Associate Professor Wendy Bacon is a widely-acclaimed investigative journalist. Her articles on the attempted bribe and murder of Detective Michael Drury in the 1980s formed the basis of the ABC television series Blue Murder. Bacon received a Walkley Award in 1984 for her exposure of official corruption in New South Wales. She has worked for Channel 9, John Fairfax and Sons and SBS. She is currently director of the Journalism Program at the University of Technology, Sydney.
In the mid-1960s, Wendy Bacon enrolled at the University of Melbourne and was part of the anti-Vietnam War campaign. By the late 1960s, Bacon had moved to the University of Sydney, where she joined the Sydney 'Push'. She was still drawn to radical social movements, and enjoyed the open enquiry and discussion in the group. With fellow students, she was involved in distributing the Little Red Schoolbook to teenagers, offering advice on all number of matters including how to deal with teachers and how to find out about sex. The Little Red Schoolbook generated enormous controversy, and on the grounds that she had created a furore in Australia, Bacon was not permitted to enter the United States until the mid-1980s when she was working as a journalist for Fairfax.
Over the course of her student and professional career, Bacon has been arrested approximately eighteen times. Her willingness to critique oppression and expose corruption, and her preference for investigative journalism, has come at a price. At just 23 years old, during an anti-censorship protest, Bacon was found guilty of exhibiting an obscene publication and jailed at Mullawah Women's Prison for eight days. She was later imprisoned at Darlinghurst for a similar amount of time. Following her release, Bacon wrote an article for George Munster based upon her experiences. She co-founded the support group, Women Behind Bars, in Sydney.
In prison Bacon encountered police corruption first-hand, from bribery to the raping of women prisoners. She encountered it again, specifically the link between organised crime and corrupt police, during protests against developments in Victoria Street, Sydney. One of the protest leaders simply disappeared, while Bacon herself was sent a bullet in an orchid on Valentine's Day. In later years, police corruption became the core focus of her investigative journalism.
In the mid-1980s, Bacon wrote a series of articles bringing to light allegations that Detective Sergeant Roger Rogerson had attempted to bribe Detective Michael Drury, following an attempt on Drury's life. Her stories were used in the ABC television series. Bacon was also involved in publicity around the case of Lionel Murphy, the former Labor Attorney-General who was appointed to the High Court and brought to trial for perverting the cause of justice.
Murphy had connections to organised crime. It was Bacon who obtained information from Murphy's friend, Jim McClelland, but her policies on confidentiality meant suppressing the information, and McClelland perjured himself. Bacon broke the story with David Marr. She also investigated the case of New South Wales Premier Neville Wran, who faced the Street Royal Commission in 1983 over claims by the ABC that he tried to influence the magistracy over the 1977 commital of Kevin Humphries, charged with misappropriation of funds. Bacon received a Walkley award in 1984 for her exposure of official corruption in New South Wales.
As well as investigative journalism, Bacon maintained her interest in politics and activism, and produced a number of feature articles for the journal. In March 1988, she published 'Voices of Dissent Around Sydney Harbour', expressing frustration at the lack of criticism around Australia's bicentennial celebrations and reacting with distaste to the kitsch of it all — the dressing up, the re-enactments, the plethora of Australian flags: 'When on the 27 January', wrote Bacon, 'I suggested to the editor of one newspaper that something more critical of the official line as well as a more qualitative account of the Aboriginal protests might be written, she dismissed the notion as raking over what was already history'. Later that year, Bacon wrote on private hospitals, asking 'where does the buck stop?', and discussing the corruption and tax evasion behind ownership of private hospitals.