Mike Willesee: ‘A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning’

04 Mar 2020

By Eric Leslie Martin

A “Sceptic’s Search for Meaning” is a well written, easy to digest tale of one man’s search for the truth about God in a world full of forgeries and fakers. Photo: Supplied.

By Eric Martin

The late, great Mike Willesee was the voice of Australian current affairs programmes for decades – a familiar sound and sight on iconic shows such as 60 Minutes, A Current Affair, and The Mike Willesee Show, and originally one of the nation’s most devoted sceptics.

Raised as a God-fearing Catholic but trained as a professional journalist, Willesee’s search for truth unveiled fakery from Filipino faith healers and Israeli spoon-benders to Australian water diviners – it was not until his final years that Mike asked the biggest question of all: does God exist?

His book, A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning, is the tale of one man’s quest to find the truth about God and the reality of his relationship with every-day people, written in the easy to read style that one would expect from such an accomplished journalist.

The late, great Mike Willesee was famous for his no-nonsense interview approach and his quest to find the truth at the heart of a story. Photo: Supplied.

Born into the Catholic faith, with early ambitions to be a priest, Mike was to attend the Christian Brothers’ School, established in Bindoon WA,

Mike’s experience with the Christian Brothers and the insight that it gave him into the institutional abuse of power and responsibility within religious organisations at the time, thoroughly disabused him of his original goal to join the clergy.

Instead, Mike tried to escape his spiritual destiny by pursuing a path as an investigative journalist.

And yet, despite his best efforts to maintain a stoic, professional scepticism, Mike found himself the neighbour of one of Australia’s most passionate investigators of mystical phenomena, a friend who finally managed to convince Mike to join him in his quest.
Among many such adventures, Mike flew with his neighbour, Ron Tesoriero, to Colombia to interview Katya Rivas, a poor, uneducated woman who had been dubbed “God’s secretary”.

There, he watched as the barely literate woman, who had never read the Bible, wrote page after page of perfect theology and scripture in multiple languages.

Initially witnessing anointed oil flowing from her hands, the scent of which filled the air with a wonderful, natural perfume, Mike was also there to witness as blood started to ooze from her brow, her hands and her feet – the tell-tale signs of stigmata.
Written in his final year as Mike fought a losing battle with cancer, A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning is a moving and intriguing tale of one man’s attempt to make sense of the profound mysteries of the Catholic faith in which he was raised.

Born in Perth in 1942, Mike Willesee got his start as a journalist at Perth’s Daily News before moving to the Melbourne Age in 1963.

Launching his television career in the 1960’s, Mike joined Australia’s first nightly prime-time current affairs show, This Day Tonight, before going on to host the ABC’s Four Corners, following a stint reporting on the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1971.

Mike created and presented A Current Affair for the Nine network (1971-73), then hosted The Mike Willesee Show, and Willesee at 7 for Channels 10 and 7.

In the 1980s, Mike’s documentaries Quentin and The Hunting Party, received record ratings on Australian TV, spurring his decision tomake the documentary films The Last Warriors and Signs From God, with Signs attracting some 28 million viewers in the United States of America.

In 2012, a decade after being inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame, Mike joined Channel 7’s Sunday Night and reclaimed his place as Australia’s pre-eminent interviewer for four years, before being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016.

He released his autobiography Memoirs in 2017, before his death in early 2019. A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning was his final work.