Life of drama

Julie-Anne Ford


Julie-Anne Ford had a long career in ABC Radio drama and features and was its director from 1985-89. This department, now defunct, produced plays, features and serials for all ABC networks from the 1930s, and Ford was a key member in what was perhaps its most creative period, the 1970s and 1980s.

When she became director, she found she had a constant battle on her hands to maintain the department's budget, and she had to become ''a warrior''.

She succeeded, however:  no sooner had she retired than the department was eviscerated.

Julie-Anne McNamara was born on October 10, 1931, the second of seven children of Joseph McNamara and his wife, Patricia (nee Hodgins). She was born in Sydney but educated in Wollongong, at St Mary's Star of the Sea College.

She held to the Catholic faith in an almost tribal, Irish way, and attended Mass wherever she was. However, she acknowledged that while there had to be a Pope and bishops, that did not mean she had to respect them.

Ford would say: 'These dreadful men are never going to let women be ordained priests.'

In the late 1940s, Ford studied arts at the University of Sydney, where she worked on the student newspaper Honi Soit.

Later she became editor of Photoplay, a popular movie magazine, and began writing for a high-rating drama series on commercial television, Divorce Court. In 1954 she married Joe Ford, a barrister who became a QC, then a judge of the NSW District Court. Together, they had six children.

Until she began full-time work, Ford dedicated herself to bringing up the children, while also writing scripts at home.

While she made many friends to share books and ideas with, Joe was the centre of her life. When he died she simply said, ‘The bed is too big.’

In 1969 Ford joined the ABC drama and features department, working with Richard Connolly, the then features editor and later, director. They had a close professional bond for many years. Her influence was reflected in the development of Sunday Night Radio 2, a ground-breaking three-hour program of literary features, documentaries, experimental radio works and music…

Read more:

A tribute by John Tranter:

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