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ABC Presenters reminisce about the 1960s, 70’s and 80s

Posted by ken On December - 8 - 2010

On Saturday May 7, 1960, ABW Channel 2 in Perth opened and in the fifty years since, television has gone from black and white to widescreen, colour and high definition with surround sound. A lot of changes have taken place since the station first went on-air.

The first newsreaders selected for ABW were Jim Fisher, who was first to read a News bulletin, Ian Beatty and Earl Reeve.

Jim Fisher

The television viewer’s first impression of the ABC was often conveyed by the on-air presentation announcers who graced our screens, telling us about the evening’s programs and what to expect. The first person to fill this role in Western Australia was Ian Beatty, though it wasn’t long before the pretty faces of a number of young women filled this role. Such as Sandra Harris, Diana Ward, Jenny Edwards and Jennifer West.

Sandra Harris

Other early on-air staff included…

  • Clive Hale — Newsreader and on-air presentation announcer
  • John Treffry — Weather presenter and ‘To Market to Market’
  • Jim Fitzmaurice — Sports
  • Peter Harrison — Sportsview (Saturday Afternoons) presenter


On Friday 7th May, 2010 ABC Television in Perth, Western Australia, celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark this occasion, ABC Perth brought together past and present staff for an ‘afternoon tea’ reunion at the ABC studios, 30 Fielder Street, East Perth on the afternoon of Sunday 16th May 2010.

Each reunion guest received a copy of a DVD titled ’50 Years of ABC Television in Perth’ which was researched and produced by Tracey Stewart and edited by Brian Rogers.


Here is an trimmed down version to provide a glimpse of ABW presenters over the first 50 years.

ABW Channel 2 – 50 Years of Presenters in Perth, WA.

WA TV History
A lot of changes have taken place since ABW Channel 2 in Perth, Western Australia first went on-air.

The Western Australian State Director Geoff Duncan welcomed the assembled guests and provided a summary of the previous five decades before Peter Holland was introduced to continue as master of ceremonies.

Michael Brock, Peter Holland, John Barnett, Sue Burns, John Harper Nelson and Earl Reeve

Peter Holland has been a broadcaster, interviewer, newsreader, lecturer and editor who has worked in both ABC and commercial radio and television. Peter won the Premier’s Book Award in 1994 for an anthology of Western Australian writing and the following year won the Western Australian Citizen Of The Year (community services) award. Peter is now the fifth and current Head of the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) Broadcasting.

ABW2 – Peter Holland and Earl Reeve reminisce

WA TV History
Former ABC Television newsreaders, presenters and radio announcers Peter Holland and Earl Reeve reminisce about the early years.

Earl Reeve was the third Head of the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) Broadcasting and got his start in Brisbane in 1951. By 1960, Earl was appointed one of the inaugural ABW newsreaders positions, along with Jim Fisher and Ian Beatty. Earl has performed just about every announcing and presenting role with the ABC. His intimate involvement with Country Music resulted in his induction to The Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame, which was inaugurated by the Australian Country Music Foundation (ACMF) to honour and pay tribute to those broadcasters, past and present, who have played a significant role in the development and promotion of Australian country music through broadcasting. The Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame Honour Roll is located at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame in Brisbane Street, Tamworth, Australia’s Country Music Capital.

John Harper-Nelson and Earl Reeve

John Harper-Nelson was for many years a popular ABC radio announcer and television newsreader and presenter, until his retirement in 1981. He has also served as a Kalamunda Shire Councillor. Harper-Nelson has contributed to numerous Australian and international cultural journals, and has written in the areas of biography, literary criticism and local history. He has also written scripts for film, television and radio. He is also a co-owner of Western Australian publishing company Access Press which published many books on Western Australian literature, history and culture, as well as publishing the arts magazine Artlook in the 1980s.

ABW2 – John Harper-Nelson reminisces

WA TV History
Former ABC Television newsreader, presenter and radio announcer John Harper-Nelson reminisces about the early years.

Peter Holland emphasised how important women were to the organisation and expressed his fondness for the ladies of the make-up department.

ABW2 – Sue Burns Make-Up artist reminisces

WA TV History
Sue Burns make-up artist reminisces about the early years.

John Barnett was for many decades an ABC Rural Officer and later Supervisor of the Rural Department in WA. John imparted much vital information aimed at the farming community and the weather conscious, via the Country Hour, cyclone reports and his ABW2 weather broadcasts. He was also the inaugural weather presenter with NEW Channel 10 in Perth. On the ABC front, there was also the much loved anecdotes from his fondly remembered ‘All ways on Sunday’ radio broadcasts. John has a keen interest in shipwrecks off the WA coast, poetry and propensity to quote whole passages verbatim from the Bible, once his tonsils are suitably lubricated. The tourist industry would surely pile many accolades upon John for his long time promotion of rural destinations, through programs such as Channel 9’s ‘Postcards’. John Barnett’s down to earth and modest demeanour underlies a person with a passion for poetry, history, horses, gardening, meteorology, travel and all things Australian.

