When the world is melting and all seems lost, let’s look for small solutions…

I’ve got two reason to post this Blog. One is selfish. And one is because I got so depressed reading the front page of The Age today about methane gasses leaking from the Artic’s melting permafrost that I’d like to offer something in the way of environmental advice. Something, anything… even if it does seem trivial. Because now it really DOES feel like the sky is falling in, Chicken Licken.

Front page of The Age today

Front page of The Age today

What sparked the inspiration was a visit to the dry-cleaners just then. I handed over a pale blue dress with a few make-up stains and as I walked away, checked the docket. TWENTY-TWO DOLLARS FIFTY! FOR ONE DRESS!!! Okay, yes, the dress IS silk, but seriously – twenty-two dollars fifty?? Prices are going up plus I’m supporting a business that uses highly toxic chemicals. I was fuming with the dry-cleaners and myself as I drove off.

Then I remembered. I’d conducted an experiment several weeks ago and hadn’t found time to Blog it. Now is the perfect opportunity. Here’s a way to  SLASH your dry-cleaning bills AND do the environment a favour. (By the way, did you know there are also reports that wearing clothes with dry-cleaning chemicals can contribute to infertility problems?)

I’d heard a tip that spraying vodka on clothes eliminates the smell of body odour. So I thought I’d try it out. After all, how many times do you take clothes to the cleaners purely because of a foul stench rather than actual dirt stains? So I bought a cheap one dollar plastic spray bottle from the supermarket, along with two other commercial detergent sprays to conduct a home test and compare results.

Here are the three test bottles:

Vodka in plastic spray bottle

Vodka in plastic spray bottle

Febreeze spray

Febreeze spray


Resolve spray

Resolve spray

Black sequin dress

Black sequin dress



I picked a heavy sequined cocktail dress that would normally cost a fortune to refresh at the dry-cleaners and a black jacket that is worn frequently so is a bit whiffy, but unstained. Once sprayed, you can just hang items on the washing line or in the laundry to dry and take a sniff the next day… And you’ve guess the result – right?






The other two commercial products did not neutralise the smell of body odour nearly as effectively as the vodka. As well, they left a residual smell of something floral or chemical that was a little unpleasant. Since then, I’ve tried the vodka spray on other family members clothes. Sometimes you may need to dish out a second dousing of vodka if the whiffy smell is particularly strong]. But hey, that’s a helluva lot better than a visit to the dry-cleaners. It’s just a shame the vodka doesn’t also clean off make-up spots…

Still, I’m thrilled I remembered my little vodka experiment and hope this saves you some dosh on your dry-cleaning bills. And I’m not at all unhappy if it means a couple of extra trips to Dan Murphy’s to stock up on vodka. That’ll beat a visit to the dry-cleaners any day.




How you can try Sleep ‘N Round and not cheat…


I like a bit of variety when it comes to blogging a weekly fashion post, and Sleep ‘N Round is just what I feel like right now. The clothes that is – what were you thinking?? Yes, it’s a label, silly! Given how much time we actually spend in sleepwear, it’s surprising how little focus it’s given. Even more surprising that more entrepreneurs haven’t tried to jump on the bandwagon and sell pyjamas, given the very public and much-heralded success of Australian pyjama king Peter Alexander.

Sleep N Around store in Chapel Street, South Yarra

Sleep N Round store at 389 Chapel Street, South Yarra


I’m sure I thought about doing something very similar a couple of years ago but didn’t do anything about it, and now, lo and behold, someone else has. Three young men have opened a flagship store on Melbourne’s prime strip shopping location, Chapel Street, to mark their rising success in the sleepwear trade.

There are so many reasons to love this brand, but before I start raving, let me re-iterate (although I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record) that I have not been paid to write this nor have accepted any freebies. (But if they’d offered, it would have been hard to say no…)



Laura with Sleep N Around mascot, Jeffrey the bear

Laura wearing LOGO Leggings $45.00 and Scoop singlet Loveheart Girl $39.95, with Sleep N Around mascot, Jeffrey the bear


First and foremost, in the appeal stakes is that Sleep ‘N Round’s primary concept is to make sleepwear that doubles as clothes. That’s right – you sleep in it, wake up in it then wear it. Yep, that’s a huge plus. Think of the time you’ll save on washing clothes, getting dressed and choosing what to wear. All you have to do is jump out of bed and put on sneakers instead of slippers and ‘hey presto’, you can head on down to the local coffee shop or to a picnic at the beach without getting changed, For us lazy folk, it’s a dreamy concept.

Then there’s the actual designs of the sleepwear itself. It’s a pretty edgy look – on trend patterned pants, stylish t-shirts and funky shorts – all in a contemporary colour palette that oozes cool. Most of the range is easily interchangeable too, giving it a versatility that has broad appeal to customers with varying design tastes. Thirdly, I love the brand mascot – Jeffrey the bear. Apparently he’s well-travelled, with promo shots taken of him sleeping his way around the world, and there’s plans for further celebrity appearances as he becomes increasingly famous.

Sleep N Around gift items

Sleep N Around gift items

And the fourth reason to love, is that Christmas is on our doorstep. That means shopping for presents and its affordable price range makes Sleep ‘N Round sleepwear a perfect gift option with each piece costing between about $40 and $70. Not only does the store sell sleepwear, it has a range of gifts which all fit the ‘relaxation theme’ – heat pillows, ugg boots, decorative pillows, specialty teas and candles. Gift cards too, making it a one-stop present shop.

Hawthorn footballer Michael Osborn being interviewed...

Hawthorn footballer Michael Osborn being interviewed…


It’s a timely business move for Michael Osborne. The Hawthorn footballer is currently de-listed due to an injury, but regardless of his AFL career, Osborne is setting himself up for a financially secure future.


And he’s fully committed to the whole relaxation theme of the brand. In the centre of the South Yarra store is a double bed, so we thought we’d do our interview horizontal, Why not? With a name like Sleep ‘N Round, you can’t help but have fun with all the cheeky double entendres it naturally brings.

Michael modelling Red drawstring pants $55.00 and V-neck Tee-X $45.00

Michael modelling Red drawstring pants $55.00 and V-neck Tee-X $45.00


For Michael, his foray into fashion is more than clothes – it’s a lifestyle. ‘With Sleep N Round, we don’t want it to be “just a fashion label”. We want it to encapsulate everything to do with sleep and the recovering side of your day. So we’ve got the comfy clothes you can relax in, the pillows for your bed or couch, tea, candles… And the clothes are really versatile. You can just chuck your jeans on with the tees, or wear it down the beach. I also wear the stuff to the gym,’ he said.

The three directors of the company include Michael, Andrew Prowse and Sean Cummins. Originally they started out selling on-line two and half years ago, and were then taken on by Myer.


