WAKE-UP CALL

AS A TELE­VI­SION RE­PORTER, BIANCA STONE LOVES A GOOD AGAINST THE ODDS STORY BUT NOT MANY PEO­PLE KNOW SHE HAS ONE OF HER OWN.

Central Queensland News - - READ - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD PHOTO: JERAD WIL­LIAMS

Sto­ries about teenage run­aways and young sin­gle moth­ers rarely end so well. View­ers of Chan­nel 7’s Sun­rise pro­gram will be fa­mil­iar with its un­flap­pable Queensland jour­nal­ist Bianca Stone re­port­ing live from scenes of crime and trauma, seem­ingly never fluff­ing a word or fuss­ing too much about stray hair.

As it turns out, the re­spected jour­nal­ist was no stranger to trauma well be­fore she ever dreamt of fronting a cam­era. Keep­ing her head in the midst of it is some­thing she grew up do­ing.

Bianca fled a life of vi­o­lence at the age of 15.

“It had been hap­pen­ing from when I could re­mem­ber,” she says. “It was reg­u­lar and so cruel and, in those days, you couldn’t tell any­body about it. It was a dif­fer­ent time.”

She’s not long fin­ished work, which starts with a 3.30am alarm, still wear­ing her on-cam­era make-up and speaks in the same steady tone she uses to de­liver her re­ports. To Bianca, her own story is just more factual in­for­ma­tion.

“I’m not em­bar­rassed by it,” she says. “It’s just what hap­pened and it’s made me the per­son I am to­day.”

She de­tails some of the in­ci­dents that stay with her, trou­bling sto­ries she hasn’t for­got­ten but doesn’t dwell on.

“I don’t want to get too caught up in the past,” she says. “What hap­pened has shaped who I am but it doesn’t de­fine me.”

It’s what hap­pened af­ter Bianca fled the vi­o­lence that de­fines her.

“When I was 11 and 12, I was do­ing the gro­cery shop­ping and cook­ing din­ner. By 15, I was start­ing to rebel. I just didn’t want to live like that any­more.”

Bianca saw her chance to es­cape when she heard of jobs go­ing at a health food store on the Gold Coast.

She ran away from home and lived in what she calls a half­way house with oth­ers like her flee­ing messy lives, ex­cept she had her job.

“I had no real plan,” she says. “But I knew I wasn’t go­ing back.”

Bianca even­tu­ally rented her own place and started ap­ply­ing for other jobs to boost her in­come. It was when prospec­tive em­ploy­ers ques­tioned why she wasn’t at school, she de­cided to re­sume her ed­u­ca­tion.

“I’d al­ways got good marks at school,” she says. “I’d missed quite a bit though and when I started look­ing into re-en­rolling, they told me I could go straight to Year 12, but I wanted a good OP so I went into Year 11 to do it prop­erly.”

She con­tin­ued work­ing out­side of school hours to sup­port her­self, only learn­ing later there was a gov­ern­ment al­lowance to help kids like her con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion.

“In Year 11, I plugged along,” Bianca says. “The school was very sup­port­ive of my sit­u­a­tion. It was com­ing into Year 12, on a lead­er­ship camp, that I got a wake-up call.”

Word came through that Bianca’s older half-brother had died of a drug over­dose.

“He was 25 and we were pretty close,” Bianca says. “It re­ally made me sit up and change some things.”

Bianca was school cap­tain of Mer­ri­mac High School in her fi­nal year. She was a high-achiev­ing stu­dent and grad­u­ated with a Ro­tary schol­ar­ship to help with costs to study law and ac­count­ing at univer­sity.

Six months in, things were pro­gress­ing well. She was the pres­i­dent of Grif­fith Univer­sity’s law stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tion and was host­ing a func­tion at a Surfers Par­adise night spot when she met an English back­packer.

He stayed with her for a few months and they made plans for Bianca to de­fer her stud­ies to travel the world with him. He had to leave when his visa ex­pired and af­ter he’d gone, Bianca learned she was preg­nant. “That wasn’t in the plan,” she says sim­ply. At first, her baby’s fa­ther de­cided they should get mar­ried but she thought that was “a bit silly” and, at the end of the day, their in­ter­mit­tent con­tact died out and Bianca went it alone as a sin­gle mum to her son Rains­ford, now 18.

