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Bean, John Wayne (1963–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

So often in televisionland it is the reporters who get all the attention and the cameramen and soundmen might harbour some resentment – but it was not so with John Bean, the quiet, agreeable man who made everyone feel comfortable. He put on record the myriad of events that made up ABC news and current affairs in Australia, the Pacific and the US. He worked on programs such as The 7.30 Report, Australian Story, Catalyst, The New Inventors and Gardening Australia. His widow, Pip Courtney, said: ''He was so talented. Just to watch him work was amazing, the way he put people at ease. He had a beautiful eye. Nothing he did was ordinary. He never stopped trying to give his reporters the best pictures.

It didn't matter if it was a news story, an election campaign, Landline, The Arts Show. He put 100 per cent into everything.''

In the wake of Bean's death in a helicopter crash at Lake Eyre on August 18, which also killed the ABC reporter Paul Lockyer, and a pilot, Gary Ticehurst, Bean won praise from the Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, who said he had been ''a delight to be around, with a kind and friendly word for everyone he met''.

John Wayne Bean was born at Rockhampton, Queensland, on June 12, 1963, the son of a carpenter, Colin Bean, and Judy (nee Suthers). A younger sister, Tammy, was born in 1966. He went to school locally, finishing at Glenmore State High, where his easy, placid nature and intellectual ability soon became apparent. Bean, with a TE score of 990, opted to go to the Seven Hills College of Arts in Brisbane, initially to do graphic design. Then he discovered what could be done with a TV camera.

Bean graduated at the top of his class and toyed with the idea of starting his own production company. But deciding it was too risky, he got a job filming commercials at RTQ7 Rockhampton. In 1986, he joined DDQ-10 at Toowoomba, which gave him a chance to do all manner of work, including camera work, editing and directing for the news bulletins. He was recommended to the ABC's Canberra bureau and the boffins, initially sceptical about taking on a regional cameraman, were immediately impressed. Joking about sharing a name with the comedian (''I have to connect with people instantly. I just tell them I'm Mr Bean and they want to know if I drive a yellow Mini.''), he worked in the ABC in Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane. Filming the embattled Senator Mal Colston, he became centre of attention when Colston told him to ''get a real job!''

Bean met Pip, a journalist, while he was working on Landline. She told her friends: ''I think I met the nicest man in the whole world!'' The couple married in 1999. He mentored film students at Queensland's Griffith University. In 2009, he was assigned to the ABC Bureau in Washington. Returning, he continued a busy schedule. Pip, his parents, brother-in-law, sister, nephew and niece survive him.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 2011

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Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Bean, John Wayne (1963–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bean-john-wayne-16733/text28629, accessed 16 November 2018.

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