‘Andrew came up with the idea,’ said Michael. ‘He was at Uni doing a business degree and saw a niche in the market and thought we’d get on with it.’ After a while, they began to feel their product was getting lost in the vastness of a large department store, so to ensure their customers could get a real feel for the brand, they decided to open their own store in Chapel Street.

I couldn’t help asking how they would compare their range to that of their major competitor, Peter Alexander. ‘I think it’s a bit more on-trend and has a bit more edge,’ MIchael said. ‘There’s also more options for male customers. And we have new styles in the store each month. It’s good for people to know there’s an alternative.’

Cheeky advertising is part of the brand

Cheeky advertising is part of the brand


Their fabrics are carefully chosen – most designs are 100% cotton, because they want fabrics that allow the skin to breathe at night. Viscose is another choice because of its silky texture.

Michael is also fond of the brand name. ‘It’s a bit cheeky and you can read into it what you like. It appeals to people in different ways. Some people have a dirty mind and like it because it’s a bit suggestive. It matches well with sleepwear.’ And it makes for a good sandwich board advertising!




Here’s some more of my favourite styles that are in-store now:

Frilly strap dress $65

Frilly strap dress $65

Green retro boxers $39.95 and singlet $39.95

Green retro boxers $39.95 and singlet $39.95










Culture Cross T-shirt dress $55.00

Culture Cross T-shirt dress $55.00

Floral boxer shorts $39.95 and Green Scoop Tee - Outdoors Type $45.00

Floral boxer shorts $39.95 and Green Scoop Tee – Outdoors Type $45.00













Sleep ‘N Round is located at 389 Chapel Street, South Yarra or you can check out their website at http://www.sleepnround.com


ACTING UP – Day Three of the Howard Fine Masterclass


When I left the Howard Fine Masterclass Theatre in Footscray on Saturday evening, I was zinging. My feet didn’t touch the ground as I walked to the car, my head was in the clouds and I got lost twice driving home.

Performing live when the stakes are towering is a massive adrenalin rush. I would grab this feeling and bottle it if I could. To take a risk, put yourself ‘out there’ and come away feeling you’ve achieved a breakthrough is a phenomenal high. Very few major life experiences come close.

That morning I had blogged about my fear and trepidation about performing and how my 15-year-old son Tom, had given me a ‘talking to’ about making the most of a wonderful learning experience, instead of worrying so much.

He was right.

But I think my previous blog was a little misleading on another level, in that I probably spent too much time talking about one pair of actors who copped some criticism. I know now why I focused on that. I was projecting my own fear about my own performance. That stood out for me because that was what I dreaded the most.

But I’ve heard a lot more in the past few days from both Howard Fine and David Coury which better explains why they use tough love. As Howard said, ‘We’re going to kick your ass and we’re not going to let you get away with any bullshit but we’ll do it with love.’ As he also pointed out, ‘You can’t help someone without being critical.’ True.

From David came, ‘By my applying pressure, you know that I care.’ And it was through the pressure and encouragement of both teachers that we saw changes in performances that were inspiring.

Voice Coach David Coury with actors Chris and Mark

Voice Coach David Coury with actors Chris and Mark

One such moment arrived when David urged a young actor, Chris, to REALLY express the words ‘I’m in love!’ in a scene with his friend in Central Park at 2am. After several attempts, David got Chris to sing aloud various lines from the scene and to find the feeling in the words. Then he stopped him mid-song and said, ‘NOW say it to us.’ Chris instantly turned to the audience, arms spread wide, face shining and burst forth with ‘I AM IN LOOOVE!’ so convincingly that I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye left in the auditorium.

Another moment was a hilarious scene performed by Sarah and Cat where two bridesmaids are talking over a bottle of champagne in their hotel-room, after their best friend’s wedding.

Cat and Sarah take notes from Howard Fine

Cat and Sarah take notes from Howard Fine

Yep, their dresses are a bridesmaid’s worst nightmare, but that works well with the comedy played out on stage. I thought both girls were brilliant. Then Howard chatted with them about creating from ‘joy’ and embracing new ways of trying things. He talked through a few crucial points in the scene and the girls gave it another run. He had given them permission to make mistakes and have fun. The end result was amazing. Even funnier and sharper than their first performance – and I’d thought their first go was good.

There’s also an incredible feeling of support from the audience at the Masterclass. A lot of the crowd are fellow students with whom you form a camaraderie and connection. Each of you is processing one heck of a lot of emotional baggage – from yourself and the connections you make with your character. Many of the actors end up in tears, but not because they’re distressed – because they’ve pushed themselves to the point where they’ve made a wonderful discovery that has opened up something new, deep inside.

Then, after six pairs of actors had done their thing, it was our turn. Lucky last… As I mentioned on Saturday, I’ve been fortunate enough to be paired with the very talented actor, Samuel Johnson. We were both nervous and I tried to remember Howard’s advice. ‘Creativity creates terror. You must give up control. Don’t use technique over spontaneity.’

Easier said than done. As we began the scene, I took a seat at the table of an ‘outdoor cafe’, waiting for my estranged husband, Dennis. I picked up my cup to take a sip and my hand shook so much that coffee spilled over the side. Arghhh…. not a good start.

We were performing Scene Five from Christopher Kyle’s The Monogamist. I’m a University Professor who has been with poet and academic, Dennis, for fifteen years, but only married for the last six months, during which time our relationship has hit the skids. Dennis has found me in bed with a student three days earlier. We are having coffee so that I can try and win him back. It doesn’t go well… especially when Dennis admits to sleeping with a young woman two days ago.

Sam was brilliant and while I was a million miles from fabulous, I think I was passable. I didn’t forget my lines and I didn’t faint from terror.

Samuel Johnson and myself learning about our performance from Howard Fine

Samuel Johnson and myself learning about our performance from Howard Fine

When we finished, I saw David Coury sitting in the front row, nodding his head and smiling encouragingly. Phew, that had to be a good sign? Then Howard joined us on stage, and talked through stuff about my character, Susan, and every note rang true. I had played the beginning of the scene being very anxious and sad when meeting Dennis, because of the guilt I was carrying about my infidelity. In a kind voice, Howard talked through how I needed to ‘open my heart’ and ‘choose to care’, about  the situation. For instance, wouldn’t I be looking as if I were happy to see Dennis? Isn’t he the love of my love? Wouldn’t I greet him warmly? Yep, that made sense. Most people do try to cover their discomfort and mistakes.

Then we talked about my reaction to learning of Dennis’ infidelity. Howard suggested I was a little non-plussed on hearing the news. I interupted to say, ‘Oh, you mean be a bit more like…’ At which point he interrupted me. ‘Ah, no, no, no, no! We’re not telling you how to play a role – be this, be that. We’re looking at the human condition – what is it about and where does that live inside of me? If you make him (Dennis) the love of your life, the thought of him with another woman takes care of itself.’

‘Fighting for control is interesting. Being in control is not. Make yourself vulnerable. And then be okay. There’s a Grand Canyon between being okay and trying to be okay.’

