Mal signs off – the end of an era in television news

Giving up the news chair

Giving up the news chair

After a stellar 42-year career as one of Melbourne’s most respected newsreaders, Mal Walden will present the news for the final time next week on Wednesday, December 4th. Yes, he’s finally relinquishing the Network Ten news chair for a life of travelling, writing and spending time with family and friends.

His departure from our screens marks the end of an era. But unlike most, whose exit from the industry is usually abrupt, Mal has been afforded a well-deserved, gradual parting of ways – kind of like two lovers agreeing to take separate holidays instead of enduring an acrimonious divorce.

‘I resigned last year when the station was in a bit of trouble,’ he said. ‘There were cutbacks and redundancies and it was very unpleasant. I’d had enough so at the end of my contract I didn’t want to go on.’

But Ten made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They asked him to stay for one more year working just four days a week for the first six months, take a long mid-year break, then return and only do three days a week. How could he say no?

Mal Walden and Stephen Quartermain

Mal Walden and Stephen Quartermain

‘It was the best contract I’ve ever had in my career,’ he said. ‘It was a beautiful transition because it phased me out and phased Stephen in, and it was good. It got my head around the “what am I going to do with myself when I finally give it all away” question.’

For those who don’t know, former sports presenter Stephen Quartermain is set to replace Mal when he leaves and has already been filling in on Mal’s days off.


I’m going to write up the rest of this interview in Q & A format, because Mal and I go back a long way and I like how the conversation between us still flows easily. We read the news together for more than ten years, becoming Australia’s longest serving news duo.

Mal and I in and late 1990s

Mal and I in and late 1990s

I went through some old scrapbooks to see how times changed over the years. Here’s a snapshot:

Winning the ratings

Winning the ratings in 1996 – the year we started together

Newspaper clipping from 1997

Newspaper clipping from 1997

An old Ten News ad in 2000

An old Ten News ad in 2000

Mal's 30-year milestone in 2001

Mal’s 30-year milestone in 2001

Hamming it up in support of Red Nose Day

Hamming it up in support of Red Nose Day

But enough with trips down memory lane. Let’s get back to that interview:

JEN: So with more time on your hands during the year, what have you been up to?
MAL: I don’t know where the hours go. I make appointments, catch up with people and have lunches. Pauline and I might go away for long weekends, which was something I could never do before. It wasn’t that I was fed up with work. I was fed up with the ten to six Monday to Friday routine. That’s what I wanted to get away from.’

JEN: With only a few nights left to go, how are you feeling now?
MAL: I’m feeling apprehensive. I’m feeling nervous. I just want to get through that final night.

JEN: Will you be able to say a ‘proper’ goodbye? Has it been discussed?
MAL: No, they’re planning something and I’m not quite sure of the format, but I guess there will be a period at the end of the news where I guess I’ll say something like ”Thank you very much Melbourne for the last forty-two years.”

JEN: Is that the longest of any newsreader in Australia?
MAL: No, it’s the longest in Melbourne. Brian Henderson has about three or four more years on me.

JEN: Was it ever a competitive thing for you, to be the longest-serving reader?
MAL: No, because I would have been in my late seventies by the time I reached Brian Henderson’s record. I would have been too old and I don’t want to do that.

JEN: How old are you?
MAL: There are three biogs out there. One has me at 67, one 68 and one at 69. 69 is the closest.

JEN: What will you do immediately after the bulletin ends?
MAL: I’ll go back to the newsroom. The staff will be there and we’ll have drinks.

JEN: French champagne, I hope!
MAL: No, I don’t think so! We only had French once and that was years ago, when we were winning the ratings. Remember?

Mal reading the news on Monday night

Mal reading the news on Monday night

JEN: Oh yes, I do…
MAL: And it’s funny, but in all the years I’ve been reading news, out of 42 there were only eight or nine when we were number one. So it means you can survive in this business without being number one. They can put spins on anything. You know, I’m number one for married women with two dogs…

JEN: And what stands out as your career highlight? Apart from reading with me?
MAL: Other than reading with you…(laughter) …the 1970s was the decade that was really the most defining decade of my life. I’d come back from overseas, I’d been in radio up till that stage, I approached Channel Seven for a job and an old boss of mine – Ron Casey, who I knew from radio days – said I can’t give you a job in the news department but come on as a booth announcer, and that’ll give you a foot in the door. Well, that very first night – June 6th, 1970 – at about a quarter to six – the late night newsreader was suddenly taken ill and they asked me to read the news. And I’ve been reading ever since.