“It was then I swapped to study­ing jour­nal­ism,” Bianca says. “I’d al­ways had a pas­sion for tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ism and, be­ing prac­ti­cal, there were less con­tact hours at univer­sity.

“It would have been bet­ter for me fi­nan­cially to be on a sin­gle mother’s pen­sion but that was never an op­tion so I worked as well to pay for child­care.”

Bianca grad­u­ated with out­stand­ing grades and, through univer­sity in­tern­ships, was of­fered paid work with SEA-FM’s news­room and fed­eral MP Steve Ciobo who’d scouted her when she was Premier of Queensland’s Youth Par­lia­ment.

She worked for both then heard of job op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­gional tele­vi­sion news­rooms up north.

“I hadn’t con­sid­ered leav­ing the Gold Coast but I de­cided to ap­ply,” she says.

“It was re­ally the news editor of Seven’s Mackay news­room Ross Da­gan who took a risk in of­fer­ing a job to a sin­gle mother. There were a lot of other young jour­nal­ists com­ing out of uni­ver­si­ties.”

In char­ac­ter­is­tic fash­ion, Bianca found her feet quickly and was soon pro­moted to pro­duc­ing nightly bul­letins. Rains­ford took to life in Mackay and things were go­ing well for the tight-knit team of two.

Then Bianca met Mark, a good man, in the not en­tirely ro­man­tic set­ting of a drug raid — “not my place, let me just say,” Bianca laughs.

Mark was a po­lice con­sta­ble fresh out of the academy at his first post­ing in Mackay and Bianca was cov­er­ing the raid for a news story.

“We had a drink at the pub af­ter­wards and that was it,” she says.

They ended up stay­ing in Mackay for four years for Mark’s work then re­turned to the Gold Coast where Bianca joined Chan­nel 7’s Gold Coast bureau in 2008. She and Mark mar­ried that year.

On the per­sonal front, as so of­ten hap­pens, af­ter the un­ex­pected ease of fall­ing preg­nant with Rains­ford, Bianca and Mark had been try­ing to con­ceive for some years and turned to IVF.

They were thrilled to wel­come a daugh­ter, Bronte, now 5, and, nine months later, Bianca was preg­nant again nat­u­rally with Matilda, 3 1/2.

She proudly runs through pictures of her kids on her phone, shar­ing sto­ries of their quirks and achieve­ments.

“Some­times I think it was a lot eas­ier be­ing a sin­gle mother,” Bianca laughs. “There wasn’t an­other par­ent to worry about. It was just me and Rains­ford and we did pretty well.”

It was with a child go­ing into Year 12 and two preschool-aged girls when the Sun­rise Queensland gig came up. The de­part­ing jour­nal­ist ear­marked Bianca for the job and she was in­ter­viewed by the head hon­chos via video chat.

Break­fast tele­vi­sion re­quires fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants live re­port­ing and they wanted to know why Bianca thought she was cut out for the role.

“I said be­cause I’m do­ing this in my bikini in Bali,” she laughs. She got the job.

“I don’t love morn­ings,” Bianca con­fesses. “Yes, it’s hard to get up but you get used to it. Ev­ery minute of sleep is pre­cious so I set the alarm for as late as I can. I can do hair, make-up and cof­fee in 17 min­utes then I’m on the road.

There is no of­fice for a break­fast tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist. Bianca and her cam­era­man work from wher­ever the sto­ries are hap­pen­ing. It might be Bris­bane but it could just as well be any­where in Queensland, which means Bianca doesn’t al­ways make her af­ter-school and day­care pick-ups.

“It’s al­ways a jug­gle but I love the travel with Sun­rise,” Bianca says. “And I love the mix of hard news and more fea­ture-style sto­ries.”

It’s been for­tu­nate Mark landed a pro­mo­tion at much the same time, swap­ping his shift­work for more reg­u­lar Mon­day to Fri­day hours.

“I don’t know how we would have done it oth­er­wise,” she says.

She’s al­ready steel­ing her­self for her next dose of day­light sav­ings when her morn­ing alarm goes off an hour ear­lier at 2.30am.

“I won’t lie, it’s hor­ri­ble,” she laughs. “There’s a joke that morn­ing TV is for sub­ur­ban housewives who’re a bit tired and I al­ways think — that’s me.”

WHAT HAP­PENED HAS SHAPED WHO I AM BUT IT DOESN’T DE­FINE ME. .......................

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