Mourners have gathered in Sydney to farewell veteran journalist Mike Willesee a week after he lost a battle with throat cancer.

The former Four Corners and A Current Affair host, who died last Friday aged 76, began working for the ABC before moving on to the Nine and Seven networks.

Family and friends, including former television colleagues George Negus, Tracey Grimshaw, Peter Meakin and David Leckie joined the hundreds of people arriving at St Mary’s Cathedral for the distinguished reporter’s funeral.

Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher oversaw the requiem mass for Willesee on Friday.

Willesee was an introverted and “intensely private” person who lived with the contradiction of being a public figure, known for his fearless interviewing style and willingness to push the envelope.

But his softer side was remembered as one of his greatest strengths by family on Friday.

“He had a tender heart and incredible generosity toward anyone in need,” son Michael Willesee Jnr told hundreds at St Mary’s Cathedral.


The archbishop read a message from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said he admired Willesee’s warmth, faith, respect and patriotism.

“Mike Willesee was journalism when I was growing up,” the prime minister’s statement said.

During the homily, the reporter’s friend Fr Augustine Withoos praised his reversion and commitment to his faith despite the ridicule he attracted.

Willesee began a return to Catholicism after a plane crash in Kenya when he promised God he would “start looking into His business” if he survived, Fr Withoos said.

“Michael Willesee was no plaster-cast saint and I’m not here to canonise him,” Fr Withoos told the congregation.

“I’m here rather to ask you what Mike wants of you now, to pray to God for his eternal soul.”


The 76-year-old was known for his uncompromising interview style and willingness to push the envelope.

His famous interview with former Opposition Leader John Hewson on the GST was widely credited with changing the course of the 1993 federal election.

Born on June 29, 1942 in Perth, Western Australia, Willesee was the son of ALP Senator Donald Willesee.

He was first introduced to Australian audiences in 1967 on the ABC current affairs program This Day Tonight.

The journalist’s fearless interviewing style earned the wrath of many of his subjects but also made him an influential figure.

In April 1967 the Holt government decided not to reappoint ABC Chairman Dr James Darling – a move attributed to Willesee’s critical coverage of Holt’s policies on the ABC.


Willesee went on to host the ABC’s flagship current affairs program Four Corners from 1969 to 1971.

That year commercial television beckoned so Willesee shifted to the Nine Network as host of A Current Affair.

In 2002 he was inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards Hall of Fame.