There was a lot more than that, and I am not doing justice to Howard’s incredible ability to communicate and his turn of phrase, but that will have to do in summing up. And it really did make sense. None of the feedback was upsetting or directly critical. It was accurate and only served to make me want to give the scene another shot, taking on board Howard’s words.

Then David Coury joined us on stage. He’d clocked that nerves had been an issue so gave both Sam and I a much-needed lesson on breathing deeply from the diaphragm.

David Coury coaching Sam and myself

David Coury coaching Sam and myself

Then he called on us to vocalise emotion by yelling a scene at each other. I thought I’d practically burst both lungs, but when we were done, David smiled at Sam but turned to me and asked, ‘Did you think you were yeling at full volume?’ ‘Yes, absolutely,’ I said, fully confident.

‘You didn’t,’ he said firmly. ‘What if you were calling out to a loved one or a friend who was about to be hit by a truck? Think of someone and call that out. NOW!’ Without thinking, I imagined my baby (of course he’s not now – he’s a big strapping 15-year-old) being hit by a truck and screamed ‘TOMMY!!!’ with all my heart. That worked. I think people clapped. David was happy. It felt good. (I’d saved my son from a fatal accident, after all!)

We did our scene again and it was better. But there’s still room for improvement. Especially from me. We’ve been rehearsing as much as we can and now we get one last shot today – our last day of the Howard Fine Masterclass. Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it went. But the best thing – this time I’m actually looking forward to it.



Taking the Howard Fine Masterclass


I woke up this morning and did NOT jump out of bed. I lay there, slightly paralysed with apprehension. Today I am performing as an actor in front of an audience as part of the Howard Fine Masterclass.

Howard Fine teaching actors at yesterday's Masterclass

Howard Fine teaching actors at yesterday’s Masterclass

You might ask why I’d be nervous, knowing that in a past life I worked as a newsreader, presenting a prime-time bulletin ‘live-to-air’ for more than ten years, not to mention the years beforehand as weekend presenter and then after my time at Network Ten, reading an international cable service, AusNet News, for the ABC.

It’s a very different prospect, standing before a live audience as opposed to working with your familiar studio crew and staring down the barrel of a camera. In the closed environment of a studio, there’s a feeling of security and almost an intimacy that’s comforting. You can’t see the hundreds of thousands of people watching, so after a while, it’s easy to forget they’re even there. Nor do you have to worry about forgetting your lines, with the newsreader’s best friend, the ever-faithful auto-cue on hand to provide the words. (apart from the occasional technical glitch…)

The acting bug hit early. I played Nancy in a primary school production of Oliver and then in Year 10, scored the lead role of Johanna in Sweeney Todd the Barber in a combined schools production. That lead to courses at St Martins Youth Theatre and then Showbiz. Ultimately a need for financial independence was greater at the time and I went on to become a journalist. I was well aware of the pitfalls of an acting career – especially for women. At the time, I think the statistic was that eighty per cent of roles in Australia were cast for men and unless you were a great beauty with enormous talent, it was highly unlikely you’d succeed.

Since leaving Ten, I decided to revisit the acting world. Sometimes you can sense there’s unfinished business that needs addressing – a certain urge pulls you in a direction where you’ve previously feared to tread. This has led to some VERY small jobs plus a stint at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, performing in the play Chasing Pegasus, written and directed by Sally McLean. Last year I played the minor role of an arts journalist in the Foxtel series Conspiracy 365. It was only a days work, but I was acting opposite the terrifyingly talented Rob Carlton – remember the guy who played Kerry Packer in Paper Giants? Yep, that raised the bar and while I sensed his initial misgivings at working with an amateur, by the end of the day, we were getting along fine and the scene worked well.

When you sign up to the Howard Fine Masterclass, you are advised to read Fine’s book Fine On Acting – A Vision of the Craft. Then a month before the Masterclass begins, you are assigned a play and a scene partner. You are expected to rehearse in the weeks before starting, to the point where you are word perfect and completely in touch with your character and environment. In discussing your character, you speak in the first person – ‘I am a University Professor in Feminist LIterature.’ (Yep, that’s me!)

Me and Sam on Day One of the Howard Fine Masterclass

Me and Sam on Day One of the Howard Fine Masterclass


So in the weeks leading up to this Masterclass, I have had a wonderful time rehearsing our allocated scene from Christopher Kyle’s The Monogamist,  with my acting partner, the highly acclaimed Samuel Johnson.


I had concerns Samuel might be disappointed to be paired with a novice actor as his scene partner, but he has been nothing but positive, enthusiastic, professional and a delight to work with.

Yesterday was DAY ONE. Each acting pair is given one hour of coaching in the first two days. They begin by performing their scene which is to be no longer than five minutes. Then Howard comes up on stage and talks to the actors, asking them what THEY felt worked and what didn’t and why. The actors might then have to re-enact some parts of the scene, or Howard might ask them to do an acting exercise and he provides feedback along the way. As well, (a bonus for this particular Masterclass) Voice Director of the Howard Fine School of Acting in LA, David Coury, is here to teach. All in all, a rare and amazing opportunity for actors to hone their craft.

Voice coach David Coury works with actors on Day One

Voice coach David Coury works with actors on Day One

Acting is a LOT tougher than it looks. If anyone wants to challenge me on this, then I invite them to get up in front of an acting Masterclass and see how they go. Here’s why.

Howard began yesterday by saying he was not one of these ‘mean’ acting teachers that likes to break actors down to the point of a sobbing mess, purely to reach some inner enlightenment. Phew, I thought. I couldn’t cope with that. As the different acting teams performed, I was struck by their talent and versatility. Howard’s advice was insightful, accurate and concise. Witty as well. David Coury also impressed. (particularly his ox-blood patent leather shoes!!) It was all a little overwhelming. So much to take in… Do not ‘pre-judge’ how you will play the scene and say your words; remember to invest emotionally; don’t bend forward to speak and watch to see your line has ‘landed’ with your scene partner.

Then one pair performed and their work was NOT well received. In exploring different ways of expressing their emotions (playing a couple breaking up), the male actor (I won’t name him) began howling into his partner’s lap on a couch. At which point, Howard called out, ‘No! You remind me of someone on a medical show who’s been dying for five months!’ OUCH. I could see the young girl start to pale visibly. They were given some coaching and asked to repeat their performance.

Then David Coury got up shaking his head and said to the actress, ‘Oh God, what’s written on the page is so much better than what’s coming out of your mouth.’ Oh dear… Tears started falling down her cheeks. I wanted to rush up on stage and give her a hug. Her acting partner reached out to comfort her and David said, ‘No, don’t help her through this!’ He looked at the girl. ‘Use that! Do it again and be stronger.’ To her credit she ploughed on, choking on her words. Not surprisingly, she didn’t return after the next break. I spoke with the male actor later and he said he was fine. Being older and experienced, he said he actually enjoyed the process and really learnt from it.

