was born in working class London to John, a tunneller, and Elizabeth of
Italian background. His sharp intellect and lively writing skills
earned him Fleet Street during school holidays until e enlisted in the
Royal Navy as a 17-year old. He visited Australia on HMS Golden Hind in
1946 and was immediately struck by the opportunities the country
John migrated to New South Wales in 1949 and found a
position as a reporter with the Daily Liberal in Dubbo. Two years later
he won the Monty Grover prize for cadet journalists and joined the
ABC's Darwin office. There he met Laura Farlow, his future wife,
and struck a deal with Wally Hamilton, the ABC's editorin-chief, that
he would stay in Darwin provided he got one of the first jobs in TV
That pledge became reality in 1956 when he was posted to
ABC Television on 1956, so John and Laura established themselves in
Castlecrag with their growing family. He was a contributing journalist
to the opening night of ABN2 at Gore Hill in Sydney on 5 November 1956.
In 1963 John produced Ten Million Strong, an ABC contribution on the
creation of Malaysia to an international documentary series. The
following year he joined his ABC colleagues Philip Hickie and Kenneth
Cook in the enterprise Cook in Patrician Films, which made
animated cartoons, nature, heritage, adventure and science programs for
children, which were sold to the ABC.
John and Laura held
strong environmental and social justice principles which they applied
in their relationship with the bushland in Castlecrag. Vegetables were
grown in the back yard and all the family enjoyed the rock, the bush
and Middle Harbour. John was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and
stood in the 1966 election for Gordon Barton's Liberal Reform Party. He
was unsuccessful, but established a close relationship with Barton and,
when he launched the Sunday Observer newspaper in Melbourne, Crew was
its founding editor.
Crew was back with the ABC as a senior
producer for its new current Affairs program This Day Tonight in 1967.
He remained with the program until he was recruited by the new
Australian Film & Television School in 1973.
joined the committee formed by the Progress Association in early 1974
to lobby against the challenge of the Warringah Expressway and soon
assumed a prominent role in its affairs. With his journalist background
he was cajoled into standing for local council on an environmental
platform and he was elected to represent the Middle Harbour Ward in
During his time on Council, John was a strong
backer of council's new central library in Chatswood and played a key
role in saving Walter Burley Griffin's Willoughby Incinerator from
demolition. He helped to establish the Walter Burley Griffin Trust
(NSW), which mobilised influential architects and opinion leaders to
support its cause and it was John's initiative in obtaining a $50,000
grant from the Federal Government's National Estate Program for Council that was to prove decisive in saving the building.
the election of the Wran Government in May 1976 and its decision to
fulfil its election pledge to abandon the Warringah Expressway
extension to Seaforth, John announced that he would not contest the
1977 Council elections. He remained active in the anti-expressway
committee, however, and played a key role in the decision of the Wran
Government to launch the Commission of Inquiry into the Warringah
Transport Corridor headed by David Kirby.
In 1976 John played a
key role in establishing in establishing the Castlecrag branch of the
Australian Labor Party. Branch members met in the homes of various
members and held rigorous debates on the issues of the time. The writer
got to know John and Laura as close friends at this time, regularly
visiting their home and enjoying their generous hospitality and
In the early 1980s John and Laura had
purchased 14 hectares of ironbark forest and ancient cycad palms on the
shores of Baragoot Lake near Bermagui as their dream retirement
retreat. Implementing their plans was postponed, however, as
ATN-7 had enticed John back to television as a current affairs
executive producer. He worked at Channel 7 for two years, including
with Clive Robertson on Newsworld.
In 1988 John and Laura set up
a tent by the lake, upgraded to a small caravan and finally to a
handsome pole house, Ironbark. They were active in their new community
until well until John had an unfortunate fall while getting onto his
pushbike on 27 December 2007 that resulted in a slow bleed on the
brain. This caused him to fall into a coma that night, from which he
didn't recover, dying three days later.
||Brian Davies, 'Newsman of a different age', Sydney Morning Herald, 9 January 2008.
||Mark Crew, 'John Crew, 1927-2007', The Crag, No 166, February 2008.
||RF McKillop, Managing our Waste: An environmental history of Flat Rock
Creek and the Willoughby Incinerator, 1900-2011. Castlecrag, MWA