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Anne Margaret Ringwood (1924–1998)

by Catherine Horne Fisher

This article was published online in 2024

Anne Ringwood, c1945

Anne Ringwood, c1945

State Library of NSW

Anne Margaret Ringwood (1924–1998), journalist and broadcaster, was born on 8 June 1924 at Albury, New South Wales, only child of New South Wales-born parents James Edward Ringwood, farmer, and his second wife Ellice Annie, née Fleming. An avid reader and horse rider, Anne grew up on a small property in Albury’s east with her mother and elderly father, who died in 1938 at the age of eighty-five. She was educated at Rosehill Girls’ School, Albury, and took a job at the local Border Morning Mail in 1940, after it was left short-staffed when a number of journalists enlisted to fight in World War II. Over the next several years, she produced ‘accurate, neat and newsy’ articles and acquired ‘all the attributes of a first class journalist’ (Kearney 1947).

In 1948 Ringwood briefly worked for the Daily Advertiser at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, before joining the Sydney Morning Herald. She was one of the first female journalists to work on their general reportage staff, and at a time when most of her contemporaries had their writing consigned to women’s pages, she strongly resisted attempts to do the same to her work. In November 1949 she declined an offer to stay on with the Herald and, after freelancing for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, she accepted a position as a journalist with their Sydney news staff.

Ringwood became interested in working for the ABC’s London office in the 1950s. The ABC initially denied her the opportunity to go overseas, but when she quit in 1957 to go on her own initiative, they arranged for her to join their London office on her arrival, although she still had to pay her own fare. In early 1960 she returned to Australia with her partner Eric Albert Samuel Marx, an English-born electrical engineer, and became a cable sub-editor at the ABC radio newsroom in Sydney. She was soon promoted to senior cable sub-editor by the editor-in-chief, W. S. Hamilton, who was unhappy that her copy was being changed by chief sub-editors. The new position involved a special arrangement of reporting directly to the editor-in-chief ‘I had a more enviable and valuable job,’ she remembered, ‘with the world as my oyster rather than having to immerse myself in parish pump affairs and idiocies like sport’ (Ringwood 1992, 13). She was also responsible for the overall operation of the cable desk and the training of new cable sub-editors.

Foreign affairs was of particular interest to Ringwood, and she was unofficially known as ‘foreign editor’ by colleagues. In 1962 Hamilton accepted her advice to establish a new radio program, ‘This Week in Asia’ (later ‘Report from Asia’), which featured a weekly roundup of news from ABC correspondents in Asia. It was a highly respected program and a proposal to axe it in 1976 was quickly abandoned after a flood of letters protesting the decision. She oversaw the program for twenty-one years, travelling extensively across South and South-East Asia, and even entering China through the south at a time when it was rare for foreign reporters to do so. Her reportage of the Vietnam War, a conflict she personally regarded as ‘an abomination’ (Hodge 1998), was seen as scrupulous.

Over the years Ringwood’s special arrangement of reporting to the editor-in-chief gradually broke down. She became frustrated and dissatisfied, and in 1981 complained that she was ‘regarded as just another hack on the desk’ (Ringwood 1981). Her salary had not been raised in years, and she was no longer consulted on key decisions and appointments. She retired from the ABC in 1984 and became actively involved in wildlife rescue and bush regeneration efforts, including the protection of a flying-fox habitat at Ku-ring-gai, Sydney, and as a volunteer at the National Herbarium of New South Wales. Predeceased by Marx in 1971, she died on 27 September 1998 in her home at Greenwich, Sydney, after a battle with motor neurone disease. She was cremated in the Northern Suburbs crematorium.

A witty and cultivated person, whose manner could be cool or warm as the occasion demanded, Ringwood had blue-grey eyes and long blonde hair that she usually wore in an elegant crown braid. She was a meticulous reporter, and was widely respected for the fearless way in which she upheld the standards and principles of journalism. According to Errol Hodge, former editor of Radio Australia, she was ‘always sceptical, but never cynical’ (Hodge 1998), and was ‘the finest journalist’ he worked with during his career. Late in life, she donated a portion of her land to Sydney’s Lane Cove Council. She also bequeathed the proceeds of the sale of her house to the Bush Heritage Australia Fund.

Research edited by Emily Gallagher

Select Bibliography

  • Castellari, Bert. Obituary. Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 1998, 100

  • Hodge, Errol. Eulogy written for wake of Anne Ringwood. Unpublished manuscript, October 1998. MLMSS 8653, Anne Ringwood Personal Papers, 1886–1999. State Library of New South Wales

  • Kearney, Frank H. Reference for Miss Anne Ringwood, 30 August 1947. MLMSS 8653, Anne Ringwood Personal Papers, 1886–1999. State Library of New South Wales

  • Ringwood, Anne. Letter to the editor. Fanfare, February 1992, 13

  • Ringwood, Anne. Memo, 18 February 1981. MLMSS 8653, Anne Ringwood Personal Papers, 1886–1999. State Library of New South Wales

  • State Library of New South Wales. MLMSS 8653, Anne Ringwood Personal Papers, 1886–1999

Additional Resources

Citation details

Catherine Horne Fisher, 'Ringwood, Anne Margaret (1924–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ringwood-anne-margaret-33443/text41814, published online 2024, accessed online 29 May 2024.

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