ABW2 – John Barnett reminisces

WA TV History
Weather man, Country Hour, Always on Sundays presenter and former Rural Department Supervisor John Barnett reminisces about the early years.

Michael Brock was a radio announcer with 6VA in Albany, before joining the ABC in 1963, where he worked in radio before appearing on television in 1969. Michael remained an ABC Talks producer and presenter until 1977. He joined STW Channel 9 in 1978 as the producer and presenter of ‘Clapperboard’, a film review program, until 1987.

ABW2 – Michael Brock reminisces

WA TV History
Former ABC producer, presenter and announcer Michael Brock reminisces about the early years.

Diana Warnock is a former Western Australian radio broadcaster, women’s rights activist and state politician who was a radio broadcaster with radio stations 720 ABC Perth, 6PR and 6NR and as a columnist with the West Australian newspaper. Diana also appeared on ABW Channel 2 in Perth. Diana was elected as the State Member of Parliament for Perth in 1993. She was re-elected 1996 but did not contest the 2001 general election. In 1999, Diana’s work for society, and especially for women, was marked by her award as the Australian Humanist of the Year. Diana was married to noted local novelist, playwright and arts patron Bill Warnock, who died in 2001.

ABW2 – Diana Warnock reminisces

WA TV History
Former journalist, TV reviewer and radio presenter Diana Warnock reminisces about moonlighting at the ABC.

Veteran journalist, presenter and producer David deVos explains the incredible pressure the line-up sub editor often put everyone under, by being indecisive in deciding the order of stories for the ABC television news in Western Australia.

ABW2 – David deVos reminisces

WA TV History
Former ABC journalist, producer, presenter and announcer David deVos reminisces about the early years.

On Saturday 8th May, 2010, David Hawkes chaired a public gathering organised on behalf of the Australian Museum of Motion Picture and Television, as their contribution to Museum Week. Daryl Binning, Derric Wright, Trevor Kelly, Harry Smith and Peter Goodall were involved in the planning. The venue was the theatrette in the State Library building.

Michael Brock, Diana Warnock, John Harper Nelson, Earl Reeve, Michael Palmer, John Colwill and David Hawkes

David Hawkes introduces former colleagues

WA TV History
Presenters who addressed the gathering included Michael Brock, Diana Warnock, John Harper Nelson, Earl Reeve, Michael Palmer, John Colwill, Robyn Johnston and Peter Holland, with other staff such as Voja Milasich pointing out the behind camera contributions.

Until his retirement, David Hawkes was one of Australia’s most experienced and versatile broadcasters.

He had been “on air” for 48 years, working in radio and television for the ABC and commercials networks in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

David Hawkes first joined the ABC in 1962 in Brisbane and after some time in the commercial wilderness came over to 6WF and became a favourite announcer on Breakfast and finally in the newsroom.

During his 33 years in the West, David was seen on television as: newsreader, interviewer, co-host of the cooking program, “Two for the Pot”, frontman for the games show, “FairGo!” and anchorman for the current affairs program, “Statewide”.

On radio, he took over from the legendary John Juan to present the 6WF (720) Breakfast session and hosted broadcasts by the WA Symphony Orchestra.

In 1984 David joined the staff of the WA Academy of Performing Arts, within Edith Cowan University, to set up the Media Performance department. He returned to the ABC in 1987, and was chiefly heard reading the News. Since hanging up the head phones he has been a regular guest speaker for many clubs and organisations throughout the metro and country areas.

David Hawkes was the first Head of the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) Broadcasting.

David Hawkes & Lis Smyth – Two For The Pot

WA TV History
David was seen on ABC television as: newsreader, interviewer and co-host with Lis Smyth of the cooking program, “Two for the Pot”.

Michael Palmer was born in India and spent his early years there. He was educated in England and became a banker, working in Ceylon, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Before moving to Australia, Michael was working in the London Information Service, a department of the British government. He was first heard on ABC Radio in 1966, working mainly with the serious music station. Then after about two years, Michael was rushed into television newsreading, with only a few hours notice. Not only did Michael become familiar to television viewers, but he also presented popular music on 6WF, when it was common for each evening to be a different theme, where each presenter played music which they had an affinity with.

ABW2 – Michael Palmer reminisces

WA TV History
Michael Palmer reminisces about his introduction to television news reading.

