Democracy’s Watchdogs with Nick McKenzie


Nick McKenzie is one of Australia’s top investigative reporters with more than 30 awards to his name, including the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year. He works for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and recently has collaborated on stories with Four Corners and 60 Minutes.

In the interview for Democracy’s Watchdogs, Nick describes the anxiety and stress associated with writing stories that tackle powerful organisations and litigious individuals. At times, he says, he suffers anxiety, panic attacks and feels physically ill due to the stresses of the job. Asked why he does it, he’s unequivocal: “I love it.’’

Like many investigative reporters, Nick often stays on a story for several years. In an extraordinary week in November, 2020, three of his major investigations – involving many years of reporting – came to a head.

In 2018, Nick revealed allegations of war crimes committed by members of the Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan. Together with former Four Corners reporter, Chris Masters, Nick kept on the story, finding whistleblowers who validated the allegations and Afghan families who wanted justice. In the November week, a four-year inquiry by Justice Paul Brereton found there was evidence that special forces soldiers had allegedly committed 39 murders and other war crimes in Afghanistan.

In the same week, the NSW gambling regulator blocked Crown Resorts from opening its new $2.2 billion Sydney casino until an inquiry into its gaming licence was completed. The inquiry was launched after an investigation by Nick and 60 Minutes uncovered Crown’s use of “junket’’ tour operators that had links to organised crime.

Lastly, that week also brought news of an arrest of a senior executive in Australia’s longest-running bribery investigation. Nick had first reported the story in 2016.

In my interview, Nick speaks honestly and compellingly about his work. He believes deeply that investigative reporting serves the public interest. I hope you enjoy the interview and can learn from it.

  • Bill Birnbauer

Founder, Democracy’s Watchdogs