COOK, BERTIE STUART BAXTER (1877–1968)
Bertie Cook was the driving force behind the founding of the Australian Journalists’ Association (AJA, now the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance).
Cook started his career as a copy boy at the Melbourne Herald. Journalists were underpaid and industrially powerless, and proprietors tolerated journalists’ associations only if they showed ‘no sign of militancy’.
With some like-minded colleagues, Cook formed the Melbourne Press Bond in 1906. It had 74 members, but soon fell apart under pressure from proprietors. Cook realised that any journalists’ association would need the legal protection manual workers’ unions had gained under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904. He unsuccessfully lobbied Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, then resolved to form a union first and apply to have it registered later.
On 10 December 1910, Cook convened a meeting in Melbourne, attended by more than a hundred journalists. A vote resulted in the formation of the AJA: Cook had already drawn up a constitution. He became the inaugural member; (Sir) Keith Murdoch and C.E.W. Bean were also foundation members. Other state branches followed, and registration was granted in May 1911.
In May 1917, the Arbitration Court’s first AJA award established a grading system, limited the working week to 46 hours and guaranteed paid sick and holiday leave.
Cook was AJA president from 1916 to 1918; he then organised the first federal press bureau in the Prime Minister’s Department. The following year, he became an industrial officer in Broken Hill, before helping to form the Victorian Central Citrus Association, becoming general manager.
In 1929, he was appointed financial editor of the Argus. In 1935, he became organiser of the publicity branch of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. He retired in 1939, but remained active in AJA affairs. In 1960, Cook was appointed MBE for services to journalism.
REF: B.S.B. Cook Papers (NLA).