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    "One of the reasons I'm enthusiastic about Boris Johnson's prime ministership is because if there was ever a cometh-the-hour, cometh-the-man moment in the recent history of this country, this is it and he is that person."    

    George Brandis, Australia's High Commissioner to the UK, speaking in Manchester at the Policy Exchange. October 2, 2019 ... Read more flatulence ... 

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    « A long, slow burn | Main | Wilde's Dieppe into despair »

    Melissa Davey

    Melissa Davey is the ace reporter from The Guardian who covered the Pell trial from beginning to end ... Compassionate, driven and intense ... Book under steam ... Journalism and the meaning of life ... Plenty of gluten for her last meal ... A questing spirit is On The Couch 

    Melissa Davey: from the deli counter at ColesMelissa Davey is Guardian Australia's Melbourne Bureau Chief, also covering general and breaking news, child sexual abuse, family violence, health and medicine, social justice issues and Cardinal George Pell.

    Her podcast series The Reckoning, in which she collaborated with David Marr and Miles Martignoni, won two New York Festival awards and was nominated for a Walkley.

    She has been nominated for three Walkley awards. She has also won awards from medical bodies like the Victor Chang Institute and the Royal Australasian College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for her work reporting on rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal kids, and for her investigation on the brutality of gynaecologist Emil Shawky Gayed.  Her investigation into Gayed triggered a government inquiry. 

    Melissa also does consulting work for GenVic, Our Watch, Mindframe and Vic Health. She conducts guest lectures and appears on panels and at festivals. As well as a double degree in journalism and terrorism she has studied public health units in medical law, epidemiology and biostatistics. 

    In her spare time she is also a swing-dancer and foster carer. She grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has also lived and worked in Sydney. 

    Here she is on Justinian's couch. 

    Describe yourself in three words.

    Enraged at unfairness.

    What are you currently reading?

    "Meaty" by Samantha Irby. US author Roxane Gay curated an anthology about 'Unruly Bodies' for Medium, and I pretty much ordered every book by contributors to that series, including Irby's.

    What is your favourite film? 

    "The Warriors." That soundtrack ... those costumed gangs. 

    Who has been the most influential person in your life?  

    I don't think I can answer that easily.

    What is on your bedside table? 

    My Garmin watch, a large Diet Coke cup from Maccas [I'm addicted to post-mix Diet Coke], a tissue box, two books I haven't opened, a vase of white roses, a contraceptive pill packet, dust. 

    Who do you most admire professionally?

    Dr Sarah Michael, a psychiatrist at St Vincent's in Sydney. I met Sars when I was 14-years-old working in the deli department of Coles. Life was pretty hard back then. Sarah was a few years older than me, at university studying medicine, and so bloody cool. For some reason she took to me and we've been friends ever since.

    We're both a long way from slicing knobs of honey-leg ham and pulling boxes of frozen dory out of the freezer, but I still want to be like her when I grow up. Friends like her are a part of my success.

    What is your favourite piece of music?

    Tigran Hamasyan's "The Cave of Rebirth", or maybe Owen Pallet covering Tori Amos's "Pretty Good Year" on violin. I've been lucky enough to see both performed live. There's a lot of jazz and soul music I love, too. 

    Why did you become a journalist? 

    I almost didn't, so many times. Mostly because of raging self doubt, fear about never getting a job, fear of failure, fear of never being financially secure because growing up was financially tough for my family, and being pretty average. I wish I had an easy or inspiring answer to this, about wanting to speak truth to power - or something. 

    If you could choose another career, what would it be? 

    I'd want to choose 10. I'm always meeting people whose work I admire and whose jobs sound so interesting. I'm always thinking, "maybe I'd like to do that".

    I don't know who curates the Coles radio playlist, but I'd be good at that I think.

    You were in NZ at the time of the Christchurch killings. What did you learn from that experience? 

    It's not the stories that will break you. It's the relentlessness, and lack of sleep and support, that will. 

    I also learned how deeply confronting Australians find it - and Australia's media finds it - to self-reflect and unpack the role we played in all of this. 

    Why did the Guardian select you to cover the Pell trial? 

