Sally White

Born 28 October 1944. Attended Camberwell High School 1958-1961

Sally White, journalist and lecturer, came to Camberwell High from Mont Albert Central School. Sally was active in student life at Camberwell and for three years (1959-1961) was a member of the Prospice Committee. Her contributions to Prospice included a short story: ‘The Red Bull’ (1959), poetry: ‘Library’ (1960), ‘Insomnia’ (1961) and prose: ‘Advertising’ (1961). In 1961, the year in which she was a prefect, Sally was joint editor of Prospice and Dux in Humanities. At the Matriculation Examinations she received First Class Honours in English Literature, British History and Modern History. In addition she won a General Exhibition, a Senior Scholarship and a Commonwealth Scholarship.

For the next four years Sally studied History and Politics at the University of Melbourne and graduated BA (Hons) in 1965. She then spent a year with the Melbourne Theatre Company as publicity officer before moving, briefly, to the Melbourne office of The Australian as editorial secretary.

After a year or so travelling overseas, Sally returned to Australia where she joined The Australian Women’s Weekly as a feature writer and television columnist. Her interest in television continued when she became the television writer and critic for the now defunct afternoon paper Newsday. Sally later worked for two years with the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a researcher and on-camera reporter for the current affairs program This Day Tonight, the predecessor of the 7.30 Report.

In 1972 Sally moved to The Age. She spent sixteen very varied years with the paper. She worked as a general reporter, Arts Editor, feature writer and Science Editor and at times acted as the Executive Assistant to the Managing Director. Sally’s task was to articulate the paper’s public commitment to better journalism by increasing its involvement in professional areas such as media law reform, freedom of the press and the training of journalists in developing countries.

As a political activist during the 1970’s, Sally was one of the founders of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) and later was elected a Federal Vice- President of the journalists’ union, The Australian Journalists’ Association (AJA), and an AJA representative on the Australian Press Council. During the 1970s Sally was also an honorary consultant to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into defamation law reform and a member of the Australian Red Cross Committee on International Humanitarian Law.

Sally’s interest in international media issues led to her becoming a member of the Australian National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and she was appointed to a four-person UNESCO committee to monitor the development of communication policies in the Asia/Pacific region. She was also the Australian co-ordinator of the Press Foundation of Asia, the region’s leading association of editors and publishers. Sally left The Age in 1987 to teach journalism: first at Deakin University and then at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where she is now a lecturer.

Some of Sally White’s newspaper articles have been republished in anthologies of literary and scientific writing and she has contributed to encyclopaedias and books on press history. She has edited several volumes and has written two books. One is a collection of Australian family histories called A Patchwork Heritage, the other is a textbook for journalism students and cadet journalists called Reporting in Australia.

Despite her alleged ‘probable fate’ (‘Writing verses on birthday cards’- Prospice, 1961), Sally’s journalistic style was already evident, particularly in ‘Advertising’ where she referred to advertisers who ‘study the motives of the consumer and play them as they would a large trout’. Her readers were to think of advertising as ‘our obedient and useful slave [which] can so easily become as insidious and harmful as an overdose of radiation and it is our duty to our intelligence to bear this continually in mind’.