Fifty years a journalist – a reporter’s notebook 50 fascinating West Australians

Lee Tate and Barry Marshall

After 50 years working as a journalist around Australia and overseas, Lee Tate opens his extensive files in the final of his three-part series commissioned by Have a Go News.

He spells out the issues, names names and, here, lists his 50 top West Aussies.

Barry Marshall

Probably the greatest living Australian. Who else relieved and continues to relieve pain and suffering (ulcer-related) and saves (from stomach cancer) millions of lives around the world and seeks remedies for other serious ailments? Our Nobel Laureate.

Paul Rigby

Rigby, a World War 2 pilot, set the world benchmark for newspaper cartooning and won every major international cartooning award.

Fiona Wood

The mother of six, WA’s only female plastic surgeon, led world-breakthroughs in burns treatment.

Fiona Stanley

With major contributions to childhood illness, recognised internationally and deservedly has a hospital named after her.

Michael, Mary and Elizabeth Durack

In 1882, Michael led 7,250 breeding cattle and 200 horses on a 4,828 km trek from Queensland to open up the Kimberley. Mary wrote Kings in Grass Castles. Elizabeth is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists.

Walter Lindrum

Named Walter Albert so he’d have WA as his initials, the billiards player beat all-comers to become world professional champion. English officials changed the rules attempting to tame him but he retired with 57 world titles.

Faiz And Tagh Mahomet

The Afghan camel-driving brothers adopted WA and from 1892 worked the desert to create Australia’s first outback freight service. They saved the lives of explorers, prospectors and pastoralists from thirst and starvation.

Robin Dicks

Dynamic pilot Dicks distributed by Royal Flying Doctor 37,000 polio vaccines to outback Aboriginals.

Wallace Kyle

The boy from the Goldfields became aide-de-camp to George VI, WA Governor and war hero.

James Battye

WA’s first public librarian held the post for 60 years until his death in 1954. The leading historian, librarian and public figure was also UWA chancellor.

Joseph Bradshaw

Lost on an expedition in the North-West in 1891, Bradshaw came upon the world’s oldest rock art paintings, five times older than the Egyptian pyramids.

Bon Scott

Fremantle’s former postie topped the list of the 100 greatest frontmen of all time as AC/DC’s singer.

John Cornell

The ex-Perth journalist was the brains behind World Series Cricket (with Dennis Lillee) plus a main player in Paul Hogan’s TV series and Australia’s highest-grossing movie, Crocodile Dundee.

Alfred Canning

Canning laid out the 1,100-mile route for Australia’s world-famous rabbit-proof fence. On camel-back, he mapped the Canning stock route, establishing 51 water wells for livestock.

William Watson

The food man behind Watsonia smallgoods beat future Prime Minister John Curtin in 1925 to the federal seat of Fremantle.

Lang Hancock And Gina Rinehart

The unique father-daughter duo created great family wealth and enormous revenue for Australia. For his exploration and services, iron-ore discoverer Lang had an asteroid named after him.

Tom Peet

Peet set up Peet & Co Ltd, WA’s longest established property company and one of the oldest in Australia, the nation’s largest residential land syndicator.

Charles Gairdner

Winston Churchill’s personal representative served in France and Flanders, was a hockey champion, played polo for Ireland, won a Dutch amateur golf contest and was mixed doubles tennis champion in Egypt. WA Governor from 1951 to 1963.


Leader, defender and inspiration of the Nyoongah (Nyungar) people.

Jimmy Chi

Composer, musician and playwright wrote award-winning play and movie Bran Nue Dae and the record-breaking musical Corrugation Road.

John Forrest

WA’s first Premier, surveyor and explorer, steered the State and assisted Australia’s foundations.

Tommy Windich

Aboriginal tracker and police constable, dedicated worker with John and Alexander Forrest on ground-breaking expeditions.

James Stirling

First Lieut-Governor, the State’s biggest fan, strongly arguing in Britain about the merits and need of support for WA.

Winthrop Hackett Lawyer, partner and editor of The West Australian newspaper, UWA’s WA first chancellor and a generous public benefactor.

C Y O’Connor

Builder of the world’s longest pipeline, Australia’s most expensive project, plus Mundaring Weir, Fremantle Harbour and WA railways. Endured enormous ridicule and political infighting that led to his dramatic suicide.

John Septimus Roe

WA’s first surveyor-general, father of 13, surveyed the coast, laid out Perth and Fremantle and led 16 overland expeditions.

Archibald Burt

First chief justice with empathy to Aboriginals caught between tribal and British laws.

William Bold

Perth’s ‘father of town planning’ for 43 years, overseeing new suburbs and council mergers.

Sam Isaacs & Grace Bussell (Drake-Brockman)

Bussell, 16, with Aboriginal stockman Sam Isaacs (tribal name Yebble) repeatedly rode into the surf on horseback to rescue women and children, passengers on the ill-fated S.S. Georgette.

Ralph Sarich

The modern era’s genius automotive inventor whose two-stroke orbital technology, now refined, is in widespread worldwide use in engines for boats, motor cycles and scooters.  He continues inventing.

Chris Heyring

Developed a world-first vehicle suspension system that put comfort and stability into off-road driving for large, heavy vehicles. The US military paid $52m for the technology also used in 4WDs.

John Kinsella

Named Australia’s greatest living poet.

Mick Randolph Stow

Little-known in his own country but acknowledged in international literary circles as one of Australia’s finest-ever writers.

Tim Winton

Among Australia’s greatest writers but stays grounded. Environmental activist.

Elizabeth Jolley

The goose farmer pioneered teaching creative writing with Tim Winton among her former students.

Joseph Furphy (Tom Collins)

Considered father of the Australian novel, author of Australian classic Such Is Life.

May Gibbs

Author, illustrator and cartoonist best-known for Gumnut Babies got her inspiration in Harvey. A postage stamp was issued in her honour in 1985.

Albert Facey

Former farm hand and teenage professional boxer, twice-wounded at Gallipoli, wrote the Australian classic, A Fortunate Life.

Kim Scott

First indigenous writer to win the Miles Franklin Award for his novel Benang while That Deadman Dance was judged best book in S-E Asia and the Pacific.

Tom Hungerford

WW2 commando, political press officer, Patrick White Award winner for Writers without Recognition.

Shaun Tan

Academy Award winner in 2011 for animated The Lost Thing. Bestselling-author and illustrator.

James Drummond

Discoverer of WA’s rare noisy scrub bird with John Gilbert. WA’s first government botanist identified 2,000 new plant species.

Eric Smart

Created a world record for the biggest grain and wheat crops from one property, at Mingenew, created WA’s biggest sheep property.

Daisy Bates

Aboriginals accepted Daisy Bates (“Kabbarli” or grandmother) as their first real white friend. Bates catalogued their nomadic lives and dialects, reporting to England on the cruelty to Aborigines by white settlers.

Horrie Miller

Aviation pioneer won world’s longest point-to-point air race (Sydney-Perth). Created MacRobertson Miller Airlines, the government air-mail service and N-W air routes. Pioneered charter flights, stunt-flying and aerial photography.

Fifty of our best.

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Journalist, commentator, broadcaster and author. Lee, columnist for Have a Go News has reported for The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The West Australian, Sunday Times, Albany Advertiser, Melbourne Herald, Launceston Examiner, Business News and national magazines. Lee has covered federal politics, industrial relations and national affairs. A public speaker, newspaper columnist and author of two books, Lee co-hosted 6PR’s current affairs radio. He also co-founded a stable of national business newsletters. Lee is former communications manager for a non-profit, mental health carers’ organisation.