While this was the harshest treatment any of the actors received on the day, it left me terrified. I have to get up on stage today. Could I cope with that? I’m trying to put that to the back of my mind and focus on the positive lessons I absorbed.

Some of the notes I made from Howard’s teachings include:
‘Check with the other actor that the line has landed.’
‘A strong choice is an authentic connection.’
‘What you are saying is NOT how you feel.’
‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s all a beautiful process of discovery.’
‘Find for you, what you feel absolutely certain about.’
‘It takes a lot of work to be free.’

And that’s only a drop in the ocean, but I’m now running late for Day Two so I’ll wrap up. What I learned yesterday  gave me a much deeper understanding of how actors connect with each other, and with their words and emotions. It’s also about breathing, the vocals, the physical, your environment and being in the moment and trying to get all these factors right at the same time. God knows I’m praying my brain absorbs half of what I heard and I’m able to put it all into action. More than anything, I’m praying I remember my lines.

But if everything falls in a heap and I make a complete fool of myself, all will not have been in vain. For THREE reasons:

(1) The experience, even just in the first day, of seeing both Howard Fine and David Coury at work. Learning from these master teachers is such an incredible privilege. I must also pay tribute to the actors who have already performed and set such a high standard.

(2) I have thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsals and everything I’ve learned in the process of working with Samuel Johnson. I could not have wished for a better scene partner. From the bottom of my heart, I thank him for his patience, enormous heart, endless talent, sense of humour and willingness to deal with a relative novice.

(3) And then, a surprise bonus from the experience came about last night. Whether I go on to win an Oscar or not, I think I might just have stumbled across the right career choice for our son, Tom.

Because I want to be a ‘good student’ and give the Masterclass one hundred per cent, I’ve declined all social invitations for evening events this week and during the course. It’s something I’d definitely advise anyone thinking of taking the course to do as well. Prior to the course, it’s essential for preparation and then during the Masterclass, the days are so intense, (from 9.30am – 6.30pm) in the evening, you need time to re-group, complete any necessary homework and extra rehearsals – after which you’ll just want to collapse into bed!

So last night, with Fletch being out, I asked Tom to read through my lines with me. This he did willingly and with interest, gently pointing out any omitted or incorrect words. When we were done, I talked about being nervous about today and this is where the conversation became interesting. (keep in mind, Tom has just turned 15)

‘Mum,’ he said sternly, hands on hips and towering over me at a now lofty six foot tall. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

‘I’ll make a complete fool of myself and people will say, “Who does she think she is, this faded newsreader trying to be an actor?”‘

‘Do you really think so?’ he said, mouth twitching with the hint of a smile. ‘Do you really think that’s what people want to do? People in this world are a lot nicer than we often expect them to be.’ (Ah, the innocence of youth…. so sweet.)

It was then that I realised this was a pivotal moment in our mother-son relationship. For the first time, our roles had reversed and he was standing there as the comforter and adviser instead of the other way around. He continued, his voice wise and now (having recently broken)  strangely deep. ‘When I go to a cricket clinic,’ he said. ‘If I hit a crap ball, I don’t think “Oh no, everyone’s laughing at me!” because I know we’re all there to learn. No one cares as long as you give it your best shot. Isn’t a Masterclass like that?’

I guess he’s right. I have to get over my paranoia and grab this learning experience with both hands and give it everything I’ve got. Damn it, I will! Even if I end up in tears.

At least I now know I have a counsellor to come home to. Yep, I think my son might just be a psychologist in the making.  Career sorted. (Unless he’s batting for Australia!)


(To find out more about classes at Melbourne’s Howard Fine Acting Studio, go to http://howardfinestudio.com.au )



A Steamy Situation – Domestic Battles on the Homefront

I am about to commit a Blogging sin. I promised – in my Welcome message – that if I wrote anything about my husband or kids, I’d run it by them first. Ahhhh geez…. that was months ago and the rules have changed. Well, they change when I want them to. But if this post disappears very quickly, you’ll know the reason.

Exhibit A - Husband

Exhibit A – Husband

I have a very good husband. A very, VERY good husband who most of you know as Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours. You all know the TV show The Good Wife? Well, if they made one called The Good Husband, Fletch would be perfect for the role. Yes, he’s also an extremely talented actor and a lot of you adore him, but if you were married to him, (as in any marriage) – you WOULD find foibles.

Again, I have to say, I am lucky. I know this. He’s not a drug addict, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s not even a gambler, nor has he ever laid a finger upon me except in the nicest possible way. He works hard, contributes domestically, we have fun together and most of the time, we love each other. Yep, a pretty normal relationship, right?

Except that he has one SERIOUS problem. I’ve let it slide without much comment for about a year, but it’s now at the point where this has to be addressed. I want to know if anyone else out there is facing a similar battle. I can sum it up in four words:

                                                 CATCH OF THE DAY

The website, that is. Every day, this website advertises a new bargain. Now, maybe it’s born from an actor’s uncertainty about where his next meal ticket is coming from, and even though I try to remind him he’s been on Neighbours for 18 YEARS, it does nothing to deter Fletch from being a Catch Of The Day addict.

What is it about bargain hunting that’s so appealing? It’s not like nailing a wild beast on a a safari – surely? Besides which, Fletch is an animal lover. Is it that the thought of a bargain and saving money excites to the point where one doesn’t consider the value of the item being purchased? I have put up with our house being filled with superfluous objects for too long. For example, we didn’t need any more plastic containers in the kitchen, but Fletch found a bargain on Catch Of The Day that sold a variety of the buggers in a multitude of sizes, promising to keep food fresh till the next century. Now I can’t open a cupboard without being rained on with plastic…

Then there was the mobile phone charger set he bought me – even though I already have a mobile phone charger. Go figure…

I am also getting tired of being interrupted mid-work on the computer at home, to answer the doorbell to Australia Post.

Beldray steam mop

Beldray steam mop

But the piece de resistance came with the grand arrival of the Beldray Steam Mop. Oh. My. God. For some reason, I was expected to be excited upon its arrival. Fletch certainly was. Apparently it was going to save us a bucket load of money, mopping floors and steaming the carpets.

We gave it a test run. The floors got wet – yes. But were they clean?? As far as I could see, there were only residual murky water marks covering the floorboards that hadn’t been there before… I pointed this out. ‘Honey, this actually doesn’t work. The floor looks like crap. Can we return it?’ ‘Hmm, you’re right, he said. ‘Yep, Catch of the Day make it easy. I’ll send it back.’



Wow. I had scored a major victory. For a while, accessories and plastic wrapping accompanying our new steam mop lay on the dining table. After some time, I shifted them into Fletch’s office, knowing he was busy but would surely return the said useless mop as soon as possible. After all, I wasn’t the Catch of the Day addict – it was he who should go to the bother of re-wrapping it and returning it – right?

