As told to Di Webster. Illustrations: Liz Kay
Whether it’s the urban jungle of New York City or the untamed beauty of Tasmania’s wilderness, some places leave this (notoriously chatty) veteran journalist speechless.
In a career spanning almost 50 years, the five-time Gold Logie recipient has reported for ABC TV’s Four Corners and the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes. He also hosted Midday with Ray Martin and, more recently, SBS’s Look Me in the Eye. He is currently writing a book about late ophthalmologist Fred Hollows.
2016 | Western Australia
I’ve been to the Kimberley about a dozen times in the past two years. Last year, I did a trip with Australian Geographic photographer Ken Duncan for
a documentary called Chasing the Light. We went from Broome to Wyndham on that fancy boat, True North. It was just exquisite.
There are 12-metre tides so the ocean is wild. So are the skies – one minute it’s clear and the next minute these bubbling, washing-machine skies turn up. It’s a dream location for photos because of the shapes and colours of the rocks. And the crocs, sharks, stingers and snakes – all those things make it interesting.
Ken and I camped out for four nights with a bunch of rangers and it was breathtaking. The Kimberley is probably my favourite part of the world. It’s beautiful but also dangerous and challenging.
1981 | Tasmania
Though I’d gone to high school in Launceston, I went to the deep, dark West Coast of Tasmania for the first time to do a story on the Tasmanian tiger for 60 Minutes. A helicopter dropped me into the forest. As it left, I thought, “Bloody hell, I’m a dead man!”
The undergrowth is so thick, so wild and woolly, there could be a million Tasmanian tigers and no-one would ever see them. There could be 100 elephants and you’d never see them. The West Coast is about as isolated as anywhere in the world.
It’s also exquisitely beautiful. The water and air are among the cleanest on the planet. I’ve been half a dozen times since that trip and it’s going to be a huge part of a photographic book I’m doing.
There are old mining towns where the land was basically desecrated but nature is fighting back. Trees are returning to hills that were once barren. It’s a triumph of the environment.
Tasmania was a rust-bucket state when I was there as a kid but it’s booming now. People are discovering this pocket of paradise. I haven’t met anyone in the past 10 years who’s been to Tassie and hasn’t sung its praises.
1969 | United States
New York City
My wife, Di, and I had just been married when we moved to New York City. Di had never been overseas so she was filled with trepidation. At that stage, it was the second most dangerous city in the United States after Detroit, the murder capital
of America. You didn’t use the subways at night unless you had to; you caught a cab or walked but you didn’t go below ground.
For me, I was in this place filled with the best journalists in the world. From a work point of view, I loved it and from a lifestyle point of view, Di and I loved it. We were footloose and fancy-free. We had no money but we lived off the thrill of just being in New York.
The 10 years we spent there were the most formative years of our relationship and also of my work as a journalist. It was the middle of the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, gay rights. It was extraordinary. I never go back as a visitor or a tourist; I go back home.