Media Bullying Judges

Retired High court judge Michael Kerby in Adelaide this week

Violent headlines and “angry language’’ by the media is bullying judges and having a negative impact on public opinion, according to retired High Court Judge, Justice Michael Kirby.

And he listed a string of  provocative headlines  including “This Justice is a Sick Joke’’, “Maintain the Rage’’ and “My Fury’’ over perceived inadequate sentences.

He said derogatory language such as “Overdue For A Dressing Down’’, “Who is judging the Judges?’’ and “Judges Must Know Their Place’’ undermined judges’  independence.

Justice Kirby  was launching an academic book Courts and Judges on Trial by communications expert and UNISA lecturer, Dr Pamela Schulz at UNISA in Adelaide yesterday which outlines a “discourse of disapproval’’ of judges in media language.

The book, a powerful research analysis of media reporting of justice,  also reveals how  the issue of law and order has been politicised and media reporting has fostered a culture of fear in the community.

Justice Kirby said the judiciary had suffered a loss of esteem through media coverage.

 “We get the angry language and the dumbing down of the courts and a bully-boy attitude towards the judiciary,’’ he said.

In the past, he said the Law of Contempt had upheld the respect for the Judiciary, but  was no longer used to restrain the media since the rise of the Human Rights Movement in the 1990s.  He said Dr Schulz had shown how negative media coverage of controversial cases and judgements had affected public confidence in the judiciary.

He admitted the judiciary had an image problem and was “struggling’’ with the problem of how to communicate through the media to the community.

He said it had responded with silence in the past and had not defended itself.

“Silence is no longer an option,’’ he said.

 “The judiciary does its good work on the quiet, but we haven’t been very good in the past to get this message over,’’ said Justice Kirby.

“The problem is that silence then becomes the story.’’

He said his brother David, also a judge,  presided over murder cases. “So judges are my world: They are very intelligent, extremely hard working, very devoted, if a little boring, and very focused,’’ he said.

  “But all the hard work, responsibilities and attention to detail (of judges) is gobbled up in very angry language,’’ he said.

He said Dr Schulz had collected hundreds of headlines, news stories and court data and used it to present her thesis.

“It is the discourse of disrespect that Pamela Schulz has identified. The judiciary has become a special target.’’

 He said the judiciary was struggling with how it could communicate the really important work that it does through the media to the citizens,’’ he said.

Courts and Judges on trial by Media


Adelaide communications lecturer Dr Pamela Schulz outlines her thesis at the launching of her book Courts and Judges on Trial.

Judges have been the victims of “rougher than usual media treatment’’ through “screaming headlines’’ and sensationalist television footage of controversial judgements, says award-winning Adelaide communications expert Dr Pamela Schulz.

The University of South Australia lecturer cites an ancient  quotation by

Cicero in 68BC “Alas my client is condemned by public opinion’’ to reflect .

her doctoral thesis that the media and the “politicisation’’ of the court processes and judgements have shaken public confidence in the judiciary.

She also claims in her provocative scholarly work that the independence of the judiciary may be at risk as politicians push the law and order issue to gain votes.

Her book Courts and Judges on Trial, was launched by former High Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby at the University of South Australia this week.

It is a powerful linguistic research analysis which critically analyses language and power surrounding media coverage and reporting of the courts and how it has had a negative impact on public opinion.

It reveals judges are subjected to a constant barrage of criticism through relentless “screaming headlines’’ and dramatic television footage, which casts doubt of the wisdom of judgements.

“I had started out on this long journey of scholarship to give judges a hard time because I believed judges were out of touch, but I discovered that I was wrong. If you constantly see headlines “Judges out of Touch’’,  that they are too lenient, after a while you believe it.,’’ says Dr Schulz, who interviewed 15 judges, court reporters and court administrators for her thesis.

However, judges are unable to defend themselves, says Dr Schulz, who was the first communications manager for the Court Authority of SA.

She is highly critical of the courts media liaison system as well as the media’s court  reporting and she calls for the re-enstatement of specialist court reporters.

“Tiny grabs from complex trials will be extracted to maximise shock, horror and outrage,’’ says Dr Schulz.

“It leads to increased distortion of news about the courts.’’

She lists provocative headlines such as “Outrage’’, “Premier orders DPP to Appeal’’ and “Only 8 Hours in Gaol’’.

 “Alarmist headlines are often false and misleading,’’ she says. Such headlines flame the public who are “paralysed by fear or crime’’ and politicians use the law and order issue as a political football.

“Yet, we live in a relatively safe society,’’ she adds.

She suggests a far broader courts communications system is needed and believes a “press judge’’ should be appointed to explain complex judgments.

“I have suggested judges put their sentencing remarks directly on line by appearing on camera so people can see the summing up in context,’’ she says.

What concerns Dr Schulz most is that this “discourse of disapproval’’ leads to a “discourse of direction’’ whereby the justice system is directed to carry out the will of politicians in power.

“This may lead to the destruction of independence of the justice system.’’

However, judges also need to understand the media’s requirements: “Judges do need to include pithy summaries in their judgement statements,’’ she says.

