Veteran television presenter Don Burke, host of Channel Nine’s 17-year-success Burke’s Backyard, is facing allegations of sexual harassment and assault from several former female employees.
A major joint investigation from Fairfax and the ABC, published in Fairfax Media newspapers on Monday morning, has made public a second side to Burke – one allegedly far removed from his wholesome ‘backyard’ persona.
Stories from multiple women allege Burke – long considered one of Australia’s top entertainers and a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia – used his position of power to sexually harass, assault and intimidate his female employees. In total, more than 50 people have made serious allegations regarding Burke’s behaviour.
Burke, 70, denies any misconduct and, according to Daily Mail, has hired one of the nation’s top defamation lawyers Patrick George from the law firm Kennedys Australia. It’s reported George has acted previously for former politicians, actors, celebrities and authors.
Louise Langdon was 27 when she worked alongside Burke in 1987 – first as a weekend producer for his gardening radio program, then as a researcher at Burke’s Backyard.
She told Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont that Burke offered “persistent commentary about anything sexual”, and recalled one alleged incident in which he showed her a video of a woman having sex with a donkey: “Don was getting so much pleasure from seeing my reaction to it. I was just speechless.”
Langdon, now a psychologist living in the US, alleges Burke frequently tried to remove her clothing and see her underwear.
She also told McClymont about an incident where Burke allegedly “put his foot into my rear end” and told her the firmness of her backside “wasn’t up to scratch”.