Journalist takes top gong

Danielle Kutchel with her VCPA award. 309222_02 Photo: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Shelby Brooks

Past Star News reporter Danielle Kutchel has been honoured for her work highlighting the mental health crisis within the refugee community at the Victorian Country Press Association (VCPA) awards.

Ms Kutchel, who wrote for the Pakenham Gazette, Berwick Star News, Cranbourne Star News and Dandenong Star Journal between 2018 and 2021, recently won the Best Community Campaign for a newspaper with a circulation of over 6000, for her series of stories called Journey published in September last year.

In 2020, Ms Kutchel was the recipient of a Melbourne Press Club Michael Gordon Fellowship for social justice journalism.

In a series of four articles, she explored issues relating to the mental health of the asylum seekers and refugees who have settled in the South East.

“The South East is home to a lot of refugees. It’s one of the most diverse areas in the country and it seemed like an issue that no one was really looking into or talking about,” Ms Kutchel said.

“I thought someone has got to write about this, and I think Star News was ideally placed because we are the voice of the South East community.”

In the articles, Ms Kutchel explored how the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees were affected during the different stages of their journeys to Australia, as well as the barriers to access services once here and possible solutions for the issue.

“The main point of the stories were the lived experiences. I wanted the voices of these refugees to be the main driver of the story because the story is theirs,” Ms Kutchel said.

“I enjoyed writing the articles and I thought they were stories that needed to be told. To have the VCPA recognise that is really special.

“I think the important thing is that the feedback I got from refugee and asylum seeker groups was really positive at the time, saying this is a story that no one has ever asked us about, but it’s a story we want people to know about.

“That also means a lot to me.”