SURPRISE! It’s your WEDDING!!! (OR Why I lied to my sister…)

So before you start thinking I’m a spoilt brat who enjoys far too many holidays than she deserves, let me explain. There was a GENUINE reason I HAD to come to Bali this week. I had no choice – seriously. My sister’s fiancé, Pete, phoned me a month ago to say he was going to spring a SURPRISE WEDDING for Jill and wanted me to help with orchestrate the nuptials. How could I say no?

Legian Beach

Legian Beach

With Jill being so busy with work commitments, Pete knew it was going to be a tough call, locking in a wedding date. She’s also been married before and knew full well how much planning a wedding would involve. So when Pete tried to get her to set a date six months ago, she jokingly replied, ‘It’s too much to organise. You sort it out and I’ll just turn up.’ I don’t think she thought he’d take her so literally.

When it panned out that many of her friends were going to be in Bali at the same time, Pete thought it would be perfect to organise a surprise wedding. Particularly as it was Jill’s birthday on June 25th. It would be simple to get everyone together for a celebration without raising her suspicions.

I wasn’t so sure. Jilly is SO switched on, it’s difficult to keep anything a secret from her! But on the morning of her birthday, when I offered to blow-dry her hair, (because she should look her best at her celebratory dinner!!) she scoffed at the idea, saying she didn’t care. That’s when I was pretty sure she hadn’t twigged. Surely she’d want good hair if she knew she was getting married??

Pete booked a dinner at Bali’s most glamorous seaside restaurant – Kudeta. None of the guests knew until just hours before exactly what was going to happen. There was always the VERY slim possibility she might say ‘no’… so there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as we gathered for pre-dinner drinks.

The tricky part was getting Jill to the restaurant by 4.30. We needed to kick proceedings off early-ish to make sure we could take photos before the sun went down. So we told a weeny white lie and pretended we had to get there early to secure the sofa area because it’s peak holiday season and the restaurant needed the space for another group booking, It worked and we managed to assemble everyone pretty close to the planned time.

Then we all held our collective breath as we watched Pete take Jill aside and tell her what was about to happen. They had their backs to us, so it was hard to work out exactly what was going on… the only give-away, when she wiped a tear from her eye.

Will she or won't she???

Will she or won’t she???

Jill with her bouquet

Jill with her bouquet


Then she turned around with a beaming smile and I sighed with relief and handed her a bouquet we’d organised. Plus some flowers for her hair. ‘Damn, I would have put some lippy on if I’d known!’ she laughed.



We’d also organised a marriage celebrant, so Pete led us down to the beach, where we met Kim, to officiate the ceremony. And a very celebrated celebrant I might add – as he just happened to ALSO perform the wedding of Australia’s most gorgeous super-model, Jennifer Hawkins, only a few weeks ago.

The aisle was marked out with scattered rose petals and orchids...

The aisle was marked out with scattered rose petals and orchids…


Kim not only spoke beautifully, with sensitively chosen words, but had also prepared a rose-petal strewn beach-aisle for the betrothed couple to walk down.




Then, there they stood. Pete and Jill, who have been together for nine years – finally –  exchanging vows on Legian Beach in Bali. I couldn’t have been more thrilled for my baby sister. I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

A beautiful beach wedding

A beautiful beach wedding

Kim, the celebrant, officiates

Kim, the celebrant, officiates

Married in a heart of flowers

Married in a heart of flowers

Jill's son Jesper on stand-by with the rings

Jill’s son Jesper on stand-by with the rings

Jill's daughter, Charlie, was the perfect bridesmaid

Jill’s daughter, Charlie, was the perfect bridesmaid

During the vows, the bride got a tad teary...

During the vows, tears of joy…

Now THAT'S the look of love..

The look of love…

Sealed with a kiss...

Sealed with a kiss…

The happy couple were showered with rose petals as they walked back up the aisle...

The happy couple was showered with rose petals as they walked back up the aisle…

All back to Kudeta to celebrate!

All back to Kudeta to celebrate!

The wedding party!

The wedding party.

Just after the group photo, Jill announced it was time to throw the bouquet, so the youngest of the wedding party raced onto the beach to battle it out.

The battle for the bouquet

The battle for the bouquet



Ronnie with her bouquet

Ronnie with her bouquet

That’s my girl!! Yep, our daughter Ronnie beat the others to the bouquet. Which surely means I can look forward to another Bali wedding?

Then it was time for drinks and dinner. Although sadly I must have put a greasy finger on the camera photo lens at some point, making for slightly blurry pics… oops!

Cathy, Julie and Greg

Cathy, Julie and Greg

Sam and Aki

Sam and Aki

Kim, the celebrant, even hung around for a beer

Kim, the celebrant, even hung around for a beer

And let’s not forget it was also Jill’s birthday. So yes, there was cake.

Happy birthday Jilly!

Happy birthday Jill!


Pete and Jill have been together for nine years, so we’ve waited some time for this wedding. But it was definitely meant to be. From the beginning, their relationship has faced some tough challenges – trials you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. That they’ve managed to see these through just made this day an even greater cause for celebration.

Not long after they met at a bayside pub on a Sunday night just before Christmas, Pete headed off to the UK for business for two months. Smitten, he phoned her every morning and every night the entire time he was away. Both agree it was a wonderful way to really get to know each other and cement their connection through conversations that went for hours. Pete racked up a phone bill of more than four thousand dollars.

Then six weeks after Pete returned home, they met with some friends at a local pub. Pete had planned to take Jill on a date that night. As he was riding his motorbike, he told her he would go home and get changed, then return in an hour in his car to pick her up.

He didn’t show.

As time passed, Jill became really annoyed, believing he’d stood her up.

Her mobile phone rang. A man said he was calling from the Alfred Hospital and that Pete had had an accident and was asking for her. Initially, Jill thought it was a bad joke by one of Pete’s friends and told the man to get stuffed. Eventually he convinced her it was true and Jill took a taxi to the hospital.

Sadly, it wasn’t a joke. It was deadly serious. Pete had been hit by a four-wheel drive and knocked off his bike at a major intersection. The car had run a red light. Pete had nearly been killed.

Jill took one look at Pete, his body swollen and bloodied face, as he lay on a hospital bed and she fainted on the spot. He’d lost part of his bottom lip, nearly lost an eye, had two broken legs and a broken arm. He’d also suffered a head injury and was transferred to the  Epworth Hospital where he remained for two months. He was then back at the Alfred and in hospital for a whole year, mostly in a wheel chair.

Jill says most of Pete’s friends visited at the beginning but then the visits became fewer and fewer until he pretty much lost most of his friends. But Jilly remained steadfast and never gave up hope that he’d recover and that they would be able to share a life together. And they have.

Pete has never had kids of his own and has also been a wonderful stepfather to Charlie and Jesper.

Jill was thrilled with the wedding day but says if she’d known, she wouldn’t have worn black. And she might have put on a bit of make-up. But overall, the surprise made it such a special and over-whelming day, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Congratulations to my beautiful sister Jill and my wonderful new brother-in-law, Pete.

The Newly-weds the next day

The Newly-weds the next day


(P.S. If you’re thinking of staging a Bali wedding and would like to get in touch with Kim, he has a website at




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