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May 17, 2017

Vale Barrie McMahon

ATOM Queensland has recently learned of the passing of renowned media educator Barrie McMahon, in Perth Tuesday 16 May.

Media education as we know it today, would not exist without the contribution of Barrie McMahon. He has been hugely influential across Australia, and internationally – particularly in Canada, and also in the UK.

Barrie built a production studio caravan in 1972, hooked it up to the back of a truck, and toured Western Australian schools establishing a P-12 media curriculum as he went from school to school. As he travelled, he established the great Australian tradition in media education of ‘learning by doing’. Media production became the focus, rather than formal pen and paper examinations. Students would learn about the media by making media.

The Media Education Van

He wrote the WA curriculum, trained the teachers and talked universities into providing degree-based training programs. For much of the 1970s and 1980s, Western Australia was a leader in media education.

When Barrie co-wrote the Real Images textbook with fellow West Australian media teacher Robyn Quin in the mid-1980s, he brought to Australian media education two influential strands of thought: semiotics and post-structuralism. Through Real Images, Australian students learned of media codes and conventions, meaning and ideology in the media. Queensland teachers took up the book with enthusiasm. In fact, Real Images remains in use in many Queensland Film, Television and New Media classrooms today. The basic pedagogy remains as fresh now as it was then.

ATOM QLD and Queensland media teachers recognise the huge influence that Barrie has had, and his loss is felt. He was really the father of media education in Australia.

The executive of ATOM QLD on behalf of Media Educators in Queensland, extend our sympathy and pay tribute to Barrie McMahon. We send our condolences to the McMahon family and our ATOM WA peers.

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