Warren Duncan Exhibition: Australians in 1970’s China

Exhibition Details

Date: 20 November 2023 to 23 February 2024

Venue: Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture Gallery, Ground Floor, Building EA, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University. 171 Victoria Road, Parramatta.

Gallery Opening Hours: Monday – Friday (9.30 am – 5.00 pm)

Contact: Lindsay Liu, email: lindsay.liu@westernsydney.edu.au

Exhibition e-Catalogue

Warren Duncan Exhibition: Australians in 1970’s China

Warren Duncan arrived in Beijing in 1975 to take up his post as the second ABC China correspondent, the only English-speaking broadcast journalist in the Chinese capital at the time. The 1970s saw the breakthrough in Australia-China relations, with the historic visit by Gough Whitlam as the Leader of Opposition in 1972 which led to Australia’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China later that year. It was the establishment of diplomatic relations that enabled Australian journalists to report on China on the ground and offered Warren a life-changing opportunity and experience.

China in the 1970s was not widely seen by the world and was very different from the China of today. At the time the country was still in the thrall of the Cultural Revolution. Access to information and contact with ordinary Chinese people were tightly controlled. During his posting, Warren covered 1976, the fateful year in modern Chinese history when first China experienced the shock of the sudden death of Premier Zhou Enlai and then the Tangshan earthquake, the deadliest in China’s history. The death of Mao Zedong that followed shortly afterwards shook China to its core. Then came the fragile installation of Hua Guofeng, the fall of the Gang of Four, and finally the resurrection of the paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who eventually altered the path of China. 1976 also marked the historic visits to China, first by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, then by the former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

The Warren Duncan Exhibition is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s visit to China as the Prime Minister of Australia. The photographic works selected for the exhibition captured incredible and rare historic moments, revealing the interactions between Australians and Chinese, including state leaders, diplomats, high ranking officials and ordinary people, and reflecting how China looked to arriving Australians. These photographs humanise an exceptional time in history, making this an exhibition not to be missed.


Warren Duncan was posted to Beijing in 1975 as the ABC’s second foreign correspondent (1975-1978). He began his long career in the media when he joined his local commercial radio station 4AY as a cadet journalist and then moved to the ABC at Rockhampton in 1965 while completing a diploma course in journalism at Queensland University. He worked on current affairs programs on both radio and television before joining the national team producing the ABC radio programs AM and PM in Sydney. He then became the political correspondent for AM and PM in Canberra.

During his post in China, Warren covered dramatic, world-defining events including the death of Premier Zhou Enlai, the political upheaval that followed, the death of Mao Zedong and the fall of the Gang of Four. He covered Prime Minister Malcom Fraser’s visit to China in June 1976 followed by the private visit made by Gough and Margaret Whitlam a month later, the latter occurring at the time of the devastating Tangshan earthquake. As the only English-speaking broadcaster in Beijing for most of that time, Warren’s voice reports were picked up and used by numerous international news agencies.

In 1980 Warren published with the ABC a photographic record of key moments from his posting, entitled China: A Three-Year Assignment which offers a window into unfolding major events as well as intimate moments of everyday lives. Warren later worked in South America for the BBC, the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times, before moving to London and then Spain as a foreign correspondent and photographer. Warren is one of the 25 Australian journalists in the book Beijing Bureau, a history of Australian reporting of China up to 2020.

Photo Gallery

warren visitors update

For more images of the exhibition opening event, please CLICK  HERE.