Maitland Mercury journalist Belinda-Jane Davis has won a Walkley Award for excellence in journalism for her drought campaign, The Big Dry.
The campaign, which she started in February, highlighted the plight of the region’s drought ravaged farmers.
It was launched in The Mercury in conjunction with The Newcastle Herald and Fairfax Media’s Lower Hunter mastheads, before spreading across the state.
Ms Davis also helped launch the Buy a Bale funding campaign which has raised a total of more than $20 million.
“Thank you to everyone who trusted me to share their story to help raise awareness,” she said afterwards.
“This award belongs to everyone fighting the drought, whether you are a farmer or in a regional town.”
In typical fashion, she also took a little of the drought along with her.
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“I’ve incorporated the drought into my outfit tonight,” she said. “I have soil from the Upper and Lower Hunter in a glass locket around my neck, and NSW wheat in my hair.
“I’ve named my dress the dusty paddock. Each one of you on the land is a precious sparkle and this recognition is yours as well.”
Belinda-Jane Davis showed great passion and tenacity to ensure the crippling drought received the media attention it long deserved.
Despite the strained resources of a regional newspaper and constant shutdowns from various politicians, Davis persisted.
The worst drought in more than 100 years had long been ignored by the metro media, but Davis’s coverage ensured it finally became front page news and held responsible politicians to account.