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Douglas Wright Lockwood (1918–1980)

by Mickey Dewar and Kim Lockwood

This article was published:

Douglas Lockwood, n.d.

Douglas Lockwood, n.d.

photo donated by his family

Douglas Wright Lockwood (1918-1980), journalist, soldier and author, was born on 9 July 1918 at Natimuk, Victoria, second child of native-born parents Alfred Wright Lockwood, journalist, and his second wife Ida Dorothea, née Klowss, daughter of a German immigrant. Alfred had four children by a previous marriage. Educated at Natimuk State School, Douglas worked on his father's newspaper, the West Wimmera Mail, and on newspapers at Camperdown, Tatura and Mildura.

In 1941 Lockwood joined the Melbourne Herald. On 4 October that year at the Methodist Church, Wangaratta, he married Ruth Hay, a clerk. Soon afterwards he was sent to Darwin and in February 1942 saw the first enemy bombs fall on Australian soil. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 15 June, he trained in intelligence and security duties. He served in New Guinea and on Bougainville in 1944-45 with 'V' and 'Z' Field Security sections, and was promoted warrant officer. Following his discharge on 15 June 1945 in Melbourne, he was a war correspondent for the Herald, reporting from the Netherlands East Indies. In 1946 he returned to Darwin and, except for postings to the Herald's Melbourne (1947-48) and London (1954-56) offices, was to remain there until 1968.

With the Northern Territory, the north of Western Australia and north-west Queensland as his beats, Lockwood reported bizarre events in the region, recorded everyday occurrences and wrote social history. In April 1954 he broke the news that Evdokia Petrov had sought asylum at Darwin airport. His 1957 account of how a Timorese boy Bas Wie had succeeded (in 1946) in flying from Koepang to Darwin (by stowing away in an aircraft's wheel-housing) won a competition in the London Evening News for 'the world's strangest story'. Lockwood received the 1958 (Sir William) Walkley award for his report on Ruth Daylight, an Aboriginal girl who was living in squalor after being sent to Canberra to meet the Queen Mother. Accompanying a government expedition to the Gibson and Great Victoria deserts in 1963, he helped to find drought-stricken Pintupi Aborigines who had had no previous contact with Europeans. He was banned for life from Vestey-owned cattle-stations for exposing the company's treatment of Aboriginal stockmen and their families.

Appointed managing-editor of South Pacific Post Pty Ltd, Lockwood moved to Port Moresby in 1968. He retained his role when the newspaper was amalgamated with the New Guinea Times-Courier next year to form the Post-Courier. In 1971 he went to Melbourne as assistant to the editor-in-chief of the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, and was later editorial-manager. Lockwood was manager of the Herald in 1973 before resuming his former job in Port Moresby in 1974. He returned to Australia in 1975 for reasons of health, settled in Victoria and was to be managing-editor of the Bendigo Advertiser until his death.

As sole author, Lockwood published Crocodiles and Other People (London, 1959), Fair Dinkum (London, 1960), I, the Aboriginal (Adelaide, 1962)—which won the Adelaide Advertiser's award for literature in 1962 and was later made into a television film—We, the Aborigines (Melbourne, 1963), The Lizard Eaters (Melbourne, 1964), Up the Track (Adelaide, 1964), Australia's Pearl Harbour (Melbourne, 1966), The Front Door (Adelaide, 1968), My Old Mates and I (Adelaide, 1979) and Northern Territory Sketchbook (Adelaide, 1968) which featured drawings by Ainslie Roberts. He co-wrote Life on the Daly River (London, 1961) with Nancy Polishuk, The Shady Tree (Adelaide, 1963) with Bill Harney and Alice on the Line (Adelaide, 1965) with Doris Blackwell. A number of his books were translated into German, Danish, Russian or Polish.

Lockwood's style was sceptical, humorous, understated and distinctly Australian; he understood the Territory and its people, and wrote for general readers unfamiliar with the region. His books were well researched: for Australia's Pearl Harbour he interviewed Japanese and American as well as Australian veterans of the air assault on Darwin. The Front Door surveyed Darwin's settlement and its social and economic development. He admired his friend Harney's laconic wit and skill as a raconteur, and encouraged and supported his subsequent writing. When Harney died, Lockwood began editing selections from his books; the work was to be completed by Ruth Lockwood and published as A Bushman's Life (Melbourne, 1990).

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Lockwood died of myocardial infarction on 21 December 1980 at Bendigo and was cremated. His son Kim, also a journalist and author, scattered Lockwood's ashes over Kakadu National Park.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Carment and B. James (eds), Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, vol 2 (Darwin, 1992)
  • Bulletin, 10 Nov 1962
  • Herald (Melbourne), 23 Dec 1980
  • private information.

Citation details

Mickey Dewar and Kim Lockwood, 'Lockwood, Douglas Wright (1918–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Douglas Lockwood, n.d.

Douglas Lockwood, n.d.

photo donated by his family