In the cut-throat world of TV news, it’s heartening to see that still at the top celebrating more than 40 years in our living rooms is Liz Hayes.
On screen she can switch from ice queen interrogator to compassionate reporter, while her globe-trotting has ranged from war zones in Afghanistan to Hollywood. Certainly Liz’s talent, graft and versatility are in no doubt, but as she approaches the big 6-5, the frustrating truth is that she’s one of very few women whose career longevity matches her male peers.
“I never thought I would still be a woman in television at my age. It’s a fickle business and when I started it was a novelty to have a woman,” Liz admits. “I always used to think by the time I’m 40 I’ll be out of a job, and then maybe I’ll make it to 50 and then if I’m still here at 60 that’s extraordinary and I made that. So I’m tootling along, wondering.”
Liz makes it sound accidental, but as she kicks off her shoes, pleased that The Weekly’s photo shoot is over – she confesses she’s uncomfortable when she’s the one in the spotlight – I realise this powerhouse of Nine’s 60 Minutes doesn’t see glass ceilings at all. Rather, she follows her nose and holds on to opportunities with the quiet prowl of a benign pussycat.
Liz hasn’t built a brand around her career, you won’t see her on a red carpet and there are none of the ball-breaker stereotypes to her politesse, which in person I can affirm is utterly genuine. She doesn’t even have a manager and negotiates contracts woman to man – yes, to date her CEOs have all been men!
She admits Sam Chisholm was “affronted that I would ask for a pay rise, but you know what, he gave it to me”. And today she confesses she’s in the enviable position of being paid more than a lot of men in TV.
In a profession filled with show ponies, Liz is an anomaly. But as we settle in for an eye-opening trip down memory lane, I realise if there is a secret to Liz’s success, it lies in a country childhood that coincidentally prepared her for the blokey work environment she chose, and ideals instilled at a young age by her mum.
Cows and Catholicism
With four brothers, Liz says she definitely grew up in a boys’ club. “In cricket I was the stump. In the days when you played cowboys and Indians – that you should never do now – I was the Indian. I was a necessary part of the action and my brothers loved it. ‘Go on, fall down, we shot you. Now get back up. Run!’” Liz was the second eldest but it didn’t matter, the boys ruled the roost.
They lived on the family dairy farm on Oxley Island in Taree, NSW. “On Dad’s side it was a bit of a dynasty, there were a lot of them and they were shipwrights. They got the island for water reasons and set up on a dairy farm with subsistence living, but so they could also build their ships.”
Liz’s dad – Bryan Ryan – inherited the farm but it wasn’t his passion. “Dad was a sailor, a Commonwealth champion in his category. That was what gave him great joy. The cows were a necessary evil.” So, when as adults none of his offspring took on the farm, “he understood … Love a cow but not that much!” Liz smiles.
Liz’s mum’s family were “Irish Catholic stock” and her grandfather was a train driver. “They were hard-working regular country people,” she says. Patricia Ryan was a housewife “but she broke out,” chuckles Liz. “She would have been a feminist if she thought she could have been, I have no doubt. Oh yes, she pushed back. She worked at the local jewellers and the chemist and they would get her to do radio as part of a sponsorship deal. She was the big personality, the entertainer and the heart and soul. I could see she was revelling in it. My mother should have been me. She had that in her.”
It was Liz’s mum who encouraged her only daughter to think beyond Taree. “She and I were very close because it was just her and me against the boys. I was her helper but we had a very strong bond and she is the one who said to me, ‘you don’t have to do anything that I’ve done, you can be your own person, you certainly don’t have to follow conventions. You can do whatever you want’.”
In the family dynamic Bryan was the stabiliser and Patricia the cultivator. “Mum was such a beautiful, loving person and very supportive and Dad was the rock. When it all went to hell, Dad would be, ‘it’s all good, it’s not the end of the world’. He was a good, good man, that person you knew would always be there, and he always was.”
There were house rules of course: church on Sunday and chores on the farm. “We had a fairly clear view of our manners and you were not to get above your station or to take yourself too seriously. My parents kept that up with me. If they thought I’d gone a bit wayward I was reminded – I am them and they are me,” says Liz. “Maybe it was appropriate that my job was to be the first up in the house to bring the cows in and I always hated it because it was so cold early. Then I went on to the Today Show where I’d get up at some ungodly hour and I used to think, that’s probably what it was all about. Even then I still hated getting up in the morning so early.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The real wild west
Exmouth is the gateway to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef and offers a swag of wild experiences, writes Carolyn Beasley.
