Nov 29, 2017

Why Amanda Pepe kept her story about Don Burke quiet for 30 years

For 30 years, Amanda Pepe kept quiet about her experience with Don Burke. She tells Crikey why she decided to share her story publicly.

Emily Watkins — Media reporter

Emily Watkins

Media reporter

For 30 years, Amanda Pepe kept quiet about her alleged predatory encounter with celebrity gardener Don Burke. The successful Adelaide businesswoman abandoned her career in TV as a young journalist after, she claims, Burke encouraged her to move to Sydney from her job in Broken Hill with promises of making her career, only to abandon her in a motel room when she refused his advances.

But it never crossed her mind to go public with the story until she saw the news on Monday from Fairfax and the ABC linking Burke to a number of allegations of bullying, harassment and predatory behaviour. It was only because she had been allegedly harassed by the same man that she decided to come forward.

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24 thoughts on “Why Amanda Pepe kept her story about Don Burke quiet for 30 years

  1. Jack Robertson

    Bravo, gutsy Amanda Pepe. You’ve made the Oz media landscape and the whole country just a little bit better of a place. Chrs to you.

    But…dear o dearie me. Where are all the MEN, men? Hmmm? Come on, pipe up. You’re embarrassing us all. Us men, I mean.

    Yes. Where are all the Australia media MEN, going on-the-record like EW and AP here? Where are the Channel Nine Masculine Heroes? Where are YOUR voices, RAY MARTIN? GEORGE NEGUS? You were a great big powerful Channel Nine stars of the day, would have known all about this grub Don Burke, I expect. What about the ENTIRE CHANNEL NINE CRICKET COMMENTATING team of the era? Any of you ‘matiest blokiest blokey mates’ still alive!? HOWZAT, CHAPPELLI!? Never heard the rumours about Don, boys? KERRY PACKER himself did, and he liked to hang around you lot like a wet fart, didn’t he. Or what about dear old DARYL SUMMERS, don’t tell me you never hear about Burkey? Hey,hey, DAZZA? Can’t hear you piping up either, you squib…

    So many CH9 BIG STARS, BIG NAMES, BIG SWINGING BYLINES of the nauseating Burke era…why so quiet?

    Why so suddenly publicity shy? Etc, etc, etc.

    I think Crikey should compile a list of suddenly invisible Channel Nine superstars. In order of their fame in Burke’s prime time; in order of their (unexercised) better influence; in order of their shameful failure to use their ‘star power’ – while enjoying all the star privileges that came with it – to do something about the ‘Prevailing Culture’. The standard you all walked past – you silent, gutless bystanders, still – is the standard that turned Amanda Pepe’s life and no doubt dozens, probably hundreds of others…upside down.

    1. AR

      It’s the dynamic of the skoolyard or any top cock contest.
      The great beasts of culture (Alexander, Hitler, Ceaușescu et al) did not exist in a vacuum, wielding telegraph poles as clubs.
      As noted by Hanna Arendt, the evil of banality is that there are always enablers, gutless pieces of shit unable to act individually, who latch onto power like remora.
      When fat, rich bastards like the NINE honchos now come out of the woodwork and say ‘grub’ why are they not the focus for signing the cheques?
      All bow down to Mammon.

      1. Jack Robertson

        Spot on, as usual ‘AR’.

      2. [email protected]

        Hannah Arendt denoted the banality of evil. She did so after watching the 1960 trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann was one of Hitler’s henchmen in the delivery of the extermination program, Hitler’s final solution to the problem, so called, of the Jewish people.

    2. Bob the builder

      Odds on many of them aren’t bystanders. It is VERY hard to believe Don Burke was alone in all this.
      As Pepe says – “It was absolutely rife in the industry. And I believe it still is.”

  2. Itsarort

    Ok, let’s raise the stakes a tad from the media’s hypersensitivity of the phrase ‘sexual harassment’ to the exclusion of all other forms of intimidation and put it the general populace:
    “Who has ever had their careers wrecked by total narcissistic sociopaths, either male or female, in the APS, Education Department, State Government Offices etc, despite the supposed support by Unions, Fair Work and internal anti-bullying processes? Ok, Ok, yep, that’s as boring as bat shit. Let’s go back to the shock, horror of yesterday’s darling celebrity and that ‘sexual’ thingy!
    I’m not trying to diminish the importance of exposing these bastards but let’s get it all out on the table.

    1. Will

      Interesting point, Rorti. The systematic harassment we’re hearing about clearly has far less to do with sexual gratification than it does with sociopathic self-pleasuring, and that appears to takes many forms, seamlessly crosses the gender divide, and is likely manifest just as much in the public sector as the private sector. Yet it’s the reproduction of institutionalised patriarchy rather than institutionalised sociopathy that’s seemingly on trial. This is yet another limited, liberal, cultural system update. We’ll know it’s more when the causal link between capitalism and sociopathy is put on public trial.

    2. AR

      oo, ooh, I know this one! Answer – almost everybody!

    3. mikeb

      Yeah I got shafted by a total prick of a (male) boss. I was bullied & harassed for 12 months till I resigned. At the time there were no mechanisms for combating that sort of thing which would work out well (for me). Turned out for the best in the end….I think.
      What’s happening now to the Don Burkes of the world is a good thing, but I wonder about allegations thrown about against people like Rush.

  3. Jack Robertson

    fucks sake is it really so hard for commenters around here to use your real names?…on this subject, of all things?

