Bernard Freedman 1924-2011

August 29, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Bernard Freedman, one of the most popular Jewish journalists in the history of Parliament’s Press Gallery, has passed away in Canberra at the age of 86.

Bernie Freedman

The irrepressible Bernie was born in London’s East End and had to choose between becoming a movie star or a reporter. He often quipped that he chose journalism because Fleet St was closer to the East End than Hollywood.

He emigrated to Sydney in 1948 having worked in the army for the BBC in Hamburg and Sri Lanka.  He worked as a sub-editor for the Daily Telegraph in Sydney but got fired by newspaper tycoon Sir Frank Packer who caught Bernie doing a crossword between editions.

Bernie moved to Melbourne  join The Argus. In an interview he said that he dropped into Canberra on his way to cover a story on the Snowy River scheme to attend legendary prime minister Robert Menzies’ first press conference. This was to be his first visit to the city which he was to call home for the next 59 years.

The Argus sent Freedman to Canberra in 1951 to join the Press Gallery and he was to cover stories such as the 1954 Petrov Affair and the split in the Labor Party under Doc Evatt in the mid-50s.

Freedman split from The Argus in 1955 and joined publicity branch of the Department of Immigration at which he was to spend the next 25 years. An outstanding achievement of his time at the department was the production of the film “The Way We Live”.

In 1981, he returned to the world of journalism, accepting a new role as Canberra correspondent for The Australian Jewish News. At that time, the Jewish weekly was the only ethnic news organisation with a permanent presence in Parliament House, with offices next the Reuters, Fairfax, Associated Press and News Ltd.

Freedman has covered the historic events involving iconic Australian Prime Ministers such as Menzies, Hawke, Keating and Howard. In 1987, Freedman travelled with Bob Hawke to Russia and witnessed Hawke pleading with Mikhail Gorbachev to let the refuseniks go. Freedman was to say later: m”It was the most important trip I ever made because we actually met refuseniks.”

Shortly before the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, Freedman accompanied Prime Minister John Howard on a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In his retirement, Bernie Freedman painted and played his guitar.

For Australia’s Jewish journalists who had the privilege of knowing him, Bernie Freedman was a mentor on duty 24/7. He had character and a nature which will be sadly missed. He was awarded the OAM in 2007.

Bernard Freedman: born London December 27, 1924  died Canberra August 25, 2011.  Survived by his wife Joyce, daughter Karen and grandchildren Ira and Joseph.



One Response to “Bernard Freedman 1924-2011”
  1. Barry says:

    It may interest you to know that the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in Canberra has a recorded interview with Bernard Freedman in its Oral History collection. He was interviewed for the collection in 2003.


    Barry York
    Museum of Australian Democracy

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