PIP COURTNEY “There's not a day I don't think of John”
As the ABC’s Landline celebrates 30 years of telling the stories of rural Australians, host Pip reveals it was those same people who helped her heal in a time of overwhelming grief.
Riding the wave
Surfing may be an individual sport but when faced with overwhelming inequality, a band of renegade female champions put aside any rivalry to fight for their rights. They share their stories of battling discrimination, bigotry and even violence with Beverley Hadgraft.
Could a simple app hold the key to financial freedom? We investigate the top tech for your bucks.
Fight or flight
When hang-gliding champion Helen Ross Lee suffered a traumatic brain injury after a crash, she had to learn to walk, talk, eat and write again. She shares her story of courage, resilience and love with Alley Pascoe.
Finding “The One”
As a fortysomething woman in politics, finding a partner was tricky for Kamala Harris – until she went on a date with Doug Emhoff. In this extract from her memoir, the US Vice President goes back to the day she met the love of her life in 2013.
Kamala Harris The People's Vice President
Kamala Harris was raised to believe in a just and equal world, even if she couldn’t see it. Juliet Rieden discovers how America’s new beacon of hope rose from segregation to the second-highest office in the land.
Sylvia Jeffreys Beautiful Chaos
As she prepares to become a mother to two boys under the age of two, Sylvia Jeffreys tells Tiffany Dunk why she’s never been happier, both in life and in her marriage.
Murder In The Suburbs
After WWII, a crime wave washed through Sydney proving women killers can be just as ruthless as men. Sue Williams investigates a new book that uncovers the wives who killed their husbands and other inconvenient family members with rat poison.
The Sweet Science Of Scent
Fragrance sceptic Genevieve Gannon had dismissed aromatherapy – until a lavender candle changed her sleeping habits forever and sent her on a journey of discovery.
Up Close and Purr-sonal
Welcome to the new Cat Talk series "Up Close and Purr-sonal." While we might know what someone breeds and shows, we often have no idea about what their life and interests are outside of the show hall. And we are surprised at what we are learning about them as well! Do you have a recommendation for someone to interview? Let us know! Email Teresa Keiger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The art of being in the right place at the right time
Liz “snorkel” Thomas – Hiking Icon
Thomas has thru-hiked more than 20 long trails, including the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trails (the Triple Crown). On top of that, she set a fastest known time on the AT for an unsupported woman and has completed dozens of urban thru-hikes as well. This issue, she joins Backpacker as a contributing editor. Here’s some of Thomas’s best advice and insight fed by more than 20,000 trail miles.
LIZE KRUGER: TWO SERIES
Growth, Mental Health, Loss, And Survival
From the converted bakery truck’s makeshift sound system, 92Q kicks out a steady stream of Rihanna, Drake, Lil Baby, and Lizzo. The music is just loud enough to overcome the low roar of the twin electric generators powering the slightly battered green vehicle, a kind of mobile corner store known as a “candy bus” in Baltimore parlance.
Stacked Flower Ornament
Design by Jennifer E. Ryan
BEHIND THE SCENES! Scene Heard
BACK IN BUSINESS “The first thing I did was jump for joy!” reports Kate Linder (Esther, Y&R) of showing up for work after months of sheltering in place. “I couldn’t wait to bring Esther to life again. I’m so thrilled to be back and so proud of our show. Seeing the crew was very emotional. It was wonderful to see people, even from far away, and to know that they are well. My first instinct was to hug everyone, which of course we can’t do. Everyone has worked extremely hard to make sure we all stay safe.” While production was shut down, “I stayed in touch with Tracey Bregman [Lauren], Jess Walton [Jill] and Liz Hendrickson [Chloe],” and Linder was over the moon that her first scene was with Greg Rikaart (Kevin). “It felt great to be on set again and working with Greg was wonderful,” she enthuses. “It was the first time I had seen him in five months. We spent a lot of time running lines and catching up. I was so happy to see that he was well. Liz couldn’t be there physically, but I still felt her presence and look forward to the day that we are all together again.”
Thumbs up! and down!
Best Of Show Or Worse For Wear? Digest Decides.
OUTMANNED OLD PARTY
Not long ago, the Republican Party was a political force in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, exerting influence on budgets and policies even when they lacked majorities on the City Council and county commission. Those days have gone, and plans for the 2020 Republican convention collapsed. What happened—and what might make the pendulum swing back?
LIZZO'S SECRET BROTHER OUT TO END FAMILY FEUD!
THEIR DAD KEPT SINGER AWAY FROM LOVE CHILD