OLLE, ANDREW (1947–95)
For more than 20 years from the mid-1970s to 1995, Andrew Olle represented the best tradition of quality broadcast journalism in Australia. He was a reporter/producer on the ABC’s rural documentary program A Big Country, a reporter on the nightly Nationwide, the first reporter on the Nine Network’s Sunday and the studio presenter of Four Corners from 1985 until 1994. In Sydney, he was also the familiar voice of morning radio on 2BL (now 702 ABC Sydney) from 1987 to the day he collapsed from a massive stroke caused by a brain tumour.
He began his journalism career as an ABC News cadet in Brisbane in 1967. During his teenage years, he developed a strong sympathy for the battler and the underdog. When he graduated from the ABC News to This Day Tonight in 1973, his colleagues included Kerry O’Brien and Paul Murphy. In 1974, Olle had his first taste of studio presentation as host of the Brisbane edition of This Day Tonight. He wrote a book, On Interviewing, in 1992.
Throughout his life, Olle was known for his gentleness, humour, charisma, humility and open-mindedness. His mellow voice, empathy for the ordinary person, inquiring mind and high standards of professionalism meant he was particularly suited to the more intimate medium of radio. In television, his special touch for the human story saw him become a superb documentary-maker. And in both media, his commitment to the ethic of fairness and balance saw him always able to represent both sides of the story. Olle told Mode magazine in 1991: ‘If I have an opinion I’m only too pleased to share it with my listeners but I hope I am not shoving it down their throats … it’s one thing to make a simple clear statement and then run with it and be provocative about it, but if, like I am, you are burdened with the ability to see the other side, it’s not that easy to do.’
Olle died within a week of his stroke, never regaining consciousness. His death was widely mourned not only by his family and colleagues, but by a wide cross-section of Australians who had experienced his work on both Four Corners and 2BL. At his memorial service, Peter Sculthorpe composed a special piece for cello and piano. Since his death, the ABC’s yearly journalism lecture has been named the Andrew Olle Media Lecture.
REF: A. Olle and P. Lyneham, Andrew Olle, 1947– 1995 (1996).