SPICE OF LOVE

QT Magazine - - STARCHAT - BY DAR­REN HALLESY

THERE’S A WHOLE GEN­ER­A­TION OF PEO­PLE IN IP­SWICH THAT GREW UP WATCH­ING TRACEY SPICER READ­ING THE NEWS ON OUR TV SCREENS, AND HER NEW LAUGH-OUT-LOUD AUTOBIOGRAPHY DOESN’T HOLD ANY­THING BACK. IT’S ALL THERE, WARTS AND ALL. WEL­COME TO THE STORY OF ‘THE GOOD GIRL STRIPPED BARE’

Grow­ing up in Red­cliffe, and a self-pro­claimed ‘Be­van’, Tracey Spicer had a light­bulb mo­ment when she saw Jana Wendt on 60 Min­utes, back in the days when it was a rat­ings jug­ger­naut that ruled the roost of TV rat­ings week in, week out. The young girl with frizzy hair de­cided there and then she wanted to be a jour­nal­ist, and noth­ing stood in her way as she trav­elled all over South East Queens­land, and later the world, and led her to film doc­u­men­taries in third world na­tions, which of­ten left her with what she calls ‘The Sharts’ (you’ll have to fig­ure that one out for your­selves). Over the years Tracey went from a wide-eyed stu­dent at the Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy to the bright lights of Fox­tel in Syd­ney. She got mar­ried, had two chil­dren, and fa­mously took on her for­mer em­ployer when af­ter just hav­ing her sec­ond child was told that ‘We are mov­ing in a new di­rec­tion’. Af­ter al­most 14 years, where she never asked for a pay rise and was what she called a ‘Good Girl’, she made a stand which in­spired not only thou­sands of women across the coun­try, but put the spot­light on sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place, and in par­tic­u­lar, ma­ter­nity dis­crim­i­na­tion. She sued the sta­tion, claim­ing she was fired due to her age and her de­ci­sion to take ma­ter­nity leave, which breached the Fed­eral Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act and the Trade Prac­tices Act. She was once told “I want two inches off your hair and two inches off yer arse!” Wel­come to the world of ra­dio and tele­vi­sion. “This is the mem­oir I never wanted to write,” Tracey said. “I’ve al­ways been a per­son who looks for­ward, never back, and it all came about af­ter I did a stand-,up com­edy gig in Mar­rickville with my friend Wendy Harmer. There was a pub­lisher in the au­di­ence who loved what I did and ap­proached me. “Grow­ing up in South East Queens­land gave me a great sense of hu­mour, and I’m lucky that I still have lots of friends who helped me fill in the gaps, plus I was for­tu­nate to have a tremen­dous re­searcher work­ing with

me who helped go back through lots of ar­chives, in­clud­ing places such as regional Vic­to­ria, so that I could make sure all the names and dates were ac­cu­rate.” Red­cliffe and Ip­swich share a sim­i­lar his­tory. In the 1980’s both cities were run down with a bad rep­u­ta­tion, but those who grew up there made the most of it. Tracey would spend many a night at the lo­cal skat­ing rink, and had her bed­room plas­tered with posters of Leif Gar­rett, Adam Ant and Rick Spring­field. Watch­ing 60 Min­utes one night on TV with her fam­ily, Tracey de­cided there and then she wanted to be a jour­nal­ist, and along with Glenn Tay­lor be­came a fix­ture for Ten’s Bris­bane news. Tracey laughs when she looks back at the hair­styles and fash­ion of that time. “The late 1980’s and the early 1990’s have a lot to an­swer for fash­ion-wise. My good­ness that elec­tri­fied hair, the one that looks like you’ve stuck a knife in a power socket, I hope that never comes back. “If my daugh­ter ever came to me and said she wanted that look I’m putting my foot down,” Tracey said. “Shoul­der pads too… you could have some­one’s eye out with those! How did we even fit them on the screen?” Tracey is of­ten around the Ip­swich area, with fam­ily just over Mount Crosby. “To be hon­est I get to Ip­swich more now than when I did grow­ing up, as my sis­ter lives in Ken­more and it’s quicker to get to Ip­swich than it is to get to Red­cliffe.” De­spite the fash­ion faux pas, swear­ing on TV when she thought her mi­cro­phone was off, and faint­ing on air twice in two nights while do­ing the weather, the young Miss Spicer built a ca­reer, of­ten fight­ing sex­ism in all its ab­hor­rent glory. “There’s a lot of ar­ti­fice in so­ci­ety at the mo­ment and also in tele­vi­sion,” she said. “With this book I wanted to lift the veil on what TV is re­ally like, and es­pe­cially what it’s like for women. “To­day, things have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally; the op­por­tu­ni­ties for women are far greater. You can age for longer in the in­dus­try, women are given more se­ri­ous sto­ries now, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the num­ber of women at the lead­er­ship and man­age­ment level. “I think of the 30 CEO’s in ma­jor me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions in Aus­tralia only two are women. That’s a sad in­dict­ment that shows we’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go.” Tracey finds in­spi­ra­tion wher­ever she trav­els, meet­ing peo­ple who heard her story. “While I’ve been tour­ing for the book, I’ve heard the most amaz­ing sto­ries. One comes to mind about three months ago when I was at Mount Coot-tha when I was mak­ing a cor­po­rate speech. One woman stood up, close to tears… she told me she learned about fem­i­nism be­cause of the stand I took at Chan­nel Ten. She told me she didn’t un­der­stand what fem­i­nism was. She thought women didn’t have any bat­tles to fight any more. “Sex­ual ha­rass­ment still hap­pens to­day, but we still have a long way to go.” Like chang­ing many at­ti­tudes, it be­gins at home, with ed­u­ca­tion. “You need to talk to your kids about it, be open with them. We let our kids watch news and cur­rent af­fairs… we don’t want to frighten them but they need to see the world we live in.” Tracey is also aware of the chang­ing trends in how peo­ple get their news, and it is a dan­ger­ous line some peo­ple walk when they ac­cept ev­ery­thing pre­sented to them as fact. “I think the scales need to fall from the au­di­ence’s eyes, and they need to re­alise that a lot of stuff they see on so­cial me­dia is fake news, it’s just not true, it’s not ver­i­fied and they need to start buy­ing or sub­scrib­ing to news­pa­pers again. “I have some very in­tel­li­gent peo­ple who fol­low me on­line and I’ll share a story from say the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and peo­ple think it’s fake news. There seems to be a mis­trust of me­dia com­pa­nies in this coun­try, and while I un­der­stand that, the ques­tion is maybe they’ve taken au­di­ences for granted, but peo­ple need to be a bit more scep­ti­cal about the news that they con­sume.” Tracey and her hus­band Jase are see­ing their two chil­dren grow­ing fast, and are get­ting ready for the next stage of life when the they leave home and it’s just ‘the two of us’. “My hubby and I are very for­tu­nate as we live in a beach­side area in Syd­ney. We went to New York last year and we saw all these peo­ple in their 70s and 80s go­ing out for din­ner or a show, they were just full of life,” Tracey said. “We want to be like that, so we might get an in­ner city apart­ment.” The Good Girl Stripped Bare is out now through Harper Collins

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

TIGHT-KNIT FAM­ILY: Tracey Spicer and hus­band Jase with their chil­dren.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

A FULL LIFE: Tracey Spicer cel­e­brates moth­er­hood, her new mem­oir and univer­sity grad­u­a­tion.

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