HORNE, DONALD RICHMOND (1921-2005)
Donald Horne was a journalist, editor, academic, university professor, philosopher, public intellectual, political campaigner, university chancellor, chairman of the Australia Council (1985–90) and Ideas Australia (1991–93) and numerous other highly public committees, member of the Australian Constitutional Commission, recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, and author of more than two dozen books, including an autobiographical trilogy and three novels.
He began his journalism career during World War II as editor of Honi Soit at the University of Sydney. In 1950, he went to London as a journalist and author, returning to work for (Sir) Frank Packer at the Daily Telegraph and then as editor of the Weekend magazine and the fortnightly intellectual periodical the Observer (1958–61). During his first term as editor of the Bulletin (1961–62), he removed the magazine’s long-standing motto, ‘Australia for the White Man’.
After leaving the Bulletin, Horne went into advertising and ran (Sir) Robert Askin’s successful 1965 campaign to become premier of New South Wales. He also co-edited Quadrant, the journal of the Association for Cultural Freedom (1963–66). After three years, he was back editing the Bulletin (1967–72).
Horne was unorthodox and independent, without a consistent political allegiance. His ‘radicalisation’ emerged from the liberal movements of the 1960s and the realisation that ‘not doing anything is as risky as trying to do something’. He promoted the role of public intellectual.
The Observer was probably Horne’s ‘pet’ intellectual commitment during his years as a journalist and editor, ‘one of the few desert flowers in a period when the cultural desert was beginning to bloom’.
He saw The Lucky Country (1964), his first published book, as articulating ideas that some people ‘half believed or were ready to believe … for example, the criticisms of the White Australia Policy … and … of our treatment of Aborigines’. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Poll of the Century in 1999 voted this one of the three most influential Australian books of the 20th century.
Appointed to the University of New South Wales in 1973 as a research fellow, he became, without a university degree, a professor and chairman of the Faculty of Arts, retiring as Professor Emeritus.
Donald Horne loved life, writing, editing, lecturing, stimulating ideas, and engaging in endless discussion of ideas through his writings and as a public intellectual to whom people listened—from people in the street to prime ministers.
REFs: SMH, 9 September 2005; R. Hughes, interview with D. Horne, 16 January 1992.