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Michael Gawenda

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Michael Gawenda (born 1947) is an Australian journalist and was editor of The Age from 1997 to 2004. He was appointing inaugural Director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne, launched in 2008.The centre's mission is to improve the practice of journalism through dialogue between journalists and the general community to stimulate public debate on important issues facing journalism.

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[editorializing] 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]

Personal life[edit]

Gawenda has a wife and two children, Evie and Chaskiel/Husky,[4] 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.[5][6]


American Notebook[edit]

On 15 April 2004, Gawenda announced that he would return to reporting as The Age's Washington correspondent.[7]

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.

Rocky and Gawenda[edit]

Gawenda's canine companion inspired him to join the blog revolution to escape from the stresses and frustration of journalism.[8] The blog ran on the Crikey website from February to November 2009.[9][10] 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 lawyer 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.

My Life as a Jew[edit]

A memoir covering much of Gawenda's life from childhood experiences in a secular household, living a mainly non-Jewish life, as a journalist and rising to Editor of The Age newspaper. The book examines the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism and Gawenda's personal journey, embracing his Jewish identity late in life.[11]


Year Awards Category
1982 Walkley Award Best Feature – "Ghettos in the Sky", The Age[12]
1988 Walkley Award Best Feature – "Echoes of a Darker Age: Australia's Nazi War Crime Trials", TIME Australia[12]
1996 Walkley Award Best Feature – "In Cold Blood", as part of The Age news team[12]


  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. ^ "Husky have scratched together an LP and joined the folk boom" by Bruce Elder, The Age (28 October 2011)
  5. ^ "Australia's many media dynasties", Crikey, 21 March 2005
  6. ^ About Us, Silver Spoon Productions
  7. ^ Press release (retrieved on 2 May 2006)
  8. ^ Attwood, Alan (14 November 2009). "A dog and his master's voice". The Age. p. A2 section, p. 27.
  9. ^ "Introducing Crikey's latest blogger: Michael Gawenda (and Rocky)". Crikey. February 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  10. ^ "Goodbye from Rocky and Gawenda... for now". Crikey. November 2009. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  11. ^ Altman, Dennis (25 October 2023). "Universalism or tribalism? Michael Gawenda's memoir considers what it means to be a Jew in contemporary Australia". The Conversation. Retrieved 30 October 2023.
  12. ^ a b c Walkley Winners Archive

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Editor of The Age
Succeeded by