The Sean Dorney Tribute by Robert Parer
I was privileged to attend The Sean Dorney Tribute dinner at the Wests Football Club in Toowong, Brisbane … and what a privilege to be witness to such a massive outpouring of respect from the media world. They came from all over Australia, PNG and beyond – friends and colleagues came to honour him following his Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis.
Brilliantly organised by Sue Ahearn, Kevin McQuillan and Peter Lewis. Gold Walkley Award Mary-Louise O’Callaghan was MC. A fantastic evening and everyone left on a high when the doors were closed at 11.30pm. I am sure it could have gone on for many more hours. Sean and Pauline were in sparkling form. The cream of Australian journalists spoke of their admiration of Sean. His brilliant sense of humour was obvious too and Pauline matched him!
Legendary Rohan Callick said he had come out from UK and, after observing Sean and his off-hand Aussie ways, decided to make his home here. Former ABC colleague Graeme Dobell praised Dorney, “The bloke and the work and… the joy he brings to the craft. Lawrence of Arabia, Dorney of the South Pacific,” Dobell told the crowd of 150 people at the Western Districts Rugby Football Club.
For more than four decades Dorney was Australia’s voice in PNG and the Pacific. But in PNG he was more than just a foreign reporter. He reported on the country’s major historic events; the Bougainville crisis, The Aitape Tsunami and the eruption of the Rabaul volcano. He captained the national rugby league side, the Kumuls. In 1984 he was kicked out of the country. Six years later the government welcomed him back and gave him an MBE. And Bob Lawrence gave him a toast followed by many, many others.
Ones I noticed in attendance – Max Uechtritz, Chris Pash Autojoin Miasmal Byrnes of Herald Sydney, Sue Hurrell Spargo, Andrea Williams President of PNG Ass’n of Australia, Bob Cleland, Phil Ainsworth President PNGVR, The Former PNG Australian High Commissioner & wife, Stefan Ambuster, Shane McLeod, Dominique Schwartz, John Cameron, Mark Willacy, Peter Cave, Peter Ryan, Craig Berkman, Quentin Dempster, Kerry Lonergan, Ben Hawk and Richard Dinnen. Don Hook, Martin Hadlow, John Highfield and David Ransom. Not to forget Helen Fraser who spoke of her scary time in New Caledonia with Sean. Yes his name says it all, Sean Dorney -The Doyen of South Pacific Journalists.
A memorable moment was when EMTV producer Tanya Nugent leapt to her feet, pointed to Sean and said it was due to him that she and all other PNG journalists had a path to follow. Then she demanded all the PNG journalists to stand up as they were his pikininis. It was a ‘wow’ moment to remember!