Wendy Borchers was a life-force. An inclusive and generous mentor to everyone who came through the ABC Archive Research area, she shared her knowledge across the Content Services areas and the wider ABC. Welcoming and flamboyant, she had a million stories to tell. Always passionate and loyal to the ABC, she’d been working at the ABC since the 1960’s.
She knew the faces and names of most of the staff, she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the programmes, she could decipher the old numbers and codes and helped develop the depth of information that we all use in our digital databases today. Wendy was the corporate memory that doesn’t exist anymore and won’t exist in the new digital AI future.
The Archive Researchers were unusual as an ABC workplace group, in that the core team largely got to work together, unrestructured and uninterrupted for over 20 years. We learnt via an oral tradition of where to look for footage in what we would affectionately call the ABC Archaeological Dig Site, via a methodology which would horrify the HR qualitative, documented standards of today. Pre-digitisation, there were so many places to look. We embraced lateral thinking. We were always encouraged by Wendy to do the deep digs. Referencing and cross referencing the various strata of systems that had developed at the ABC over the years. Learning to “read through” the records. Finding the gold. We all learnt a lot from her mentoring.
As John Williams – a fellow archive producer – says:
“It was through [Wendy’s] efforts that much of our Indigenous content was preserved and disseminated to the wider community (and shared with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and torres Strait Islander Studies, AITSIS), Wendy worked on an incredibly vast number of projects (documentaries, E&S programs) and in her final stint here, collated and itemised our vast collection of Vietnam War related material (something she’d long wanted to do in the light of a comments made to the media by a former ABC employee re the supposed destruction of our Vietnam related material by the ABC – comment corrected).
Her enthusiasm, her professionalism, her constant work to enhance the collection, and her drive to give archival research the respect it deserved all helped to create the archives that we have today. We can build a twenty-first century, digital version, of our archives, but much of what we have today has been made possible via the tireless work of Wendy for over 40 years.
All these years of experience culminated in the work Wendy did for The ABC of our Lives, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the ABC, and yet another great highlight of her career, the book which Wendy co-authored with Tim Bowden, Aunty’s Jubilee – Celebrating 50 years of ABC TV.
She deservedly received the Member of the Order of Australia Medal (AM) for her work preserving Indigenous heritage through TV and radio in 2015.
After retiring, she and her partner Max Donnellan (former Head of ABC Sport) moved to Tuncurry in 2013. In 2019 Wendy and her old ABC pal Tim Bowden, helped in the start-up plans for the Pacific Palms Writer’s Festival, with the first Festival held in 2020. All involved agree it wouldn’t have had happened without Wendy.
Her sudden unexpected death has shocked the local community and all her ABC alumni friends. She will be missed as a friend and as a huge source of ABC information.