LAST week Monday 10 July, Gus Smales, a doyen of Australia-Pacific journalism, died peacefully in Mt Eliza, Victoria. His funeral will be held this Thursday 20 July in Mount Martha, Victoria.
Born in 1929 in Mildura, Angus (Gus) Smales’ illustrious career as a radio broadcaster, journalist, foreign correspondent, photographer, political advisor and media mentor kicked off in his early twenties when he moved to the central-west Victorian town of Castlemaine to join the Sunraysia Daily as a cadet reporter.
In 1954, following a posting to Sydney where he met his wife-to-be, Betty Cooper, in the offices of the Daily Telegraph, Gus went to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea to take his chances as a freelance journalist and radio news broadcaster.
Culturally attuned and quickly earning a reputation as a clever writer and articulate broadcaster with a social conscience, sharp wit and splendid sense of humour, in 1957 Gus became editor of the Rabaul Times at the same time allowed to continue his freelance reporting and broadcasting.
Amidst heightened local and international debate about the future of the then Australian territory, Gus was had access to and deep knowledge of the key figures in PNG’s rapid move to independence.
His commitment to honest, empathetic and ethical reporting earned the respect of journalist peers, foreign dignitaries and the local political elite.
In 1966, this motivated Australia’s Herald and Weekly Times newspaper group to ask Gus to move to Port Moresby as its correspondent. Here he had easier and more intimate access to the country’s political leaders.
This proved to be an astute move as Gus was on the spot as a deeply knowledgeable journalist at a crucial time in the country’s history.
His work was duly rewarded by Gus being made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) and the later award of PNG’s Independence Medal in recognition by the country of his services.
Gus left Port Moresby in 1981 to work in Sydney as editor of Pacific Islands Monthly – the highly respected magazine that had long played a leading role in regional journalism.
In 1986, after more than 30 years of intimate involvement in Papua New Guinean and Pacific media, Gus moved to Melbourne, ostensibly to retire but in reality to devote another 10 years of energetic and dedicated service to Business Review Weekly, one of his principal contributions being the annual compilation of the magazine’s Australia Rich List.
The world, journalism and the English language are the be poorer for Gus’s departure from our midst.
Gus was the dearly loved husband of Betty (deceased 2015) and much loved father of Peter and Sue, daughter-in-law Patricia, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Family and friends are invited to a service to celebrate Gus’s life at Tobin Brothers, 604 Esplanade, Mount Martha Victoria, Australia on Thursday 20 July at 2pm. A private cremation will follow. For further details contact +61 (0) 3 9787 2577.