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Journos gather for remarkable Sean Dorney tribute dinner

Rowan Callick & Sean Dorney
Eminent Pacific journalists Rowan Callick & Sean Dorney plough through Brisbane's rain on their way to Sean's tribute dinner


At the weekend 150 people assembled at a Brisbane sports club to honour the legendary Papua New Guinea and Pacific journalist and onetime rugby league star Sean Dorney AM MBE, who has motor neurone disease

BRISBANE – On Saturday night I attended the Sean Dorney tribute dinner at the Wests Football Club in Toowong, Brisbane. I sat at table with ABC guys David Ransom, John Highfield, Bob Lawrence, Martin Hadlow and Don Hook.

And what a privilege to be witness to such a massive outpouring of respect from the elite of the media world of Australia. They came from all over Australia, PNG and beyond - 150 of them (another 50 on wait list).

The event was brilliantly organised by Sue Ahearn, Kevin McQuillan and Peter Lewis. Gold Walkley award winner Mary-Louise O'Callaghan was MC. It was a fantastic evening and everyone left on a high when the doors were closed at 11.30 pm and I’m sure it could have gone on for many more hours.

Sean and Pauline were in sparkling form. The cream of Australian journalists had to have their say and typical of so many of them was their admiration of Sean. Many said they had learnt so much from him.

His brilliant sense of humour was obvious and Pauline was just as good. The legendary Rowan Callick said he had originally visited Australia from the UK and, after observing Sean in his offhand Aussie ways, decided to make his home here.

Graeme Dobell set off the evening with a witty speech and Bob Lawrence gave Sean a roast followed by many, many other speakers.

Three former ABC PNG correspondents - Richard Dinnen, Steve Marshall and Shane McLeod - did a fine job between Sean Dorney and Liam Fox.

People I noticed in attendance included Max Uechtritz, Chris Pash, John Mangos, Paul Byrnes, Sue Hurrell Spargo, Bob Cleland, Andrea Williams, Phil Ainsworth, Tania Nugent, Liam Fox, 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. And not to forget Helen Fraser who spoke of a scary time in New Caladonia with Sean.

Yes Sean Dorney is the 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.

Andrea Williams writes:

It was a brilliant evening – witty, entertaining, informative and hilariously funny. The speakers wove so much history into the night and the variety of those memories, with highlights rolling so quickly one after the other, was gobstoppingly amazing.

Sean really is a living legend and Pauline so much a part of that team. It was such fun and an incredible privilege to attend this tribute – the respect, the roasts and the memories – especially the cheeky digs to a man loved by so many. So many laughs…

And I just sat and looked at this room full of passionate people about PNG and the Pacific and thought...Sean has made an extraordinary difference.


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Sean Dorney

I had a great time and it was a night full of laughter.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Shouldn't that sign in the photograph say 'Merge Left' Keith?

David Ransom

I sent the following email to Sue Ahearn this morning -

Hi Sue, Most remiss of me not to seek you out and introduce myself at Sean’s Tribute Dinner. However, I would now like to congratulate you on organising such a wonderful evening.

“Profound” I think best describes it - an unforgettable mix of pathos, reflection and humour. Humour of course being a staple of Sean’s natural environment.

Maybe I should get out more, but I have never experienced an evening where so many were so genuinely captured by one they so admired. I am so pleased I attended. Good on you.

Martin Hadlow

Indeed, it was a brilliant night and I also felt honoured to be present.

Sean was in sparkling form and is courageously facing the next stage of his life and the battle with a disease which has already started to rob him of some of his mobility.

Messages of goodwill for Sean came from far and wide and we missed those old PNG and ABC chums not able to be present for the occasion.

Keith and were in our thoughts too and many people mentioned your names. However, we understand that Keith's recent back surgery kept you both away. You were not forgotten.

Lindsay F Bond

Adding to the "50 on the wait list" will surely be many readers of PNG Attitude. Goodo, Sean.

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