Several weeks later I went to fetch a broom out of the laundry cupboard. I opened the door and CRASH – everything spilled out over my feet. Brooms, dusters, pans – clattering and falling in slow motion. But standing amid the mess, red, shiny and gloating, was the useless, space-consuming STEAM MOP.

‘ARGHhhhh!!!!’ I screamed. ‘FLETCH!!! What the hell is the steam mop doing in the laundry cupboard?’ Why didn’t you return it???’

Turns out he’d experimented with the mop again and found it quite successful. Skeptical, I proposed he couldn’t be bothered returning it. ‘Oh no,’ he reassured me. ‘It’s fantastic at removing stains from the carpet. I tried it when you were out.’

Steam cleaning Fletch

Steam cleaning Fletch



I scornfully denounced such a thing to be possible so he pointed to several carpet stains he’d worked on, marvelling at the improvement.  Quite frankly, I couldn’t see the difference. Determined to prove a point, he set to work on a new set of stains. It’s a bit annoying how he makes housework look like fun. With remote headphones and a cup of fresh coffee, he glided into action. He wasn’t even bothered by me taking photos. Over and over, he ran that mop over a light stain on the carpet. I took a before photo. And an after photo. What do you think?




Stain Before

Stain Before

Stain after

Stain after






Hmmm… now I bet you’re all thinking – WHY DIDN”T I GET ONE??

I probably shouldn’t complain. After all, there’s not many men who’d put up with me for starters. But quite frankly, what annoys me most, is that every time I want to use the old basic broom, I spend half an hour trying to extract it from the chaos created in the laundry cupboard. My plan is to make the red beast a garden feature by Christmas. And I bet Fletch won’t even miss the bugger. He’ll be too busy checking out what’s new on Catch of the Day.



Fashion Agency Urges Shoppers To Get Off-line And Support Local Stores

Like the seasons, fashion has its cycles, so with the close of the Spring Carnival chapter, I set out to uncover what’s hot for the party-set this summer – especially those wanting to up the ante at a special ball or festive occasion. Evening wear, I thought, visions of flowing gowns glistening with sequins springing to mind. Things that I used to wear but no longer fit into… But I’m happy to be a fashion voyeur on behalf of others, so I rang Carmel Busacca at Caval Fashion Agency for the low-down on what’s trending right now.

Carmel: Owner and Manager of Caval Fashion Agency

Carmel Busacca: Owner and Manager of Caval Fashion Agency

One of Melbourne’s top fashion agencies, Caval, supplies retailers such as La Bella Donna (Collins Place), Gowns (Brunswick), Archies (Richmond), Aspirations (Brighton) and Swish (Bentleigh, Port Melbourne, South Yarra) with evening collections, mostly from the label George. ‘The George label is very popular with bridesmaids,’ said Carmel. ‘Not only are they very reasonably priced, we’ve got a point of difference for our customers to other evening-wear labels in that a lot of the range is made in Australia. It’s owned by George Spiro who has owned the label for forty years.’


Johanna gown in powder blue - RRP $575

Johanna gown in powder blue – RRP $575


Summer deliveries are being made right now – specifically for the party season. ‘That seems to be our main focus,’ says Carmel. ‘As well as bridesmaids and that’s an area where George definitely has a niche market. With all the beautiful beading and quality fabrics, the gowns are excellent value. They’re also made in a really good range of sizes from six to sixteen which is a rare thing.’

Most of the George samples at Caval are in a size 10, so luckily my wonderful friend Rochelle agreed to come along and model for this shoot before she starts a new television production job this week. Got her just in time! (Maybe if the Cool-Sculpting works, I can give it a shot down the track….) Here’s some of our favourites from the day.



Whitney denim blue gown - RRP $529

Whitney denim blue gown – RRP $529

Charlotte gown - RRP $644

Charlotte gown in champagne – RRP $644













Kendra gown - RRP $460

Kendra gown – RRP $460

Ellena gown - RRP $575

Ellena gown – RRP $575















Pixel gown - RRP $483

Pixel gown – RRP $483


I asked Carmel whether the dramatic rise in internet shopping had affected business. ‘It has affected the industry for daywear, but as far as we’re concerned, the George label stands strongly in the community and we do have brand followers. Especially from bridesmaids who want to try the dresses on. We’ve heard lots of horror stories about people buying off the internet! This is event shopping. They need to feel they’ve got the right garment and it looks fabulous on them.’

‘Plus George has a great website which is used a lot. Girls can pick a dress, using size, colour and measurements. Then they give us a call and as an agent, we can guide them in the direction of which stores stock that particular style.’



Caval also represents interstate labels such as Matthew Eager, Wayne Cooper and Banana Blue which it sells to clients mostly from Victoria and Tasmania. ‘We’re not just employed by the manufacturer,’ said Carmel. ‘We’re an agent so it’s in our best interests to look after clients and give them the best service possible. We also guide them in terms of what is selling well here, which is different to other states.’

So I guess we sell more black in Melbourne, I ask? ‘Overall we do,’ says Carmel, smiling, ‘but we are moving more towards colour. Particularly this season. Especially with evening wear, people are really wanting colour like oranges, emerald greens and cobalt blues. They’re really focusing on that – to make a statement.’

But as we chatted, our conversation veered down a more serious path as we started discussing the demise of our favourite Melbourne shoppings trips. You know, Bridge Road in Richmond, Toorak Road in South Yarra and pretty much any local retail street where more shops seem to be flashing a CLOSED sign, rather than open.

‘We really want people to support our retailers. Because if they don’t , the local strip shops and local designers will go out of business. People really need to reassess and look at what they’re buying. We’ve lost a lot of accounts. So many shops have closed with owners saying it’s all too hard. The business is just not out there.’

‘It’s really sad,’ lamented Carmel. ‘What’s going to happen to the days when we could have a shopping trip with our girlfriends and make a day of it? You won’t be able to do it for much longer.’

What better excuse do you need to get a group of friends together and plan a shopping day? Get to it guys – let’s save our local retailers and designers from extinction!

(For more information, contact Caval Fashion Agency on 0401 502 356 )



The Story Mainstream Media Overlooked

This is a charity spilling over with stories that will break your heart… a charity that is fighting to put an end to child trafficking and to give women and children at risk in Cambodia some hope for the future. Two Melbourne women started up Connecting Hands nearly two years ago and their work is starting to make a difference. But did anyone from the media turn up to hear about what they have done when they held an important event ten days ago? Not one. I’ll say it again – NOT ONE. I’ve been waiting and hoping to see if something would appear in the papers, but no – nothing.

If we heard that a 6-year-old Melbourne girl was being sold as a sex slave, don’t you think there’d be a bit of a fuss? Aren’t we a close enough global community that we SHOULD care when we hear this is happening to hundreds of children in Cambodia?