Dr Schulz’s book, which is for sale from Unibooks and, has received accolades from judges in Europe, New Zealand and the United States.

Dr Schulz has had an eclectic career moving from her former days as radio journalist to renowned public servant, to academic and now to published author.

Ex-model, Faye gives BC hope


Faye Hillmeyer with Frank Sebastyan at the Golden Years of Modelling reunion.

My journey down the path of breast cancer began with the discover of a cyst in my left breast in 2001.
This lump bothered me because I had been on hormone replacement theraphy for 11 years plus a stressful divorce so  I requested a repeat mammogram from my doctor even though I was
not due to have one for another year.  The mammogram was all clear and I quote “No distinct changes, no direct or
indirect sign of malignancy”   However the person who performed the mammogram noted I had very heavy tissue on both sides (I believe caused by the HRT) which could easily hide a lesion and suggested a ultra sound, followed by a needle biopsy. It detected cancer in my
right breast.   I firstly underwent a lumpectomy which is the removal of the
cancer plus surrounding tissue and was told I would have six weeks’ radio therapy. I was still in hospital when my surgeon came into the room and said there was “bad news” as suspicious tissue had been detected and he would need to do a mastectomy of my right breast.   When  I asked him about the left breast he replied that I could go for years without a problem, however he pointed out there was similar looking tissue on that side.  My immediate reaction was to remove the other breast because I never wanted to face this crisisall over again.  I wept in my room and after the surgeon left a nurse came in and when I told her why I was crying, she sat on the bed and told me her story of breast cancer at the age of 43,  five years earlier. It was a much more horrific story than mine.   We had a connection, discovered that we shared other similarities such as a keen sense of humour and we remain good friends.  I believe it is important to have someone with you at the doctors appointments as about a quarter of what he said registered because I was floating along in a daze thinking this happens to other women not to me.    You tend to dwell on thinking what caused you to develop this disease.  I wonder why it is happening to so many younger women.  Some women suffer the indignity of a partner or husband who rejects them physically because of the change in or loss of their breast and this must add enormously to the trauma.  Other women are fortunate enough to have the love and support of a special man who looks beyond the physical and sees beauty in their heart and soul.
There are also women who walk down this path alone.    For me personally having been a model it was devastating to lose my breasts which were the core of my
femininity.  I went through a stage of looking in the mirror, one minute thinking the implant reconstructed breasts were o.k. but the next minute thinking the reverse. In the midst of my anguish I sought counselling which helped put things into perspective.  I met women whose breast cancers were worse than mine.   Today, rather than look at my breasts in the mirror, I tell myself “you are a survivor of  breast cancer” and to hell with the physical changes.   Those few close women friends who were always there for me through the tears and bad days were vital and my way of coping was to talk about it because I discovered the more I talked it empowered me. Listening is also important, because I learned so much about other women’s experiences.
However some women cope by not being open about it and only wishing
their family and close friends to know.   Breast cancer has changed me
in that my tolerance level is much less now and I give you a quote from the film star Joan Collins who is a woman I have admired for her qualities of tenacity and determination and I had the pleasure of meeting her during the 20 years I lived in London with my ex husband the late Charles Billmyer Jr.  “There are
drains and there are heaters.  Some people drain you and some warm you.  If people become too much of a drain, I say “that’s it.  Time to say goodbye. I am not really ruthless but  I do cut people out. I have
recently got rid of quite a few.”     Other changes have been that I am attempting to
become somewhat selfish because we women are known to be the nurturers who care firstly for other people and our needs are often ignored.  I now attend yoga and belly dancing classes and have a massage once a month.  I also believe it helps you mentally if you have a passion in life which
fills you with pleasure and for me it’s cats both domestic and the larger variety
such as tigers.  I found maintaining a sense of humour is essential.  Breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence today. 
There are many more survivors like me.        Faye Billmyer

Hats on for Spring Rose Garden Lunch

Husband Ole and myself with Leigh McClusky

Quelle journée magnifique! The Lunch in a Spring Rose Garden was a glorious day, of wine and roses and fashion and delicious food at Carrick Hill to raise funds for Novita, the children’s charity.

Adelaide’s glamour A-listers attended the booked out event, organised by Novita’s Rainbow Committee which is chaired by charity doyen, Pamela Wall.

Held on the cusp of the Melbourne Cup, most women wore gorgeous hats to what is billed as one of Adelaide’s most prestigious charity events.

MC was effervescent media personality Leigh McClusky, I was honoured to be the guest speaker and my speech was followed by an exquisite George Gross and Harry Who collection, worn by beautiful models wearing hats by milliner Di Roberton and bijoux by Anne Middleton.

For me, it was an extraordinary event, because it linked three of my professional lives (although I have had as many as any cat!). I told the audience I had worked at the Crippled Children’s Association, the prior name of Novita, for six years in my 30s, where I initiated and organised the  Mrs South Australia Quest and the first national quest, the Mrs Australia Quest.  Carrick Hill was where my amazing journey into Frenchness began in another marquee.

