What drove your interest in becoming a journalist?
I wasn’t interested in journalism to begin with. I did an undergrad in Communications of Political Science and the journalism lectures completely turned me off the subject. However, I started filming for the City of Perth where I interviewed people around the city and listened to their stories… that’s when my love for journalism evolved.
Why do you have a special interest in foreign affairs?
Foreign news is interesting and fairly glamorous, in the sense that you have a lot to work with. Even though I am far away from what’s happening, I have fallen in love with the countries and the people. If you had asked me five years ago whether I would ever want to report on Papua New Guinea I would have said absolutely not. My parents used to live in Papua New Guinea; my dad was a pilot for a mining company, and he used to tell me stories and complain about Port Moresby all the time.
I like the knowledge that I have accrued, especially about the Asia Pacific. The Asia Pacific has suddenly become an important strategic asset to Australia, and I don’t think Australians know nearly enough about the region. I think I am lucky to have fallen into it at a time where it has become very important for people to know about the Asia Pacific, because Australia is ignoring their concerns of climate change.
What is the most memorable story you have written?
I did a breaking story on the Papua New Guinea Government buying 40 Maseratis for the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit last year. We heard that they were unloading Maseratis off Boeing 747 cargo planes at the Port Moresby Airport. So we spent the whole day trying to find out who paid for the Maseratis. Papua New Guinea is a developing country so we had a lot of questions like; why did you buy these Maseratis when the nation is facing so many problems in health and education? Who is going to buy them afterwards? It was just a crazy story. Turns out there were three Bentleys as well…
Are there any stories that still haunt you?
When you specialise in developing countries you are always dealing with day-to-day sadness. We covered the story of an eight-year-old girl called Hazel whose dad is a prominent figure in Papua New Guinea. Hazel had Aplastic anaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant which is a very expensive procedure. The goal was to raise money for Hazel to go overseas, because there is no proper radiology or cancer treatment in Papua New Guinea. I did a couple of stories on Hazel and continued to follow up on her progress. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and I found out Hazel had died before they had managed to raise the money.
You have to look after yourself because a lot of trauma can get to you. When I was covering the bombings in Belgium I became very cranky the days following the tragedy … and then one night at home I burst out crying over something not even related to the bombings. It happens all the time and it does take a toll on you. It grinds away at you and to the point where you just switch off.
What do you want to accomplish as a journalist?
I haven’t won Walkley’s or any awards … and I have to say I don’t care about that. I think some people get a bit obsessed. To be honest this probably sounds like a cliché answer but most days I am happy when I go to work and I am happy when I leave work. Overall, I don’t hate my job and that seems quite rare.
Do you have any advice for future journalists?
I am supposed to come up with something really witty here… – change to comma right? I would say be prepared and don’t assume. That’s the one I have to keep reminding myself of and it’s the biggest one I am still trying to learn because stories are way more complex than we are able to understand. Trying to capture that complexity, that’s what good journalism is. It’s about helping people understand that it is never black and white. If you’re going home every night and not thinking about the work you have done that day, you’re not breaking stories. My old journalism teacher used to say, “if you’re not a risk of being sued it’s probably not a good story.”