Craig Allen looks towards his final week at ABC Canberra with a mixture of feelings.
After more than 30 years in the industry and 21 at the ABC, he thinks he’s made the right decision in putting his hand up for a voluntary redundancy, but it’s also somewhat akin to leaving home.
“I was at the stage where I wanted to see what the other options were for me, where I could take my other passions, including the charities I support, and to have enough time to do that well,” he tells Region.
“This was a good opportunity so I put up my hand, although I was slightly surprised when that offer was accepted.”
He’s not the only one: political reporter, newsreader and news producer Narda Gilmore will also depart, as will longtime cameraman Greg Nelson, who has also worked in Parliament House and for Australian Story, Four Corners and Foreign Correspondent.
“There’s a lot of change and to some degree it’s not surprising as we’re all around the same vintage. But certainly, a lot of corporate knowledge is leaving the building. This is big generational change,” Craig says.
A Canberra local, Craig began his journalism career in regional Queensland, returning to Canberra for a government media advisory role and joining the ABC in 2002. He has presented the ABC Canberra weekend news bulletins and weekday news, also reporting for ABC Radio Canberra, Stateline ACT, and 7.30.
In 2017, he disclosed what it felt like to experience a panic attack while on air, describing how the normal adrenaline rush and on-air jitters spiralled into something much more sinister. The result was a remarkable outpouring of support for the local boy as strangers stopped him in the street and thanked him for tackling the stigma of mental health front-on.
He’s been closely involved in several charities, including Menslink, and is a keen supporter of the REACH for Nepal Foundation, which delivers aid to remote mountain villages in the Gandaki Province in Western Nepal.
The foundation runs an annual trip to Nepal with a focus on trekking and a specific development project that often includes a humanitarian aid component.
“The first time I trekked in Nepal, I knew I was hooked for life,” he says. ”There’s just nothing that can prepare you for that first time you round a ridge and see the Himalayas laid out before you.”
Craig says it’s been particularly gratifying to be recognised and thanked for his contribution to several Canberra charities he’s supported and promoted through his career with the ABC.
“We know there are two kinds of journalists, and my intention has always been to build up the community through my work, not tear it down,” he says.
“It’s the thanks from ordinary Canberrans who are working hard for good causes that makes me feel I’ve been of some value to the community. I’ve always wanted to give a voice to ordinary people and to tap into the humanity that connects us all.”
He hopes the ABC will be left in good hands, noting a rising generation of “incredibly bright young journalists” with intuitive digital skills.
“We can only hope they stick around for the next 21 years and rebuild that corporate knowledge that the ABC is losing,” he says.