, Fighting Back, Hearts and Minds and Abra Cadabra.


Adams initially presented a late-night program on Sydney commercial radio station 2UE during the late 1980s and early 1990s before succeeding Virginia Bell in 1991 as presenter of ABC Radio National's Late Night Live, interviewing guests on a wide range of topics including politics, science, philosophy, history and culture. Late Night Live is broadcast across Australia on ABC Radio National, as well as on Radio Australia and the Internet. The program is broadcast live from 22:00 AEST/ADST and is repeated the following day at 16:00 AEST/ADST.[12] A serious discussion of world issues, the program is tempered with Adams' gentle and ironic humour.[13] Regular contributors include Bruce Shapiro[12] and Beatrix Campbell.

At times, Adams refers tongue-in-cheek to his listeners as "the listener" or "Gladys", as though he had only one listener; he also refers to listeners collectively as "Gladdies". In more recent years, Adams has begun introducing the show saying "Good evening Gladdies and Poddies", in reference to the show's growing podcast listener base.

The current theme music is the first movement of Brescianello's Violin Concerto No. 4 in E minor, Op. 1. Until March 2016 the theme was a short extract from the "Eliza Aria" from the Wild Swans Concert Suite by Elena Kats-Chernin, performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with soprano Jane Sheldon, chosen in 2010. From 2007 to 2010, the theme music was Kats-Chernin's "Russian Rag", which Adams humorously refers to as "The Waltz of the Wombat". The previous music was Bach's Concerto for oboe, violin and orchestra in C minor, BWV 1060: III. Allegro.

Other work[edit]

Adams was the foundation chairman of the Commission for the Future,[12][3] established by the Hawke government to build bridges between science and the community. He chaired the National Australia Day Council;[12][3] whose principal task was to choose the Australian of the Year.

Adams was the inaugural chair for the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, established by the South Australian government, and chaired the advisory board for the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. He has been a board member of Greenpeace, CARE Australia, the National Museum of Australia, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and Brisbane's Ideas Festival, and is an Ambassador of Bush Heritage Australia and the National Secular Lobby.[14] He was co-founder of the Australian Skeptics.[15]

Adams is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including The Unspeakable Adams, Adams Versus God, The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes, Retreat from Tolerance, Talkback and A Billion Voices, Adams Ark, and, with Lee Burton, Emperors of the Air.

Robert Manne has described Adams as "the emblematic figurehead of the pro-Labor left intelligentsia".[16] Adams had a close relationship with every Labor leader from Gough Whitlam to Kevin Rudd, advising on public relations, advertising and policy issues. In 2010, Adams resigned from the Labor Party after Rudd was defeated as the Leader of the Labor Party at the 2010 Labor leadership spill.[17]

In 1995 Adams argued against Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, saying that a better response to expressions of racial hatred was "public debate, not legal censure".[18]

Personal life[edit]

Stoneleigh, Darlinghurst, Adams's former home

Adams is married to Patrice Newell. He has four daughters: three with his first wife, Rosemary Fawcett, and one with Newell. He lives on "Elmswood", a large property near Gundy in the Hunter Region in mid-northern New South Wales. He and his wife grow garlic and olives, and farm organically fed cattle. He has a home in Paddington, an inner suburb of Sydney. Prior to this, Adams lived for some time in Stoneleigh, a heritage-listed house[19] in Darlinghurst. Adams is a collector of rare antiquities, including Egyptian, Roman and Greek sculptures and artifacts.