    1. Will

      How do we know you’re the real Jack Robertson? And, precisely, who the fuck even cares?

      1. Jack Robertson

        Second question, Will: yeah, precisely. Just one of the (many) splendid joys of being an irrelevant nobody, in this fame-fucked-up moment in epistemological history. Anyone who’s anybody cocoons themselves and their public contributions in a protective coating of defensive ‘truthiness’. The elected, the anointed, the talented, the powerful. Anyone who’s decided they’ve got something to lose in being openly honest, apparently. So the only authentic truth we ever get, from most of them, most of the time, anyway – from our smartest, our richest, our most powerful…all those who should be our leaders – is that which gets sneaked onto the public ‘record’ behind some or other anonymous cloak. Background briefs. Leaks. Drops. Whispers. Rumours. A carefully constructed ‘media persona’, even, barricading what they really think behind layers and layers of careerist self-protection. The passive voice sterility of the Meeja Name, endlessly self-manipulated and self-filtered (self-censored, is what), through a dozen self-interested, one-way (‘analytical’ ‘objective’) professionalised info-tunnels – rifled barrels, shooting carefully-crafted bullshit at us all. So it too quickly becomes just more truthy blah, to add to the overwhelmingly useless 24-7 hubbub of the Information Age. (Geoffrey Rush now, is it? Well, sinner or sinned agin? How the fuck can we know? The cloak of ‘anonymity’ descendeth again – sullying the gutsy Burke crew, by the way…yes, just watch for the ‘backlash’ ‘witch hunt’ Op Eds re: the Rush next breathlessly-unsigned chapter…).

        We all of us, Will, we complete and utter nobodies out here, about whom nobody (rightly, I’d say, certainly in my case) gives a fuck…we too legitimise and sustain that mournful process by which public words and human truth become progressively cleaved, if even we play the same fucked-up game of balaclava’d snipery – when we have nothing to lose but maybe a bit of personal or professional ‘awkwardness’.

        Is what I the fuck think.

        As for your first question? Sure, touché Will. Ouch. So…if by chance you do happen to ‘give a fuck’ about me, you could:

        1. Give me a call. My number is 0429690261.
        2. Pop round for a brew: I live at 5/18A Ballast Point Road Birchgrove.
        3. Keep an eye out for me in the street. This is what I look like:

        Well, 15 years ago anyway. (Spare a nobody his vanity mate!)

        Cheers, man. And, as ever, Crikey and its mods, eds, publisher…its byliners, espesh. I know I’m a total boring obnoxious obsessive dick on this matter (have been forever)…:

        …which no doubt you all find deeply tedious & unsophisticated, maybe even faintly embarrassing. I know I do. But the often dazzling, always stimulating, and never less than humanly decent contributions so many commenters make here at Crikey are, in my opinion, too often perversely tainted by their own lack of simple authorial dignity. FFS have some respect for your own usually splendid opinions! We’re not all smart or talented or wittily and briefly cutting, but we do all play on the same epistemological field (or should, and must, now): our humanity and everything it produces wellsprings from two simple but thrillingly empowering ideas:

        I am a Man. And Here I stand.

        And in this debate of all debates!, the problem pivots – profoundly, fundamentally – on far too many ‘men’ among Man – powerful men, influential men, men about whom lots of us ‘give a fuck’ and so men who could stop this sort of shit right at the start, before it ruins idealistic young women’s entire lives – failing to honour those rules, written in blood, over centuries.

        Anyway, no doubt I am becoming a little more unhinged than usual. Again, great piece MB. And again, good on you AP, et al (mostly women) for just…having the guts.

        1. Jack Robertson

          For Publisher/Ed: confirm I would be most obliged if you were to publish my reply to Will, currently being Moderated, submitted as it is fully understanding its implications. Which are, of course, the point.

          For consid, with thanks.

          1. Jack Robertson

            Much obliged, Eric Beecher, et al.

        2. Jack Robertson

          Apols, author: ‘EW’ not ‘MB’.

          1. MAC TEZ

            For what it’s worth JR,I reckon you are the real JR and I reckon having a brew and a yarn with you would be a buzz (even if the brews were non-alcoholic). Don’t worry though, I’ll call/text ya beforehand…I won’t just lob on your doorstep unannounced !

  4. Karen Hutchinson

    Itsarort and JR,
    Yes, I am Spartacus and yes I had my career, physical and psychological health and financial independence wrecked by a total narcissistic sociopath in the APS, despite the supposed support by Unions, Fair Work and internal anti-bullying processes. My last hope now rests with the Federal Court and the ‘whistleblower’ protection legislation contained in the PID Act 2013.

    1. AR

      I happen to know Karen. Troo dat.

      1. Jack Robertson

        @MAC TEZ, always warmly welcome, comrade.

        1. Jack Robertson

          Bring AR and Will, we can make a (political) party of it…

          1. AR

            You crazy brave mad bastard. I could make it early New Year?

  5. Jack Robertson

    @AR: T’would be a pleasure. We can perch ourselves down on the harbour’s edge with our preferred New Year’s tipple, and try to imagine what this joint must have looked like a day before the poms sailed in and mucked it up for everyone 🙂

    Fire me a text closer to a day that suits, if & as suits, m’friend…

    1. Dougz

      Good onya Jack. I think we need a firm date/time and some coordinates. Obviously we’ve been shit at protecting the women that we work with from all the egotistical swinging dicks around us, so maybe we need to start there.

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