I love my daily news fix from both newspapers and TV and have enormous respect and admiration for my journalist friends. I also know the media is trying to survive in the toughest of times as we all try to adapt to this fast-changing world, affected so dramatically by the internet. The staff that are left are over-stretched, trying to cover the most basic of stories. I know. I get it. I just wish someone had been there ten days ago to show they cared.

Food for Hope book launch at Bopha Devi Cambodian Restaurant

Food for Hope book launch at Bopha Devi Cambodian Restaurant

Connecting Hands has put together an extraordinary cookbook with recipes donated by our country’s most famous and talented chefs, in a bid to raise funds for their cause.  Called Food For Hope, it’s a brilliant book with beautiful pictures and recipes, and I hope you all buy it -and the story behind the book is WHY you should.

Somaly Mam - survivor and human rights advocate

Somaly Mam – survivor and human rights advocate

I first heard about Connecting Hands when we were invited to a dinner for the launch of the charity back in February, 2011. It was there we heard an incredibly moving speech from human rights advocate and trafficking survivor, Somaly Mam. She was sold to a brothel and forced into prostitution at just 14-years old. After surviving rape, torture and and abusive marriage for many years, she eventually escaped to France with the help of an aid worker.

Since that event, the Directors and Co-Founders of Connecting Hands, Kate Hutchinson and Deb Dorn, have achieved remarkable progress. I caught up with Kate at their book launch to find out what they’ve done.

Kate Hutchinson and Deb Dorn: Directors and Co-Founders of Connecting Hands

Kate Hutchinson and Deb Dorn: Directors and Co-Founders of Connecting Hands


Kate says she and her sister came up with the concept of starting the charity after a trip to Cambodia in 2009. They came across children in such dire circumstances they found it impossible to do nothing.


Unlike most people who see, are moved and then forget, they made a promise to make a difference. They kept their promise too.

The Connecting Hands message - excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

The Connecting Hands message – excerpt from Food For Hope cookbook

‘We saw the poverty and especially the way it affected women and their desperate situation. We just wanted to make a real difference and work out a way to do that. It was the child trafficking that really affected us because the kids are in such a vulnerable situation and with the poverty, they’re at high risk,’ said Kate.

Kate had previously worked with another non-for-profit organisation and had visited several projects in Cambodia. This time she saw a definite gap that needed addressing. ‘There’s a lot of work to do, just in raising awareness. So many people are naive and don’t understand what’s really going on. A lot of people also find it just “too hard” so they close up and walk away. For us, it’s about raising awareness but also finding a creative way to engage people without putting it in their face too much – because it is a very sensitive topic.’

Tom Oliver at the Food for Hope book launch

Tom Oliver at the Food for Hope book launch

One way they’ve helped raise awareness is through enlisting Neighbours actor Tom Oliver as an ambassador. Tom has also travelled with them to Cambodia, visiting several of the centres which house young girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking. For Oliver, it was a heart-wrenching but rewarding experience. Connecting Hands passed on gifts to the girls – care packages and small amounts of clothing – that were gratefully received.


Tom Oliver in Cambodia, working with Connecting Hands. The girl's faces have been obscured for their protection.

Tom Oliver in Cambodia, working with Connecting Hands. The girl’s faces have been obscured for their protection.

Kate says their next project is to build a teaching cafe in Cambodia to give the girls training for jobs that will lead to employment.  ‘Already I think we’ve made a huge difference. I think the fact that they know we are there to assist them and support them long term. They know we’re in it for the long-haul – not just short-term. They’re really excited about some of the projects, especially the cafe.’

‘The cafe will be built for the young women who have been rescued from slavery. They’ve been rehabilitated and now they’re looking for something to sustain their lives with. Obviously we don’t want them to enter the sex trade again so we’re looking at ways to educate them. Some of them love cooking but to work in the hospitality industry, they need to have knowledge at a higher level. We’re going to provide them with the skills that will lead to paid employment, so they’re no longer at high risk. A lot of them have children and their children are also at high risk if their mothers don’t have employment,’ she said.

Much more about the work Kate and Deb have done can be read about on their website. (see below) But while they’ve achieved a LOT, Kate feels like they’re only just starting to scratch the surface. ‘There’s still such a long way to go. We’ve come a long way in the two years since we’ve started and I think the cookbook is a testament to that.’

Celebrity chef Ian Curley

Celebrity chef Ian Curley

Yes, the cookbook! That’s why Kate and Deb organised this function and invited patrons, supporters and the media to the Bopha Devi Cambodian restaurant at the Docklands. Celebrity chef Ian Curley not only provided a recipe for the book, he came along as a speaker and to sign books.


So who came up with the idea for a cookbook? Kate credits her sister, Deb. ‘She wanted to connect the cafe with something that also involved fund-raising and getting celebrities involved through endorsement. So in the book, a lot of the celebrity chefs talk about why they are passionate about Connecting Hands, so that elevates the book as well and that helps us to reach out to the wider community.’

Chef Maggie Beer contributed a recipe to the Food for Life Cookbook

Chef Maggie Beer contributed a recipe to the Food for Hope Cookbook

Renowned chefs such as Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Poh Ling Yeow, Pete Evans and Marion Gasby have all donated wonderful recipes, as well as comments about why they are lending their support. At $35 each, it’s a great Christmas present, so get on the Connecting Hands website now and buy up.  It will save you heaps of time with your Christmas shopping!

Kate and Deb also heaped praise on the book’s designer, Adrian La Pira (Hush Logos) who donated his own time to make the Food For Hope the special book that it is – with mouth-watering photographs and easy to read recipes.

Raquel and Adrian La Pira

Raquel and Adrian La Pira










The Connecting Hands website is at: www.connectinghands.com.au

The Food for Life Cookbook

The Food for Life Cookbook







Muffin Top Update – Week Two


Just so you know, these muffin-top updates about the medical procedure I underwent – called Cool Sculpting – will be kept brief as I explained the process in detail in the Blog titled ‘How to Lose Your Muffin Top’ which was posted last Wednesday. So if you do want more information, just go back to that story.

Well, here’s how I’ve fared in the past week. I can report the skin on the tummy region became even itchier – at times a little uncomfortable. Fabrics that were quite tight on the skin were irritating and as for my skinny jeans… well, I know I’m a bit chubby right now, but half the time I wore long tops last week so no one could tell I had the top button undone…

And it wasn’t the best week for me in terms of food and alcohol consumption. As with any treatment or diet, the medical advice is to also eat sensibly and exercise. But before the Spring Racing Carnival, there’s a plethora of events serving lovely champagne and canapes and well, hell, what’s a girl to do? Wear a maxi dress is the best solution…

Opening of the Mumm Champagne bar at Crown with Fletch

Opening of the Mumm Champagne bar at Crown with Fletch


And then there was Derby Day on Saturday – again more bubbly and canapés. Not that I’m complaining – I’m extremely grateful to be invited to these events and I very much like to show my gratitude by enjoying the hospitality on offer. After spending about twenty years trackside either reporting or reading the news on course and hosting Fashions on the Field, it’s fabulous to finally go as a guest and have fun.

