June Factor was born on 16 September 1936 in Poland. Her father, followed by her mother and June, came to Australia as refugees from the Nazi upsurges in many parts of Europe. Her early life, mainly in Carlton which was then a long way from the wealthy suburb of today, was complicated by the fact that her father, Saul Factor, volunteered to join the Australian Army’s Employment Companies which were established to use recently arrived refugees as non-combatant workers assisting the Australian war effort in many roles throughout the 2nd World War. June’s last book, Soldiers and Aliens, published in 2022, is a most interesting account of a little-known story about these people who made a major contribution to the war effort.

Peter Monie (L) with June Factor and Michael Henry (R). June was made a life member of ABCF in 2022.

After the war, in 1945, June aged about nine came out of their house in Carlton on her way to school to find a Swastika had been painted on their house!

June’s brilliant progression through education and university has been covered by others. Her interest in children’s play and folklore was developing as she worked as a Lecturer at the Institute of Early Childhood Development in Kew.

June Factor: “I became involved with Friends of the ABC (originally known as Aunty’s Nieces and Nephews) when I approached the then President, Janet Powell, while attempting to push the ABC to produce more programs for children – about 1994. As it happened, Janet (previously Australian Democrat Senator Powell) was being urged to take up the leadership of another organisation. She must have been persuasive. I was announced as President at the annual AGM”.

“Initially the FABC committee met in someone’s house, and I don’t recall how we came to move to South Melbourne, but it coincided with an increasingly public role for the organisation in a battle against government attacks on and the threat of funding cuts to the ABC after John Howard became PM. More remarkable was the way complete strangers would get in touch, offering help. Once a week 4 or 5 people would be sitting round my kitchen table, opening the letters offering support, and carefully separating the donations (including $5 or $10 notes from pensioners). I was someone involved in campaigns since my student days but had never experienced such widespread public support”.

“There’s lots more to write, but for now just a few highlights. The packed Melbourne Town Hall rally to defend the ABC – so many people came that there was an overflow into the Athenaeum Theatre and loudspeakers for the crowds on the street. And a little over a week before the Town Hall meeting, the head of the publishing company Hyland House came to see me – they would publish a booklet to be sold at the Town Hall rally to spread the campaign and raise money for us. Somehow, Morag Fraser and Joe O’Reilly put one together – available for everyone to buy as they entered the Town Hall. The opening article – Friends in Deed – is signed by Sir Rupert Hamer (a past FABC president and past Liberal Party Premier of Victoria) and me. I wrote it, and Hamer gave it a look over. At the end of that remarkable Town Hall rally, the then MD of the ABC, Brian Johns, came to shake my hand. He had tears in his eyes.”

“He was moved by it all”, observed June Factor, President of Friends Victoria, reports Ken Inglis in Volume 2 of his ABC History. Inglis reported that Roy Slaven and HG Nelson delivered a petition to the PM’s office with 63,559 signatures in support of the ABC. Inglis also reported (page 385) that “Melbourne’s rally inspired others in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide. June Factor was to serve the Friends as a virtually full-time volunteer, putting aside her own academic work, to oversee the expansion of the movement throughout Victoria, where membership soon approached 5000, and make the Melbourne Office the base for a national committee.”

June Factor commented that “The cavalcade to Canberra and Parliament House deserves more detail. In summary, the Canberra activities were coordinated via Janet Powell, who used her ex-Senator privileges to ensure we could visit many a politician’s office. A big rally outside Parliament House brought lots of Canberrans to join us.

June added: “The Mansfield Inquiry deserves some detail. In brief, while it was set up by the Howard government to deflect public outrage at said government’s cuts to the ABC budget, in fact it provided another public forum for support for the ABC – and particularly for its overseas broadcasting capacity to Asia to the north and the Pacific. I recall our meeting with Mansfield; he shook my hand and said something to the effect that every major Australian business wished it had the public support offered to the ABC.”

June stepped down as President in 2000 when retired Lord Mayor, Lecki Ord, took the reins, but she stayed on the Committee as Vice President for a few years. All Presidents got the benefit of her advice, and it was usually welcome. Her last official engagement for ABC Friends was her speech and cake-cutting in July 2017 for the ABC’s 85th birthday where we had Kerry O’Brien as the keynote speaker at Deakin Edge.

Her exemplary leadership during the early Howard years helped the ABC to avoid the level of cuts the Howard Government and the Communications Minister, Richard Alston, wanted to inflict. Her efforts built the Victorian membership to its highest level ever.

Farewell, June Factor, you are sorely missed.

Peter Monie