Asher Joel grew up in a poor family in the inner suburb of Enmore and at the age of 14 began his career as a copy boy and went on to become a successful journalist. This led to him becoming the Press Secretary of Jack Lang and to becoming involved in the organization of the NSW Government’s celebrations of the coronation of King George VI and Australia’s 150th anniversary.
Before the war Asher Joel had been a sergeant in a CMF infantry battalion. He was a member of the AIF, but in 1942 transferred to the RAN where he became a lieutenant.
He served in Townsville as Assistant Staff Officer (Operations) and in 1943 was appointed Staff Officer (Operations) at Milne Bay, New Guinea. During the Second World War he became a Lieutenant in the RAN and was the first Australian naval officer to receive the US Bronze Star for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
He received numerous citations and testimonials for his outstanding work as a liaison officer with the Americans and as an intelligence officer and also in naval operations and at one period served in General Douglas Macarthur’s headquarters.
Indeed his work with the Naval Intelligence Division is described in a letter sent to him by the Director of Naval Intelligence, Commander R B M Long OBE, in January 1946 (after he had been discharged from active service). CMDR Long wrote:
‘You were amongst the first Officers for whom I asked; and I gave you the toughest of all the jobs, that of establishing our position with General MacArthur’s publicity and publicity censorship controllers. This work took you with his headquarters from Brisbane to Manilla. To be successful, you had to be up with and often ahead of the war correspondents and Public Relations officers of other Allied Services. It meant being “on your toes” the whole time, taking a “first wave” part in all landings and all expeditions. Danger and disease did not stop you – you were always at the right place at the right time. You were completely successful in breaking down all barriers and of establishing RAN publicity in the highest American estimate. I believe that no one else could have established so much in so short a time. I am attaching hereto a copy of a letter of thanks from the head of British Naval Intelligence to “my colleagues”, amongst whom I count you a principal. I add my own most sincere thanks to his.’
After the war he established Australia’s first Public Relations firm. His special talent was organizing major celebrations and events and he organized these aspects of the US President’s visit to Australia, the opening of the Sydney Opera House, the Bicentennial of Captain Cook’s Landing and the Pope’s visit to Australia.
He was knighted by the Queen in 1971 and 1974 and was the first Australian Jew to receive a Papal knighthood.
He also served for 21 years as a Member of the NSW Upper House.
He was also a member of NAJEX.