Not much exercise was done on the weekend but I did manage to squeeze in a spin class yesterday morning!! Go me.

Because of Cup Day, I went to Dr Chris Moss’ consulting rooms yesterday for a staff member to take my weekly tummy shot, because obviously, they’ll be closed today. Some clients have said they can see a difference in their bulges after two weeks – but having come a day early, I tell myself not to expect too much of an advance.

Let’s compare pics from Day One to just under Two weeks:

Tummy shot - front view: Day One, 23.10.'12

Tummy shot – front view: Day One, 23.10.’12

Tummy shot - front view, 5.11.'12

Tummy shot – front view, 5.11.’12







Wow. I’m pleasantly surprised. There does seem to be an improvement! The indentation at the waist line does seem marginally better. Let’s check the side view…

Tummy shot - side view, 23.10.'12

Tummy shot – side view, 23.10.’12

Tummy shot - side view, 5.11.'12

Tummy shot – side view, 5.11.’12







To be honest, this is much better than I was expecting. It even looks like the ‘back fat’ crease has lessened and I wasn’t treated in that region. Maybe champagne is good for losing weight!!! No, of course it’s not. It’s early days, but already I’d say it looks like the Cool Sculpting is working. But don’t get your hopes up for a big improvement next week. I’ve got a friends BBQ for Cup day today, an Oaks Day Ladies lunch at Crown tomorrow, Oaks Day at Flemington on Thursday AND I ate meatballs stuffed with mozarella on pasta for dinner last night. Damn good recipe that one – I should share it with you.

Stay tuned till next week’s Muffin Top update – and remember, the best results are predicted at six to twelve weeks.

(For further enquiries, contact the Liberty Belle Skin Centre on 9826 9988 Address: 504 – 506 Toorak Road, Toorak)



Here’s the second interview in a series of stories I’ve prepared called ‘Inspirational Life Changes’. Given we’re all living longer, it’s highly likely we’ll all take on more than one career in our lifetime.  Sometimes this can be a dramatic jump  – sometimes a dainty side step. Whatever the change, it’s a leap of faith into the future. I’m curious as to why and how people make this happen.

Now on the verge of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, I thought something racy would be topical, so I caught up with a man who made a huge impact in the Birdcage last year.

INTERVIEW (2) : Mitch Catlin – Journalist turned Marketing Machine
(Head of Partnerships, Community and Media: Swisse)

I was able to pick Mitch Catlin’s voice even before I met him in person. I was listening to the news on 3AW when I first heard it – that striking, baritone vocal – and made sure I remembered his name because I was convinced, with a voice like that, he was certain to become a famous radio or TV presenter.

Several years later, after Catlin finished a stint as LA correspondent for Seven News, we ended up working together at Network Ten. But surprisingly Catlin moved behind the scenes, away from the microphone, to fill the position of Chief-of-Staff. Which he did extremely well. (Apart from occasionally forgetting to put a newspaper on my desk, which we often joked about.)

Then in October 2005, he announced he was leaving. And not just leaving Ten. He was leaving the media. Hanging up his boots as a journalist for good.

Mitch Catlin: Head of Marketing and Developement, Swisse

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media – Swisse


And he hasn’t looked back. From Ten, Catlin worked for PR company Haystac, then quickly shot up the radar by shifting to Myer where his efforts made people sit up and start to take notice. Now he’s ruffling feathers among the marquee set at Flemington with his ability to grab headlines after a sensational debut in the Birdcage last year with the new company he now represents – Swisse Vitamins.

But what happened to make him want to leave the media? Was I too hard on him about failing to deliver my newspaper? I took him out for coffee to find out. Catlin laughs, remembering our verbal jousting, but says, no, that he probably started questioning his future a few years before he left Ten.


‘It was about the time I turned thirty. Like for many people, it’s a milestone year in your life, which gives you reason to think about where you’re heading. I decided I should try something else, because if you leave it too late and then try to jump in another direction, you become a bit pigeon-holed. I thought now is the time to have a crack.’ he says.

So why marketing? Catlin says originally he was planning to work in PR. Generally speaking, most journalists don’t want to work in PR. Public relations people are the ones trying to sell us the stories. We want to write the stories and are often skeptical about those doing the selling. So in a way, Catlin has gone to the ‘other side.’ But when he explains, it makes sense – his theory being that he was capitalizing on his knowledge base.

‘Because I had the knowledge of dealing with the media and for many companies, that’s gold. Because many people don’t actually understand how it works. I’m not for one second suggesting I’m an expert but the knowledge is there – regardless or not as to whether you are deemed to be an expert – you have a knowledge base, which a lot of people simply don’t have. If someone said to me, we’re putting you in I.T. tomorrow, I’d freak out because I don’t know anything about I.T. but I do know a bit about the media. And for many people, that’s a great benefit in this day and age.’

The turning point came when one of the companies Catlin dealt with as Chief-of-Staff – Haystac – offered him a job. ‘At that point in time, they were certainly the most ‘it’ brand as far as PR was concerned,’ he says. ‘They said we don’t necessarily need someone with PR skills but we do need somebody with media skills. So they created a role which was about getting media and PR for their clients which were the likes of Toyota, ANZ, Myer and David Jones.’

But surely it couldn’t have been easy, leaving a long career in the media? Wasn’t the switchover difficult? ‘Oh, at first I didn’t like it at all!’ Catlin says adamantly, shaking his head. ‘I thought, “Oh my God, What have I done? This is not for me!” And I think it’s because I really struggled with the concept of journalists not necessarily liking PR people and me making that transition. It was a challenge. But then I found that the journalists liked that I was able to provide what they needed for a story. I ‘got it’. So there was a connection I developed with them. And that’s because of the knowledge base I had from the media. Anybody who has been a journalist has a skill set that other people simply don’t have.’

It wasn’t until six months later that Catlin really found his feet. Once he started getting coverage in the newspapers, something clicked. ‘For example, I’d open up page five of The Australian and there was a story that I’d worked on. So it was like, “Wow, I’ve done this.” It took me a few months to feel like I could do it, but it’s the same with anyone starting a new job. Initially you have a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. For me, this was a COMPLETE change. So when I got a couple of runs on the board, your insecurity goes down a bit and things start to happen for you. You probably don’t judge yourself as harshly as you had.’

I’m guessing other corporate bigwigs were reading the papers too, because in a blink, Catlin was suddenly flying the PR flag for Myer, taking on board a high-profile PR role. Again, another transition, but he’d have to agree, a step up – yes? Catlin looks thoughtful and pauses. ‘Well, I guess so, I mean in Melbourne there are only a handful of brands that stand out and as they say, Myer is Melbourne. So as far as Melbourne goes, Myer is up there as one of the most famous of the city’s brands. So it was a great opportunity. It gave me a great belief in myself that I could really do this job.’

