Investigative series on Oakey water crisis wins prestigious regional journalism prize

Published: 19th October 2016

A groundbreaking series of investigative reporting on a toxic water contamination crisis affecting the Queensland community of Oakey has earned The Courier-Mail’s Rhian Deutrom the LGAQ Bean Lockyer Ticehurst Award for excellence in regional journalism.

The award was presented to Ms Deutrom at the Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference on the Gold Coast tonight.

The journalist won the award for her coverage of how the Australian Defence Force’s use of toxic firefighting foam at the Oakey air base resulted in the contamination of the water supply in the surrounding community.

Ms Deutrom’s consistent reporting helped force government agencies to take action to help those hit by the crisis.

Acting LGAQ President Jenny Hill said Ms Deutrom’s work as a shining example of how solid investigative journalism could change peoples’ lives for the better.

“There is no more basic a community need as a supply of reliable, safe water yet this series of reports showed how it is something that no regional community can take for granted,’’ Cr Hill said.

“Rhian’s incisive reporting helped ensure that governments delivered the proper support to the people of Oakey.’’

The award, which comes with a $15,000 cash prize, is one of the richest on offer to Australian journalists.

It is named in honour of Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalists John Bean, Paul Lockyer and Gary Ticehurst, who lost their lives in a helicopter crash while on assignment at Lake Eyre in 2012.