He has written "I'd been an atheist since I was five."[5]

In 1979 a portrait of Adams by artist Wes Walters won the Archibald Prize.[20]

Honours and awards[edit]


  • Conversations
  • A Billion Voices
  • Classic Columns
  • Adams Ark (2004)
  • Adams Versus God
  • Retreat from Tolerance
  • The Uncensored Adams
  • The Inflammable Adams
  • The Unspeakable Adams
  • More Unspeakable Adams
  • Adams with Added Enzymes
  • Talkback: Emperors of the Air
  • Adams Vs. God: The Rematch (2007)
  • Harrold Cazneaux: The Quiet Observer
  • The Big Questions (with Professor Paul Davies)
  • More Big Questions (with Professor Paul Davies)
  • Bedtime Stories – Tales from my 21 Years at Late Night Live
  • With his partner Patrice Newell, he is the author of several joke books:
    • The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes (1994)
    • The Penguin Book of Jokes from Cyberspace (1995)
    • The Penguin Book of More Australian Jokes (1996)
    • The Penguin Book of Schoolyard Jokes (1997)





  1. ^ a b "Bazza turns 30". The Age. Melbourne. 7 March 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b "National Living Treasures". National Trust of Australia. 2012. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2014. Writing in The Monthly, Professor Robert Manne described Adams as 'perhaps the most remarkable broadcaster in the history of this country'.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Phillip Adams AO". Screen Forever. Screen Producers Australia. November 2014. Archived from the original on 23 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  4. ^ Adams, Phillip (19 July 2006). "Broadcaster Phillip Adams in conversation with Richard Fidler". The Backyard (Radio interview). Interviewed by Richard Fidler. Australia: ABC Radio National. Archived from the original (transcript and streaming audio) on 1 November 2007. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b Adams, Phillip; Croucher, Rowland (October 1998). "I Am Proud That". John Mark Ministries. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2014. Alt URL
  6. ^ Adams, Phillip (14 September 2006). "Phillip Adams" (transcript and streaming audio). Conversations with Richard Fidler (Radio interview). Interviewed by Richard Fidler. Australia: ABC Local Radio. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  7. ^ Adams, Phillip (16 July 2005). "Adams file". The Weekend Australian Magazine.
  8. ^ Stitt, Alexander; Adams, Phillip (1993–1994). "Animation cel of 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaign, 1993–1994" (Acetate, paper, cardboard). Powerhouse Museum Collection Search 2.53. South Yarra, Victoria, Australia: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
  9. ^ Victoria, SunSmart. "Campaigns and advertising". SunSmart. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007.
  10. ^ Hood, Robert. "A Brief History of the Film Industry in Australia and New Zealand" (Appendix). Killer Koalas: Australian (and New Zealand) Horror Films. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  11. ^ Hodson, Bruce. "The Carlton Ripple and the Australian Film Revival". Screening the Past. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
  12. ^ a b c d "About us: Late Night Live". ABC Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  13. ^ Luker, Philip (20 April 2011). Phillip Adams: The Ideas Man – A Life Revealed. JoJo Publishing. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-9870734-6-4.
  14. ^ "Our Ambassadors - Chris Schacht". National Secular Lobby. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Phillip Adams AO". Speaker Profile. The Celebrity Speakers Bureau. 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  16. ^ Manne, Robert (18 October 2004). "Labor must confront its identity crisis". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  17. ^ Adams, Phillip. "Why I quit the Labor Party". The Australian.
  18. ^ Adams, Phillip (1995). The Role of the Media.
  19. ^ "House "Stoneleigh" Including Interior, Front Fence and Grounds – NSW Environment & Heritage".
  20. ^ "Wes Walters: Portrait of Philip Adams (1979), Art Gallery of New South Wales
  21. ^ "ECU Honorary Award Recipients" (PDF). Edith Cowan University.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Robyn Archer and Phillip Adams honoured". University of Sydney. 4 May 2005.
  23. ^ "Mr Phillip Adams AO". University of South Australia. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  24. ^ "Phillip Adams AO receives honorary doctorate from Macquarie University". Macquarie University. 17 April 2014.
  25. ^ "Adams, Phillip Andrew: Officer of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 1992.
  26. ^ "Adams, Phillip Andrew Hedley: Member of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 1987.
  27. ^ Minor Planet Center: (5133) Phillipadams International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  28. ^ "CSICOP Award Winners". Skeptical Inquirer. 20 (5): 7. 1996.

External links[edit]