‘I have a great deal of respect for Bernie Brookes, the CEO of Myer, who took me under his wing and taught me a lot about business,’ says Catlin. ‘I might have had a fair bit of media knowledge but not necessarily a whole lot of business knowledge, so he did teach me a lot.’


Mitch Catlin with the 'other' Jen: Oaks Day, 2010

Mitch Catlin with the ‘other’ Jen: Myer marquee, Oaks Day, 2009


Catlin was obviously a good student. You only have to Google his name to gauge an idea of his success. Articles about his publicity coups and prowess are everywhere, littered with words like ‘publicity guru’. His flair for PR came to the fore during his time at Myer when Jen Hawkins seemed to feature on the front page of the Herald Sun every week.
So does he regard himself as successful? ‘People have a perception that if you’re publicly visible, you are a success and I don’t think that is necessarily what success is.’



For a man who deals so much with celebrity, his answer is surprising. ‘I think success is about being good at what you do. I look back at people who inspired me when I was young, like school teachers, who to me were so successful at what they did because they shaped the things that I believe in. My Mum was a full-time Mum her entire life and has been a wonderfully successful mother – raising myself and my brother – we were very much cared for at home. So the word success for me is difficult – it’s very subjective. I like to think I have achieved well in what I have done, but how you talk about that in terms of success  – that’s for others to decide, not me.’

Catlin is way too modest to blow his own trumpet. In fact, it took a lot of arm-twisting for him to agree to this interview. His preference is for the focus to be on the product, not himself – that his job is about delivering results for the brand. ‘I am more focused on promoting the product or brand – it is not about me,’ he says.

But if he won’t acknowledge his own success, can he explain how it has happened? ‘I always try to put myself in the shoes of someone else and think, what is it these people will want? And then manage to think that through and come up with concepts. It’s about having a strategy and a plan, then you deliver. It’s not about responding or reacting to events. It’s about having a clear long-term strategy and plan,’ he says.


Mitch Catlin, Kate Arnott and a photo-bombing Jess McNamee

Mitch Catlin, Kate Arnott and a photo-bombing Jess McNamee


So with everything going so swimmingly at Myer, why then did he jump ship and take up the PR reins at vitamin giant Swisse? ‘Oh, I think it was time for a change,’ says Catlin, after pausing for consideration. ‘I was looking for something in my life that was worthwhile and what Swisse represents, in terms of health and happiness, well-being and looking after friends, family and yourself – is all true. To be able to work in an industry that really does strive to make people happier and healthier is an important thing to do.’ He sits back in his chair and seriously, he really does look happy.



But there’s always critics. What about the vitamin-skeptics who say vitamins are rubbish – merely a product that makes for expensive urine?

‘Well everyone has an opinion on every single industry,’ says Catlin, sighing. He’s obviously dealt with this one many times before. ‘Look at the health industry in general. There’s always speculation about pills and potions – do they work – all of that. The biggest thing about Swisse is how much money they invest in research and supporting their products. You only have to ask anyone who takes them if they support them and of course they do, otherwise they wouldn’t buy them.’


Alan Fletcher chats with "Kim Kardashian" at the Swisse Stakes Day After Party

Alan Fletcher chats with “Kim Kardashian” at the Swisse Stakes Day After Party, 2011

I’m sure Swisse must be mighty pleased with Catlin’s efforts. His work has raised the profile of the vitamin brand to dizzying heights. Celebrity ambassadors include the cream of the crop from high-profile industries – sport, television and music. Catlin was also behind a move to push Swisse into the spotlight at the Spring Racing Carnival last year. And even when a star appearance on Stakes Day went down the toilet, with the non-appearance of Kim Kardashian, Catlin turned that into a coup, gaining almost more publicity for the reality star’s NO-SHOW by using a cardboard cut-out in the marquee and after-party. Almost every guest wanted their photo taken with Kim and then dutifully posted it on Twitter or Facebook.


Again Catlin is modest, saying Swisse’s marketing strategy was already in place when he joined the brand. ‘What our CEO and the board have set up is a massively successful marketing campaign of integrating ambassadors into existing programs.’

Mitch Catlin and Sonia Kruger

Mitch Catlin and Sonia Kruger


Of Swisse’s ambassador family, the celebrity line-up seems heavily skewed towards sport. Is Swisse neglecting the arts, I ask? Catlin shakes his head, smiling. ‘No, it’s more about looking at people who are the best in their field. And that could be anyone from an actor like Nicole Kidman through to a TV presenter like Sonia Kruger or a cricketer like Ricky Ponting. And the way our marketing strategy has been successful is that we integrate with our retailers, so the likes of Coles, Woolworths, Priceline and Chemist Warehouse are the ones who really dictate to us what they want to achieve.’


And we’ll see more celebrities during the races. Nicole Kidman is making an appearance on Derby Day, Kim Cattrall on Oaks Day and singer Rick Astley on Stakes Day. How does he manage to attract such a star-studded line-up?  Catlin credits his team. ‘With Swisse, what’s going to happen in the lead-up to the races, during the races and post the races, is a team effort. It’s not about me, Mitch Catlin, it’s about the Swisse team who have built this plan together. That’s why we’re confident about our outcomes as a business. I might do a few media interviews here and there but it’s very much about the team strategy.’

When you hear about how Swisse treats its staff, it’s easy to understand why Catlin appears so content. ‘We get 3-day weekends. We get breakfast and lunch provided every day. We get massages every Wednesday. There’s no doubt I wake up every day and feel blessed I’ve found a company like that who actually make a difference to people’s lives,’ he says. (I’m applying for a job tomorrow!!)

Aside from the professional work, Catlin says his time at Swisse has changed the person he is. ‘I’m a much more contented, happy person. More interested in helping others and what’s going on in the community. There’s a real focus on what’s happening around you which is a wonderful change.’

As for future plans, Catlin says he has a few ‘secret squirrel’ projects under his belt that he can’t discuss. But his focus next year will be a major push by Swisse into the global market, the face of Nicole Kidman leading the way. ‘My mission is to share the health and happiness story of Swisse around the world,’ he says.
Watch out world!

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

Looking back, Catlin credits three men for helping him get to where he is today. ‘They’d be 3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell, when I started as a journo, ‘ says Catlin, ‘And Anton Staindl, the MD of Haystac who taught me when I first started in PR. And of course, Swisse CEO Radek Sali who constantly inspires me.’

It’s now seven years since Catlin left Ten. Would he say his decision to leave the media and head in a new direction was the right one? His smile says it all. ‘When you look at how life has panned out, it’s very different to what I imagined it would be, but I feel that I’ve achieved a lot and am really happy with where I am right now.’

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media, Swisse

Mitch Catlin: Head of Partnerships, Community and Media – Swisse