    Lack of other options. When I began covering the child abuse royal commission the only other Guardian reporter in Melbourne was the environment reporter. So, I was it. 

    Many others were onto Pell long before me; David Marr, Lucie Morris Marr, Louise Milligan. I'd done my research before the trial, but I'm a reporter who covers dozens of topics and issues and so I hadn't dedicated chunks of my life to Pell at that point. I had live-blogged his evidence before the royal commission, though, for about four days straight.

    It meant I was able to report Pell quite clinically. One reporter cried when the verdict was delivered. I'm not saying that was a wrong or unreasonable response. But I was pretty dispassionate about the whole thing. I did not walk into that courtroom on day one assuming he was guilty of those charges. I was always questioning, wondering; did he do it? 

    In what ways were the two choirboy trials different (the mistrial and the retrial)? 

    In Pell's retrial, witnesses were dropped by mutual agreement of both parties, and his defence barrister Robert Richter added a power-point presentation and attempted to play an animation during the closing, which was not granted by the chief. One new witness was added, a defence barrister and former altar server who was supposedly an alibi for Pell. But under a masterful cross-examination by prosecutor Mark Gibson, this alibi was made to seem flimsy and unreliable. And incredibly biased.

    Do you think Cardinal Pell got a fair trial? 

    You'll have to buy my book for the answer to that one.

    If it's not too cheeky to mention it, I'll be taking three months leave without pay to do the book and financially it will be a struggle. If anyone would like to donate to support the book, they can do so here.

    Do you know why the accused didn't give evidence? 

    No. I speculate as to why not in this Q&A piece

    What is your response to some of the commentary from people who didn't attend the trial (for example the victim took his allegation from an article eight years ago in Rolling Stone)? 


    Is it difficult to get back to normal reporting duties following the momentous events of the Pell trials? 

    Yep. There were a lot of stories I missed or had to hand over while I was in the case. I also found it pretty hard after New Zealand because I felt I left that story too soon. I was there in the immediate aftermath and no sooner had I reported on that I was off the story. That was really, really hard.

    I managed it by getting back into normality in other areas of my life. During Pell I would run to and from the court a lot. I've been swing dancing for a few years three times a week, I boulder, I rock-climb, I cycle to work each day and I hike. Many of these activities fell by the wayside over Pell and Christchurch, and it really affected me. 

    What is in your refrigerator?

    Something that smells so bad. Dozens of green apples. I always seem to have green apples. Where do they come from? Pickles. Food processor experiments. Probably never come over for dinner.

    How will approach your forthcoming book on the Pell trials? 

    With respect towards Richter, Gibson, Shann, Ellis, and Kidd.

    Will your book include elements of the appeal to be heard on June 5 & 6? 

    Yes. I am not interested in getting the first book out there on the Pell trial. I am interested in writing the most comprehensive, fair, accurate and complete. 

    If you were on death row what would you request for your last meal? 

    I have coeliac disease so can't eat gluten. So I'd want the biggest, softest, most gluteny loaves of bread, spread with gluten, and a side of gluten.

    And hot chips with aioli. And not the stupid coin-size serve of aioli you get in bars, but a whole bucket of it. And custard. And lemon meringue pie and lemon tart and lemon cheesecake.

    What would you change about Australia? 

    Our obsession with private schools and the so-called hardships of parents who choose to send their kids to those expensive private schools. It's sickening. It's not those parents sending their kids to private schools being failed.

    It's those kids in some of the most woefully underfunded public schools, in residential care, in foster care, in juvenile detention that we are failing; failing to see, failing to hear, failing to respect, failing to respond from an evidence-base or from the heart. And we are failing them atrociously.

    What would your epitaph say? 

    "She probably can't even pronounce epitaph."  

    It's true, I still struggle to pronounce common words because I learned them through reading them, not speaking them. I was bullied a lot growing up, so kept quiet and to myself and read a lot. 

    I think people who are pedantic about pronunciation are classist wankers. 

    My dad is also a massive reader and word mis-pronouncer, and it's beautiful. 

    What comes to mind when you shut your eyes and think of the word "journalism"?  

    "So much more to life." 

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