JEN: Had you ever been in front of a camera?
MAL: Yes, I had. In the mid-60s, I read the news in Tasmania.

Mal gets promoted

Mal gets promoted

JEN: What else made the 70s such a standout decade for you?
MAL: It was defining for me because I got into television news. Two years after I read my first bulletin, I took a cadetship and then Cyclone Tracey hit and they sent me up to Darwin as a reporter. Because I got the first story out, I was then promoted to being a journalist. Then there was Balibo in East Timor and we were all vying to go there, so, but for the grace of God… Greg Shakleton went and that was sadly, his end.

JEN: How did that affect the newsroom?
MAL: David Johnston was quite upset by the whole thing and gave television away, as an indirect result of Balibo. He just got so pissed off with what it stood for and all the cover-ups. David had an argument with the news director at the time one day, stormed out and never came back. They helped David establish a newsagency business, so when he went I became elevated to the number two newsreader spot. Before that it was Brian Naylor, then David and I was number three.

JEN: Now fast-forward to the present. What do you think about the impact of social media on the reporting of news?
MAL: I think it’s very dangerous actually. A recent example was the marathon bombing in Boston. They were all tweeting that the bomber was a Puerto Rican and was being charged, and the main media picked it up. Even 3AW ran with it, without any fact checking. There are no checks or balances with social media. But it’s only in the last few years when it’s come to the fore. I mean, it can have its benefits, like in the case of the murder of Jill Meagher, where everyone rallied, so it can be useful.

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon

JEN: But I guess you’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.
MAL: Oh yes. I remember in ’69 when man landed on the moon, the world stood in awe as Armstrong stood on the moon. But I was more impressed with President Nixon picking up the phone in the Whitehouse and talking to Armstrong on the phone. To me, that was far more dramatic than the man standing on the moon. That was something we had never seen. So suddenly satellites closed that gap between radio being first and television was on an even playing field. It took a couple of years for satellites to be used locally, but that was the first indication I had that satellites were going to revolutionise news. And they did.

JEN: When did you first get promoted to main newsreader at Seven?
MAL: It was 1977 and I was filling in for Brian Naylor at the time. I was lying in bed listening to the radio thinking, I’ll be glad when Nails gets back because I want to go back on the road, reporting. Then there was a news flash where the reader said, ‘In news just to hand, Brian Naylor has resigned from Channel Seven and is going to Channel Nine. Seven management have just announced that Mal Walden is taking over.’ Then the phone rang and it was the publicity manager from Seven, Eileen O’Shea, and she said,’The general manager, Mr Casey, would like to see you in his office so come on in.’

JEN: And they hadn’t even asked you?
MAL: No, and when I walked into the newsroom, all I could hear was people saying things like ‘Well, that’s the end of the ratings,’ which made me feel terribly insecure. And I didn’t even want the job anyway.  I walked in Casey’s office and he congratulated me and I told him I didn’t want the job. So he picked up the phone and called in the finance manager. He explained that I’d receive $60,000 a year, which sounded great, but I still said, ‘I can’t take it, it’s not what I want to do’. Then they brought in the promotions guy who bought in a picture of a brand new RX7. He put his arm around my shoulders and said, ‘Mal, take this job and the car is yours.’ And I’m thinking of my clapped out car out the front and the $60,000 a year… So I said, ‘I’ll do a deal – allow me to read the news and keep on reporting too.’ Casey then suggested I not do general news, but do special reports. So we did that. And they promoted me as the only newsreader who was a journalist, to give me credibility. And it worked. I never looked back.

JEN: Now, after forty-two years of news reading being your life, it must be hard to imagine what you’re going to do with yourself?
MAL: We’re going to take a holiday. Pauline’s got the bags packed already. She’s probably at the airport waiting for me now, actually!

JEN: After that?
MAL: I’ve got nothing planned whatsoever.

JEN: Weren’t you writing a book?
MAL: Yes, I’ve finished my book. It’s biographical. I’ve diarised every day of my life since June, 1961. I have fifty-two diaries at home. Every day there’s an article about a news story, a conversation I’ve had, interwoven with my personal life, from radio right through to this year. And of all the chapters, the last two are the most telling.

