RIP Cobber: Australia loses journalist Bill Peach to cancer

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Bill Peach on the set of This Day Tonight in 1968. Photo: Warren Croser

WAtoday.com.au

Australian television journalist Bill Peach has died of cancer.

Peach was presenter of renowned current affairs program This Day Tonight when it launched in 1967. He worked on the program alongside journalists such as George Negus, Richard Carleton and Mike Willesee.

On Tuesday morning, he died in Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital after battling with cancer.

Peach was born in 1935 in the eastern Riverina town of Lockhart. His father was a stock and station agent and his mother was, by his own admission, a woman who “buzzed around like a bee in a bottle”.

“I won the lottery of life, really,” Peach said later. “I had good parents, and you can’t get a better start than that.”

Peach later studied arts at Sydney University. “What everyone does when they don’t know what they’re going to do,” he later said.

Bill Peach.

Peach joined the ABC as a young journalist working on the Four Corners program. He was shifted to a new project, This Day Tonight, by head of television Ken Watts in 1967.

It was Australia’s first national nightly current affairs program.

“We’re up against some pretty stiff competition, like ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, which I guess makes me the man from Auntie,” said Peach in a 2007 interview with the ABC’s Peter Thompson.

“There were several things that were different about TDT. Firstly, that it was live every night. I think that gave it some excitement, especially when we crashed and burnt, which we very often did. Secondly, it introduced the idea of debate, controversy, especially about politics, but also about all sorts of other things. There was no formula when we began.

“Part of what made TDT exciting, but also made us friends and enemies, was because we took on big issues, we had furious debates, we had people attacking each other in the studio, and I mean physically as well as verbally.”

Peach hosted the program for its first eight years. “Doing a program like that live every night, I think there’s a wear-out factor,” he said.

After This Day Tonight Peach started making Australian-based travel programs, including, Peach’s Australia, Holiday with Bill Peach and The Explorers.

In his post-television career Peach founded a travel company Bill Peach Journeys in 1983.

Peach was married to his wife Shirley for 37 years, but lost her to breast cancer in 1997. The pair had met while they were students at Sydney University.

“[Shirley] was my reporter, researcher, camera person – she did everything with me. And it was a terrible blow to lose her,” he later said.

Across Twitter, fans and colleagues mourned his passing, with many remembering his ground-breaking work.

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