Truth farewells newshound
Tuesday, 23rd March, 2021
By Myles Burt
After 22 years of outstanding news reporting, journalist Craig Brealey has retired from the Barrier Daily Truth.
He started as a cadet journalist with the BDT back in 1978 after finishing at St Joseph’s High School and Willyama High School.
Mr Brealey, fell into journalist as his best subjects were History and English, an avid reader was encouraged to apply for a cadetship by his History teacher.
In his high school years, Mr Brealey became interested in reporting after reading a story by renowned Gonzo reporter Hunter S. Thompson in The Rolling Stone, who was writing about the current US president Richard Nixon on his 1972 campaign trail.
“I thought that sounds like a decent sort of job, just travelling around making fun of politicians,” Mr Brealey said.
“But that’s the only thought I ever gave to being a journalist.”
Finishing up his role as cadet, Mr Brealey decided to return to journalism after a three year hiatus.
Moving to Sydney where he worked under the Kerry Packer owned masthead the Manly Daily as a casual court reporter for three to four days a week.
He committed a solid year to the publication before resigning as he was only casually employed and unable to gain holiday or sick entitlements.
“I did it for a year solid, and I thought I had enough of this, I’m going home for Christmas to have a rest and I never went back,” Mr Brealey said.
“It was good fun at the time but it was just a bit hectic, especially getting to and from work in Sydney, it’s not my thing.”
Mr Brealey said he was looking for work in Sydney when he received a call from Chris Faulkner, the BDT’s General Manager.
Freelancing and filling in for journalists on holidays over the years beforehand, Mr Brealey was offered a full time job which he accepted in 1998.
Over his career, Mr Brealey has covered an array of issues but has been a strong and relentless reporter over the water issues in the Darling Baaka River and the Murray Darling Basin for the past 20 years.
Mr Brealey said he remembers first reporting on the construction of a pipeline down the Great Darling Anabranch.
The pipeline was built against the wishes of the public and has been a major factor as to why the ancient water course hardly receives any water for extended periods of time.
“I only heard on the radio today as a result of this there’s been no water in the Anabranch, hardly ever, in fact there’s been no flows in five years,” Mr Brealey said.
“At the time they said the pipeline is only there to help the farmers in dry times, put we’ve seen what happens, it’s disappeared.
“That water course is gone, dried up and they’ve now put a pipeline in Wentworth to Broken Hill, what’s the future of the Darling.”
Mr Brealey has been around for a lot of key milestones in the fight for water in the Far West.
Ranging from the unnecessary draining of the Menindee Lakes twice with one draining occurring during a heavy flood event on the Murray River in the Southern Basin, the construction of the controversial W2BH pipeline, covering the blue green algal blooms that led to hundreds of thousands of native fish dying on mass in Menindee, covering river protests and interviewing politicians over government mismanagement of water in the Murray Darling Basin, the push for flood plain harvesting in the Northern Basin and the reporting the ongoing talks over the Menindee Lakes Water Saving Scheme.
Mr Brealey said his vast experience taught him that the public often find the water issues confusing due to the Government often hiding behind unnecessary jargon and other unknown official terms.
Mr Brealey feels the reason for this is because if the public were ever told in plain English they would never support the Government in their aims over water management.
“But people have seen through that, and it was pretty hectic especially after that Four Corners report came out and exposed to Australia what we’ve known here for years,” Mr Brealey said.
“About the water theft and collusion between Government and the cotton growers, political donors, big business, overseas corporations that’s been common knowledge in the West Darling for a long time.
“After 2017 more questions were being asked and the Truth found themselves on the front line pretty much.”
Mr Brealey said he’s proud to have seen the BDT become a source of knowledge for the public and other news outlets around the longstanding history of water issues over the years.
Even though the newspaper is small, it’s always been a serious newspaper and has managed to make a big impact over its 113 years of six day a week printing.
“As someone once said to me, you’re up against the Government, the corporations, the money, but has he said it only takes one mosquito in your tent to ruin your night’s sleep,” Mr Brealey said.
“We’ve been buzzing around for a few years now and I hope we’ll be buzzing around for a few years more.”
Witnessing the BDT replacing typewriters with computers in 1989 and printing its first colour front page in 2006.
Mr Brealey said the current predicament for regional news has been a shame after the huge economic impact COVID brought news along with other regional businesses to its knees.
Leading major news corporations to shut down their regional newspaper even after accepting government funding to keep them open, and big changes such as the loss of AAP (Australian Associated Press) which a lot of regional publications relied on for national and international news.
“I think it’s all as they want as with everything else, everything is in the city now,” Mr Brealey said.
“It’s in the city, a monopoly and it’s owned in the hands of a few people.
“They don’t want any independent news out there.”
Mr Brealey said there has been some hope after an ex-Naracoorte local Michael Waite returned from USA to his South Australian home town and has started a new newspaper outlet after their local newspaper outlet shut down last year.
Mr Brealey said Mr Waite had created Naracoorte’s The News after the Naracoorte Herald wouldn’t sell to him, managing to bring ex-news staff members back and get the local newspaper running again in a town of around 5,900 people.
“That paper’s still going and he’s doubled the staff,” Mr Brealey said.
“They’ve got less than half the population of Broken Hill for example, so I can’t see why we can’t have a newspaper too.”
Mr Brealey said he’s been relaxing since retiring from the BDT in December, 2020 and plans to explore around northern Australian as he’s never been to QLD, NT or around northern WA.
Mr Brealey said he’s also been approached by a couple of people how are looking to collate his water stories together so they can be published online or in a book.
He’s agreed to help with the huge endeavour, which will have them sifting through digital and hardcopy archive from the past 20 years.
“So you’ll have to look through years, and years, and years of papers to try and find these stories, to get back to the start and work your way through,” Mr Brealey said.
“That’s the idea, they want it as a record of what’s been happening at the river here for the last 20 odd years.”
Looking back at his career, Mr Brealey said he’s really enjoyed working at the BDT because staff were treated like human beings.
Mr Brealey said he knows of a lot of places where people are treated more so as a number rather than an individual.
“Here you’re somebody, it’s like a family,” Mr Brealey said.
“You go away you come back and the old building is like a little village.
“I really do hope it carries on because it really was a good place to work, it really was like a family, for a very long time.”