JEN: In what sense?
MAL: About what’s been happening in the last few years at Ten. It’s probably a bit close to the bone. They’re pulling out of the slump now. But that bit will never get to print.

JEN: Will you still have an association with Ten?
MAL: That’s on the cards. They’ve asked me to stay on for another twelve months as ‘ambassador’.

JEN: How do you feel about Stephen being your replacement?
MAL: I can’t think of anyone more suitable. He has skills I’ve never had and they’ll channel those into promoting him.

Having a laugh

Having a laugh during the photo shoot

JEN: Looking back, have you any regrets?
MAL: Not one! Not one at all. I’ve never had to make any major decisions in my life. They’ve all been made for me. I’ve been hired, fired, promoted, demoted… The only time I ever made a decision, and it involved you, was when I was reading the weekend news at Ten. I had young kids (twins, James and Sarah) and a holiday house at Rye and Pauline said, ‘I need you at home on weekends, this is ridiculous.’ So I went and told management I needed to give up the weekend news and then you took the role, but three months later, they made the weekend news national.

JEN:  And I was dumped off the weekend news.
MAL: So had I not made the decision, it would have been made for me.

JEN: So let’s wrap this up. Just one last question. Who was your favourite female newsreader to have alongside you?
MAL: Jen Hansen!

Of course!

So next week will be a major milestone for this icon of news. Don’t forget to watch Channel Ten news next Wednesday night to see Mal sign off for the last time. I’ll miss him on air, but I know we’ll keep in touch as we have done over the years. As for his future, I’m looking forward to reading that book. And there’s plenty of other options for him too. Heck, he may just even start a Blog…

Which Celebrity Chef is lending a hand to save children in Cambodia from trafficking?

TV Celebrity Chef, author, naturopath and all-round good soul Janella Purcell first learnt about the charity, Connecting Hands, when they contacted her to see if she could contribute to their celebrity cookbook.

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

‘It’s a really beautiful book. They did a great job with that. People love cookbooks and it looks really pretty,’ she said. The book was launched last November and includes recipes from a range of high profile chefs, including Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Poh Ling Yeow, Pete Evans and Marion Grasby.

But while most people would think they’d done enough by contributing a recipe, Janella has gone above and beyond in terms of helping Connecting Hands in their mission to help free children and women from trafficking and give them a future.

The Food for Life Cookbook

The Food for Life Cookbook

Since the book was published, Janella’s involvement has escalated to the point where she’s just returned from a trip with the Connecting Hands team to Cambodia, plus she hosted a cooking workshop in Sydney yesterday where all funds raised from ticket sales went to the charity as well.

Janella was keen to go to Cambodia so she could see for herself how Connecting Hands’ latest project – building a teaching cafe in Cambodia – was progressing.

The idea is that, once completed, the cafe will give the girls training in hospitality, employment with on-going jobs, and a safe place to live.

The Connecting Hands message - excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

The Connecting Hands message – excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

For Janella, it was an unforgettable experience.  ‘A lot of people just put their heads in the sand over this, because it is a really hard issue to look at. I love what Connecting Hands is doing – the practicality of it. This cafe is really going to make a difference.’

When the cafe is finished, Janella says she’d like to return to Cambodia, possibly for three months, to help train the girls in hospitality. I asked her why she was so passionate about the cause.

‘Where do you start?’ she said. ‘What’s the difference between those young girls and our own children? I mean, we’re all the same. I believe in equality and injustice really upsets me at every level. They’re not being given a fair chance and that’s just appalling. And no one really wants to know about it – it’s all too hot for them to touch and I’m not scared of those sorts of things.’

Like myself, Janella wants to know why governments aren’t stepping in to do more. ‘The sexual trafficking of children is actually one of the biggest money-spinners on the planet. It makes more money than anything else. I don’t really understand why we don’t hear more about it. That’s a lot of money and a lot of children.’

‘It’s a really hard issue and I think a lot of people just want to pretend that it isn’t happening. Why else could it be?’

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

The title ‘celebrity chef’ is something Janella thinks first began with the success Masterchef. In her view, she’s really a naturopath who’s also a foodie. Still, she has been on TV continuously for fifteen years now, (Channel Nine – Mornings with Kerri-Anne Kennerley; Channel Seven – Good Chef, Bad Chef, and Channel Ten – Biggest Loser) so she’s well and truly earned the title.

