Among the gum trees

‘He had a ribald sense of humour.’

Of all the comments, the commentary, the excuses for bad behaviour and the misuses of power and privilege that were revealed when the allegations against Don Burke bubbled to the surface, that line has stayed with me.

It was said by Michael Freedman, who was the managing director of Burke's production company, CTC Productions, between 1991 and 1998. The allegations, Freedman went on to say, ‘did not represent the Don Burke I knew.’

We watched Burke’s Backyard in my house, and I know the theme song by heart. I used to think Don Burke had a nice face, and kind eyes. In my childhood memory, he is surrounded by greenery, vines creeping around the thick white trunks of the trees behind him, his amicable voice offering assured instructions for the stewardship of plants. Hands in the dirt, salt of the earth.

Now I wonder how many women on those sets, in those gardens, looked at that face and listened to that voice and imagined those vines curling around that man’s neck like tentacles, slowly sucking the breath from him. Just so they wouldn’t have to pass him in the hallway again, or find themselves in a lift with him, or an empty office, or the staff carpark late at night.

So they wouldn’t have to be there when he unleashed that ‘ribald sense of humour’ of his.

About as funny as cancer, and just as toxic.

We may not have a cure, but at least we’re starting to acknowledge the extent of the disease.