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Anne Dupree (1926–2009)

by Tony Stephens

Anne Dupree marched to a different drum from most women of her time. She became a journalist as a teenager, sailed to England on an aircraft carrier as a 20-year-old war bride and was one of the first women subeditors in Australian journalism. She won two Walkley awards.

Her independent spirit was often roused. Writing to the Herald in 1975, she attacked the "male chauvinist piggery" of a teacher who had said that the only option for young women with a flat car tyre was to "look forlorn and helpless until some unsuspecting Galahad stops and fixes the flat". She retorted: "Patronising humour of this kind does nothing to educate girls."

Anne Dupree, who has died at 82, was the daughter of James "Jim" James and his wife, formerly Florence Wanlace. She travelled widely as a girl in Victoria and NSW, while her father was district engineer for the NSW Department of Main Roads. He later became chief engineer and the director of works for the Commonwealth of Australia, overseeing Canberra's development.

Her family's Cornish forebears lent her a self-determination and independence that thrived on the road, and her parents encouraged education in their children. Her younger brother, Jimmy, became divisional head of western districts lands for NSW. Her younger sister, Helen, was to play key roles in nursing education in the ACT. 

Anne attended several schools, including at Parkes and Goulburn, before gaining honours in her Leaving Certificate from SCEGGS Darlinghurst. She declined a university place to become a cadet journalist on the Herald during World War II.

Developing a journalistic style characterised by short sentences in the present tense and untroubled by opinion or conjecture, she flourished in the world of deadlines and pressure. But, after a year, she supported the printers when they went on strike and was sacked when the strike was resolved.

A Herald editor, however, encouraged her to continue. She joined a small newspaper, the Lithgow Clarion, where she became editor while still a teenager.

At 18, Anne James met an English naval officer, Brian James Dupree, and they married in Sydney. In 1946, she joined other war brides travelling on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious to England, running the ship's newspaper.

The couple had their first son in London, nine days after Anne's 21st birthday, then moved to Toronto, Canada, while Brian pursued his career and worked on doctoral studies in dentistry. Anne wrote for Saturday Night, a prominent magazine.

Dupree's second son was born in 1948 in Canberra, where she was a foreign correspondent for Saturday Night and studied philosophy and Greek at University College, which became the Australian National University. Back in Sydney in 1957, she wrote for the Herald, then worked as a subeditor on the Daily Mirror.

In 1967, she won a Walkley for the best story published in a magazine, an article in Woman's Day on the coronation of the King of Tonga. She won her second, also published in Woman's Day, in 1972. Her stories included interviews with Indira Gandhi and Sophia Loren.

After the Duprees were divorced, Anne married Donald Williamson, an artist, and they lived in Balmain. She began researching the 1941 Battle for Crete, when a German airborne invasion took the island. After a second divorce, she went to New Zealand, concluding that the Allied commander, the New Zealander Major-General Bernard Freyberg VC, had been blamed unfairly for the defeat. She met Stanton Johnson, a captain who had fought at Crete, and they lived together in New Zealand and Australia. She spent her last years at Catherine Hill Bay.

Anne Dupree is survived by her sons, James and Christopher, and their families, including five grandchildren.

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Citation details

Tony Stephens, 'Dupree, Anne (1926–2009)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 7 December 2023.

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