Now living in the Hinterlands in Byron Bay, Janella runs clinics near home and in Sydney. She regularly writes magazine articles and her diary is packed with media commitments. But it’s her work in the clinics she finds most rewarding. ‘Consulting clients, one on one. It’s really beautiful, I love that work,’ she said. ‘I deal with all sorts of health issues, from cancer and libido-immune deficiency issues to fertility and skin problems.’

Can naturopathy really address all these complaints? ‘Of course,’ said Janella. ‘We make people better. It’s not that hard. For so many people, it’s a matter of taking chemicals out of your life – from your food, your skincare, your cleaning products. So many people become well once they do that. Chemicals are causing so many problems in our life. And then take out all the processed food from your diet.’

Janella’s top tip for natural skincare is the Pure and Green organic range. She also prefers to buy organic wine. And while it’s her preference to go organic generally, it’s not something she’s fanatical about.

After our chat, I was starting to feel quite exhausted. How does she keep up the pace, fitting all these commitments into her life? But wait, there’s more!

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

Janella is also working on her own TV show. It’s a show focusing on eating food without using meat and refined foods, but still making meals that are beautiful to taste. (watch this space!)

AND she’s working on her next book. It will be called Whole Foods for the Whole World, with recipes for every age, from babyhood to the elderly.

AND she’s shooting a TV commercial for OxFam about awareness about food waste.

Little wonder she has been named in the top 40 inspiring women in Australia, in Prevention Magazine. 

If you’d like to do just a little something to help Connecting Hands, here’s a couple of ideas. You can still purchase the cookbook by going to the charity’s website at

And you can buy tickets to Connecting Hands annual fund-raising dinner, at which I will be MC. It’s in St Kilda at The Great Provider on Saturday, October 19th.  I’d love to see you there!

Double Agent Linda Chisolm

This was going to be one of those ‘Inspirational Life Changes’ stories – you know, where I interview someone who has dived into a radical career change mid-life and made a ripping success of it all.

But in this instance, that’s not really the case. You see, horse-riding champion and hair colourist extraordinaire Linda Chisolm IS taking a new direction in life, but she’s also going to continue working in the salon. So it’s really an ‘Inspirational Life Juggling’ story – a case of combining careers, rather than ditching one for the other.

I first met Linda about eighteen years ago when I was working at Channel Ten and moved from Nunawading to the Como building in South Yarra. I stumbled into a hair salon across the road and found Linda, who was not only a brilliant colourist, but we got along famously. So even though it was very convenient having Linda so close to work, as soon as she left for a new salon, I followed. And I’ve been following her ever since.

Linda ONLY does COLOUR – no cutting, primping, curling etc… and that’s probably why she’s a master at her craft. I reckon she also makes a damn fine therapist with her ability to dish out pithy, down-to-earth no-nonsense advice when you thrust one of your dramas under her nose for dissection.

I also love the fact that she’s rarely impressed by celebrity. While she’s got a long list of famous VIP clients, she’s never a name-dropper and has been known to refuse to work with certain celebs if they prove to be difficult clients. She just couldn’t be bothered.

I asked whether she was nervous, colouring Kylie Minogue’s famous tresses many moon ago. ‘Not really,’ she said. ‘I’ve worked all over the world and people are people. They’re all the same – they just want to look nice.’ Simple, but true.

Linda at work

Linda at work

Linda is a little unusual in that she didn’t want me to photograph her working AND she doesn’t want me to mention the salon where she works. That’s because she’s not looking for new clients (being the best colourist in Melbourne) as her diary is chockers and she doesn’t need new people pestering her for a dose of hair magic.

The other reason Linda doesn’t want me to advertise her talents is that she’s cutting back on hours to focus more on her greater passion – HORSES.



This new gig Linda’s taken on is quite obscure. The fact that it’s SO unusual meant I had to write about it. Although when I first suggested to Linda that you couldn’t find two professions further apart – horses and hair – she rightly corrected me. ‘There’s some similarities between the grooming of horses and people. There’s products, plaiting, lots of washing!’

But don’t get the wrong idea – Linda’s new role doesn’t involve horse grooming. Instead, she and her partner, Stefan, will be importing top-end horse trailers from the United States. (See, I told you it was obscure.)