I was there, notebook in hand 10 years ago in 2000 to cover the media launch of Encounter 2002 for my employer, The Advertiser. We were told the event would celebrate the 200th anniversary of the discovery of South Australia when British captain Matthew Flinders and French sea captain Nicolas Baudin met at Encounter Bay on April 8, 1802. South Australia was then an unknown coast and both captains named all of our coastline – Flinders naming Encounter Bay at the tip of Fleurieu Peninsula – named after the navigator of the French expedition, Count Fleurieu.

It is now very much the history of my life that through Encounter 2002 celebrations, I met my “lovely Frenchman’’ Olivier Foubert, managing director of Caleche Bridal House,  whom I wrote about in my best-selling book From France With Love. He is now my husband.

I left the Crippled Children’s Association to study journalism at the University of South Australia  in 1981 and when I finished in late 1988 (I did have a husband and three children, so I took my time) I walked straight into a job at The Advertiser.

What also excited me yesterday was meeting up with many women I knew from my long career including the patron of the Mrs South Australia Quest, Yvette Amer, one of the Quest’s former promotions officers, Suzy Tilley (then Burford). Glamorous MP, Jing Lee also attended, along with Anne Petch Lee Scammell, .

One last thought, everything that my life has become since 2000 was linked to that media launch at Carrick Hill. My careers, my love, my becoming an author and my marriage.

All the glory of golden years of modelling

Suzy Crittenden, Sophie Mehaffey, Dina Matter, Lise Allwood

It was a joyous walk down memory lane for former Adelaide models of the 1960s-1980s who attended the GoldenYears of Modelling Reunion at the glitzy new Crown Plaza Hotel on Friday night.

And an impressive roll-call of  women of a certain age attended and there many emotional scenes as women who had not seen each other for 30 or 40 years, kissed and embraced each other, sharing snippets of their life stories.

 The event was organised initially by former model agency owner, Sandy Clark as a tribute to the late former top model, Adriana Xenides, but it evolved into a celebration of the success of Adelaide’s models and their contribution to the fashion industry nationally and internationally.

 Those were the halcyon years  of  elegance and glamour – of matching hats and gloves and then of skimpy mini-skirts; when Adelaide’s department stores had their own fashion buyers,  when interstate manufacturers’ agents would fly into Adelaide to sell their latest ranges and when Adelaide’s newspapers would feature pages of fashion advertisements weekly.  Models had an abundance of work on offer and David Jones had parades on most weeks of the year. Back then, wild child model agency owner, Sandy Clarke, bought Pam Ellis’s model agency and, although very young herself,  she managed a stable of  high profile, professional models.

It was also the era of quests aplenty – and Sandy’s girls won most of the crowns. Many moved from their modelling days into successful careers in fashion, in events management, public relations, leadership training and the media.

 “We worked together in the 1960s in the department stores and modelling for the manufacturers from Melbourne,’’ said Deborah Lennon.

And she gathered her mates like mother-hen for a photograph, lining up Kay Newman, Pauline Linehan and Heather Grey.
Read more »

Building Belair

What a process it has been to reach today – the day I accept a quotation from project builder, Stellar Homes to build our retirement home – at an affordable price.

One could think I was something of a masochist to not only build a fourth home in my lifetime, but also to demolish a house to do so – for the second time. But experience forges fearlessness, so almost 18 months ago, we hired  building designer David Frazer to design a new home to be built on the same hillside site where we now live in a 1960s cream brick home.

 We fell in love with his eventual design for a four-bedroom home with a double garage under the main roof, which we do not have at the moment. It had a fabulous open-style floor plan with easy indoor-outdoor living.   

This was always going to be an emotional project because husband Olivier had lived in the same house for 35 years and he and his late wife, Colette had raised their children here.  It had taken a few years for him to make the really big move in his mind – to consider removing himself  from the old house and opening up the notion of building a stylish, new home where we could live out our lives.

However, we had time and we engaged David Frazer to handle the important council planning stages, which included engaging a building certifier to hasten the process.  Eventually, we had building approval and three builders tendered for the job – one award-winning boutique builder and two project builders.

So, after a long process of checking quotations,visiting referees and display villages and making adjustments to lower the final price, here I am this very afternoon in Stellar Homes’ selections room.  Sue, Stellar’s senior consultant who has worked with us to achieve an acceptable price is here with  Michelle, client liaison officer, who is handling selections appointments.

Life has revved up to a harrowing schedule and I must fit in the selection process next week, continue to pack up my home without husband Olivier, (who is in France handling his mother’s untimely death), and catch that overseas flight in two weeks to join him.  I feel somewhat pressured. A Qantas A380  seat has my name on it for  August 19.

Floor and wall tiles, sanitary ware, the electrical plan and the “Smart House’’ electronics planning all need to be wrapped up – because ours will be a fixed price contract.  Stellar Homes does not place clients on its building schedule until we have signed off on all selections and price variations.  Only the kitchen selections will be delayed until I return in September.

Yet today has triggered a state of exhilaration and anticipation.