Earl Reeve took the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Ian Wynne, who was an incredibly intelligent person with a very dry wit, though his appearance and demeanour was enough to intimidate the novice staff member. He was a tall thin man with half moon reading spectacles. Some may remember one unfortunate night when he fell down the stairs and broke his glasses, then having to read the radio news bulletin with only a tiny bit of his lens left intact. He is revered for his much valued mentoring role of announcers during the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

ABC’s Ian Wynne remembered

WA TV History
Earl Reeve took the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Ian Wynne, who was a mentor to many announcers during the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, though some found his presence intimidating. He was also a decorated war veteran, who suffered much as a prisoner-of-war.

John Colwill will be fondly remembered by ABC staff for his role as a Rural officer and for his congenial personality. Radio listeners will remember him as a presenter of the ‘Country Hour’ on ABC radio, whilst television viewers will recall John as an ABC Weatherman and host of the popular gardening program ‘Greenfingers’.

ABW2 – John Colwill reminisces

WA TV History
Rural officer John Colwill will be remembered as the ABC Weatherman, host of ‘Greenfingers’ and presenter of the ‘Country Hour’ on ABC radio, among many other things.

At one point in his career, the popular Earl Reeve was elected by his peers as a staff representative on the ABC Board of Management.

Earl Reeve explains the ABC Board of Management

WA TV History
During this event, Earl Reeve explained his experience of being on the ABC Board of Management.

Related stories…

Photos courtesy of Derric Wright and the ABC

7 Responses to “ABC Presenters reminisce about the 1960s, 70’s and 80s”

  1. Douglas (Don) Gresham says:

    Its is so good to see that so many old colleagues are still alive and presumably kicking. But sad to see the old familiar studios torn down.
    Many thanks to those who put this wonderful nostalgic site together.

    Blessings to all,


  2. Andrew Dobson says:

    I would just like to thank Peter Newman who introduced me to all the great music of the 50s and 60’s via his Friday night show which was broadcast from 7pm till midnight on 6WF. I tuned in every week in the late 70’s and early 80’s as a 15 to 18 year old and indeed to a great extent it was the highlight of my week. I used to close the bedroom door and listen to the whole programme in the dark !! The music that I first heard on Peters show has remained with me eversince. So Peter wherever you are ‘thanks for the memory’. PS I moved back to England in 1982 but still remember those Friday nights fondly. Also good to see John Harper Nelson who once played a request for me on air for my father who is sadly no longer with us…it was ‘ Trumpet Blues ‘ by Harry James and I remember running down the stairs with radio in hand when John read out my letter and played the tune , so thanks for that. Best wishes.

  3. Ken Short says:

    Excellent collection and a valuable record of the first half century of ABC-TV in WA.
    Regrettably, ABC Hobart did nothing to commemorate its TV 50th anniversary. There are still some ‘first nighters’ who could have told a few stories in the way our Perth colleagues did so well. Thank you.

    Ken Short AM (ABC retired)

  4. Sandra Harris Ramini says:

    How lovely to wallow in the best possible kind of nostalgia. There is so much I remember of those early days. The time when one of the makeup girls tried tipping the end of weatherman, Tony Parker’s ears with black makeup to make them appear less jug-like. Even though this was before we went into colour it didn’t work. He just looked like an amiable elf. I also remember one of my earrings dropping off mid-sentence on air. I didn’t really take much notice, just put it on again and went on talking, but the next day the whole of Perth was agog. Sandra’s errant earring and how I just put it on again – what else does a girl do? – was the talk of the town. Everything was live, except what came down the line from The Eastern States (I put them in capitals because we held them all in awe) and the times when Ian Beatty or Earl Reeve or Clive Hale or I had to talk on for many minutes longer than we had in mind because something was late or broke down were real tests of ingenuity. Ian and I loved these moments; we were a couple of hams really and the longer we were on air the better, but the others hated them,even though I remember everyone handled them with aplomb. I left in 1964 in search of a broadcasting career in the UK and was lucky enough to achieve my dream, but I will never forget those happy days in Perth. They gave me the confidence to take a chance and give it a go in London. I can’t thank lady luck and those wonderful colleagues and friends enough. What about a come-back?!

  5. carolyn giumelli (nee Natta) says:

    Hi just looking through your 50 years anniversary photo’s just noticed one of Phillip Clarke, does anyone know what’s happened to him and if possible where I can contact him, he is a longtime family friend and would love to know how he is going. Hope someone can help me.

  6. I would like to contact Sandra Harris Ramini. I wish to include my obituary in 2002 of her mother, Rae Harris, in an anthology of obituaries published in The West Australian newspaper in the last 15 years.

    Please call on 0403575879

  7. Greg Hale says:

    Does anyone in the ABC have or know of any photos or footage of the Bob Dylan concert in Perth in April 1996, or of anyone who went to the concert?

    Please call 08 98408862.

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