The opportunity arose when Linda spotted a huge gap in the horse trailer market. ‘We’d bought a couple of Australian-made ones and we weren’t happy with them. Not with the fit-out or the finish or the options. So we started looking in America and we bought our first one and through that, became dealers for the American brand. Which is Trail Rider Trailers,’ she said.

Linda and Stefan researched many companies overseas and Trail Riders came out on top. ‘They’re the best built in the field, offering the biggest range of options. It’s also a small, family-owned business and the trailers aren’t mass-produced so we knew we’d get good workmanship. They do a fantastic job and are happy to customise.’

Trail Riders Trailers - the high end of the horse trailer market

Trail Riders Trailers – the high end of the horse trailer market

A decent sized kitchen and dining area

A decent sized kitchen and dining area

Linda has been riding horses in events around the country since she was a child, so has a pretty good idea about what people are using and what’s on the market. She says it was hard to find trailers in Australia that offered simple luxuries like an oven or even a toilet.

Sleep in style

Sleep in style



As for sleeping quarters, the Trailer Riders bed is five-star compared to what’s on offer from other brands. But Linda says not all her trailers are as ritzy as this one we’re looking at. ‘They can be very high-end or not so high-end. But it’s the quality of the fit-out that makes all the difference. You can customise the size to whatever you want, that’s legal in Australia, which is 43-feet long.’

Royal Retro trailer

Royal Retro trailer

The range of options you can put in these beauties is astounding, including a washing-machine, electric fireplace, a ceiling fan – all sorts of options Linda says you just can’t get in Australia.

Even a toilet!!

Even a toilet!!

Now she’s the envy of her horse-riding friends. ‘I usually get a big WOW when they walk in,’ she says with a smile. ‘For a horse-person, these trailers are heaven. Everything is in the right place and it’s a great ride with fantastic suspension. You spend a lot of time and money on your horse going to shows, so you want to be comfortable. It becomes your holiday, your pastime. Most horsey people don’t head off to Bali for two weeks. They go to a national show and it’s their life-style.’

Linda reining

Linda reining

On top of colouring hair and marketing her new horse-trailer business, Linda also competes at events. ‘I do a sport called reining,’ she said. ‘It’s a discipline that started in America. The reining horse is known for its ‘sliding stop’ and its ‘turn around’ and spin,’ she explained.


‘They’re manoeuvres that came from when horses worked with cattle on ranches and they’ve been exaggerated for the show ring. You ride in a pattern and unlike dressage, it’s all at a canter. Or a lope, as we call it in the western world.’

Apparently it’s a huge sport internationally and is growing in popularity in Australia. ‘It’s very big in America of course, and Germany, Italy and we’re now a sport that’s involved in WEG. That’s the World Equestrian Games.  I think it will become an Olympic discipline eventually.’

Linda winning Reserve Champion at Werribee

Linda winning Reserve Champion at Werribee

Linda’s been ‘reining’ for about seven years now and has won several awards – one about two months ago in Werribee. ‘It’s a difficult sport,’ she said. ‘Much harder than I thought it would be! Like any horse discipline, you’re always learning and working at it. It’s more difficult than it looks as it’s a one-handed event.’

ONE-HANDED?! Jeez… then I’m guessing Linda has a pretty good connection with her horse to ride with such control.

‘Ah, you need a horse that’s really broke’ she laughed. ‘My horse is gorgeous. His show name is Red Hair and Freckles. He’s definitely up there with my favourites.’

With so much going on (selling trailers, reining competitions…) I was most relieved to hear Linda wouldn’t be ditching her colouring job. (PHEW!!) ‘I love my hair, I like my clients,’ she said. (YAY!!) ‘It might get a little tricky, juggling both, but I’ll manage.’

If you’d like to contact Linda about these impressive horse trailers, you can email her at

and check out the trailer website at:

or she has a Facebook page, for updated news – just reference Australian Horse Trailers and LIKE it!!

Salon Golightly, Prahran

Salon Golightly, Prahran

And just in case you want to TRY to get a hair colour appointment with Linda, she works at Salon Golightly in Prahran. (Now she’ll kill me.) Good luck….

Salon Golightly: 175 Greville street, Prahran
Ph: 9533 9966