"Remember the world really is wonderful."
Simon Townsend was the creative force and host of Simon Townsend's WonderWorld, an Australian children's television programme of the 1980s. He was so fed up with the violent cartoons that were on offer for children in the afternoons, that he developed a show that had a positive viewpoint on the world. In its eight years of production, the show won four Logies.
Its many reporters got their start on the show. Some of these include: Jonathon Coleman, Edith Bliss and Angela Catterns. Other people who have gone on to bigger and better things include: Amanda Keller who was the producer's assistant, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie and film editor Suresh Ayyar. The Hoodoo Gurus made their first television appearance on his show. And of course, there was the unforgettable Dear Danny segment, aka Dannii Minogue.
The show started in 1979 when the 'c' classification was introduced to get TV stations to air children's shows during certain hours of the day. Production ceased in 1987. The reporters were always zany, but the show never shyed away from tough issues that 'kids were facing'.
His co-host on the programme was Woodrow the Wonder Dog, a loyal bloodhound, who unwittingly contributed to this uplifting environment. Of course, Woodrow had the ability to bark on command. At the same time, Woodrow's unpredictable antics always made Simon laugh, and he never seemed to worry about the adage: Never work with children or animals.
The only grief surrounding Woodrow's presence on the show was when he died. This event was treated as an opportunity to deal with the death of a loved one. Simon led by example in the grieving process. He even ended that show (albeit through tears), like he did every other show with the motto: And remember, the world really is wonderful.
After Simon stopped hosting Wonderworld, he had a short stint as the first host of TVTV which aired on the ABC for two years. It had four hosts in that time. It was not a resounding success, due to behind-the-scenes politics.
Always a free spirit, Simon fathered a daughter out of wedlock in the 60's. Being devoted Catholics, abortion was not an option and the baby was put up for adoption. In the 1990s, father and daughter were re-united, though the story received minimal media coverage.
He was born 27 November 1945. He has two children with his wife. In February 1998, at the age of 52, he had a stroke. It paralysed his left arm and hand. He has recovered from this, and is now a radio producer on 2UE.
His girlish giggle and inability to sit still, were common sources of amusement in both professional and schoolyard parodies. And what makes me respect this man from my childhood was when I heard that his constant fidgetting was the result of his time in gaol because he was a conscientious objector of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.
He was one of the first to go to gaol for acting contrary to the National Service Act 1964. The details of his sentence are not well documented, but there was a standard two year sentence for breaching this Act. His incarceration at Ingleburn Army Camp did end on 14 June 1968 when he was finally granted exemption from National Service, after having been on rations of bread and water.
"Simon Townsend was placed in solitary confinement for 48 hours – to be woken up every half-hour – until sanity prevailed and he was given exemption from military service on his fifth appeal."
- Ian Hancock
He then appeared in Brisbane at an anti-war rally on 2 August 1968. The ABC has footage of him from this era at an anti-war rally. He is introduced as a journalist, of the age qualifying him to register for the draft lottery. He is quoted:
I am a pacifist, which means I am opposed to all war at all times, and I refuse to take part at any time. I would think that most people here today wouldn't be pacifists in that sense, but undoubtedly all of you here today are opposed to the Vietnam war.
Orpheum says: This is great - man, I haven't thought of Simon Townsend since I trumped my parents’ arguments over afternoon TV (in homework time...) with the argument 'but it's educational!'