With My Little Eye by Sandra Hogan

‘Forgetting their childhoods had been essential for their survival, but it came at a cost.’

Sue-Ellen Doherty was one of three children born into a family of spies. Both her parents, Dudley, and Joan, worked for the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in the 1950s and 1960s. While Joan’s work for ASIO was unpaid after 1953, she saw it as her patriotic duty to help protect Australia from Soviet infiltration.

The children, Mark (born in 1951), Sue-Ellen (born in 1953) and Amanda (born in 1958) were trained to be observant by their parents. They were taught to memorise number plates, to notice unusual behaviour and to not draw attention to themselves. While they were also taught that not to lie, they were told to keep the entire truth within the family.

Years later, and keen to find out more about her father, Sue-Ellen approached Queensland-based journalist Sandra Hogan to help her. While this book is the product of their collaboration and research, it took many years to complete. It was not until 2011, when Joan Hogan was interviewed for part of an official history of ASIO, that much of the secrecy around the Hogan’s work was lifted. ASIO confirmed that the Dohertys were free to talk about the work they had done half a century before. Ms Hogan verified as much of the information as she could, and the siblings spoke with each other about their experiences.

This is an interesting book, both for the events described and because of the impact on the Doherty children. Sue-Ellen was looking for answers and trying to sort fact from fiction in her memory. Being unable to question events as they happened, being unable to talk about what was observed can make it difficult to form reliable memories. There are flashes of humour in this account, as well as tragedy.


Jennifer Cameron-Smith