|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||People|
Broadcaster, journalist, writer, film producer
Phillip Adams is an influential and often controversial figure. He was a key activist for the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s and since the late Sixties he has been a prominent figure in the Australian film industry and in the Australian media generally. In the 1960s Adams worked extensively in advertising, which brought him into contact with many aspiring Aussie film-makers, including John B. Murray and Tim Burstall. At that time, the Australian feature film industry had been dead for some years (not a single locally-made feature was produced in the Sixties until Tim Burstall's 2000 Weeks in 1969) and advertising was almost the only avenue available to people who wanted to train and work in film.
Largely self-educated (he left school in his mid-teens) he is the author of over 20 books, including The Unspeakable Adams, Adams Versus God, Talkback, Retreat From Tolerance and A Billion Voices. His writing has appeared in many of Australia's most influential publications and he has been a contributor to The Times and The Financial Times in London, and to The New York Times.
He has held many key posts in Australian governmental media administration. He played a key role in the establishment of the Australia Council (of which he was founding chairperson), the Australian Film Development Corporation, the Australian Film Commission, the South Australian Film Corporation, the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the Australian Children's Television Foundation. He's been the chair of the Australian Film Institute, the Australian Film Commission, the Commission for the Future, the Film, Radio and Television Board, Film Australia and the National Australia Day Council. He has served as president of the Victorian Council for the Arts, chaired the Australia Day Council, and was foundation chairman of the Commission for the Future.
In the late Sixties Adams was a major agitator for increased government support for local film and TV production and he was an important influence on the Gorton government's decision to set up the Australian Film Commission. He was also a driving force behind the establishment of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. In 1969 a film and television school committee consisting of Adams, Peter Coleman and Barry Jones began a tour of international film schools. In November 1969 an interim council was formed under Peter Coleman. Following Gorton's departure from the prime ministership in 1971 the future of the School became doubtful and Adams eventually resigned from the committee on television as a protest at the McMahon government's prevarication. The school scheme was eventually revived by the Whitlam government and it opened in 1973.
Adams became a leading film-maker himself and since the 1970s his film credits (often as a producer) include The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, The Getting of Wisdom, Don's Party, Lonely Hearts and We of the Never Never. His TV credits include Adams' Australia, part of BBC TV's contribution to Australia's bicentennial celebrations. Other TV programs include two series of The Big Questions with Professor Paul Davies, and Death and Destiny, filmed in Egypt with Paul Cox.
Adams became strongly identified with the so-called "Ocker" genre of Australian film, typified by Barry McKenzie and Alvin Purple -- films which were resolutely (even stridently) drew on contemporary urban Australian experience in their tone, setting and acting. Many cinema owners were unwilling to take a risk on the new wave of Aussie films, so one of the techniques Adams and other used to overcome this resistance was to hire small independent cinemas from their owners in order to ensure a venue for their films. The financial success and popularity of the 'Ocker' genre films stood in direct opposition to their denunciation by leading critics such as P.P. McGuiness (The National Times), who regularly poured scorn on these productions.
Incredibly, despite his progressive views, his lifelong championing of local production and his own involvement in film, Adams wrote an article called "The Dangerous Pornography of Death" (The Bulletin, 1/5/79) in which he called for George Miller's Mad Max to be banned due to its depictions of violence.
Adams currently chairs the Advisory Board of the Centre
for the Mind at Sydney University and the Australian National
University. His many board memberships include Adelaide's Festival of
Ideas, Brisbane's 'Ideas at the Powerhouse" and the Families in
Distress Foundation. Other board memberships have included the Museum
of Australia, Greenpeace Australia, CARE Australia, the Australian
Children's Television Foundation, Film Victoria and the Anti-Football
League. He was co-founder of the Australian Skeptics. Other board
memberships have included Greenpeace Australia, Ausflag, CARE Australia
and Film Victoria. He is currently a director of Families in Distress
Foundation, the Montsalvat Artists' Society and the Australian
International Organising Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon
Marbles. He is the Australian representative on the International
Committee of Index on Censorship, London, a board member of the Don
Dunstan Foundation, a member of the Council for Media Integrity, New
York, and a board member of the Research Institute of Humanities and
Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.
As well as two Orders of Australia, Phillip was Australian Humanist of the Year (1987) and received the Longford Award, the film industry's highest accolade in 1981, the same year that he was appointed Senior ANZAC Fellow. He is a recipient of the Henry Lawson Arts Award (1987) and in 1998, the National Trust elected him one of Australia's '100 Living National Treasures". He has an honorary doctorate from Griffith University. In 1997 the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet orbiting the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter "Phillip Adams".
Adams owns and lives on a 'boutique' cattle property specialising in raising chemical-free beef. He is also an avid collector of antiquities, including Egyptian, Roman and Greek sculptures and artefacts, and is a keen student of the history and archaeology of ancient Egypt. For several years Adams has been the presenter of ABC Radio's Late Night Live. He has been a columnist for The Australian since the 1960s.
Adams' humanist philosophies and his progressive, left-wing politics have made him something of a 'bete noire' for those on the currently ascendant right wing of Australian politics. The association between Adams and the ABC has long been a particular target for conservative criticism. Many in the current Howard Liberal government regularly use Adams' presence, programs and statements as a focus for attacking what they allege to be endemic "left wing bias" in the ABC. Many conservatives (including current communications minister Richard Alston) have agitated for (and/or complained about the lack of) what some have termed "the right-wing Philip Adams" -- i.e. a vocal and visible media presence who actively prosecutes the conservative line. Attacks on Adams reached a peak under the ABC's controversial former managing director Jonathan Shier, but the campaign abated after Shier resigned in 2002, following unprecedented public and media criticism of his management.
REFERENCES / LINKS
ABC Radio National
Philip Adams biography
Philip Adams profile
Post-War Australian Film - The 1980s