“WE GOT ON WITH IT”

“We just got on with our lives” ONCE LA­BELLED A “HOLMES WRECKER” OVER HER RE­LA­TION­SHIP WITH STAN GRANT, TELE­VI­SION PRE­SEN­TER TRACEY HOLMES IS RID­ING HIGH – BOTH PER­SON­ALLY AND PRO­FES­SION­ALLY

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by KYLIE LANG

Jour­nal­ist Tracey Holmes opens up to Stel­lar about mar­ried life with Stan Grant – post scan­dal.

If child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in­flu­ence ca­reer choices, then Tracey Holmes should have been a pro surfer. As a three-year-old ac­com­pa­ny­ing her par­ents as they set off from Syd­ney to fol­low the big breaks of South Africa and Hawaii, she was primed for a life of ad­ven­ture on the ocean.

But Holmes chased waves of a dif­fer­ent kind. Now 50, she has carved a dis­tin­guished ca­reer in broad­cast­ing, her lat­est role as pre­sen­ter of the new Q&A Ex­tra pro­gram on ABC News­ra­dio and Face­book Live.

It airs im­me­di­ately af­ter the Mon­day night Q&A TV show, which has a habit of trig­ger­ing de­bate on na­tional is­sues.

Watch­ing Holmes in ac­tion quickly con­veys that she is not a per­son who shies away from chal­lenges. She’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously slid­ing di­als, cue­ing mu­sic, check­ing the time, talk­ing to a stu­dio guest, turn­ing her head to the Face­book cam­era and some­how mak­ing sense as she goes. It’s im­pres­sive multi-task­ing. “I was wor­ried about that, how I’d do it all,” Holmes laugh­ingly ad­mits to Stel­lar.

But re­ally, this is just a rou­tine day in the of­fice for the mother of one and wife of fel­low me­dia per­son­al­ity, Stan Grant.

“As you get older, the days go faster and there is no time to re­lax be­cause there are too many things to do, but I love my job, the peo­ple I meet; the world is a fas­ci­nat­ing place,” she says.

Holmes also presents The Ticket, a sports is­sues panel pro­gram on ABC News­ra­dio on Sun­days, is a se­nior re­porter for the net­work and lec­tures in jour­nal­ism at the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Syd­ney.

“There has never been a time when Stan and I are not busy, but that means we have fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tions all the time, about what he’s do­ing, what I’m do­ing,” she says.

Un­like Grant, who al­ways wanted to be a jour­nal­ist, Holmes came to the pro­fes­sion more by chance than by de­sign. Born into the “surf’s up” cul­ture of the 1960s, Holmes spent hours at the beach with her par­ents, firstly in Syd­ney and then over­seas.

In South Africa, mum Lynne, now 69, was a key or­gan­iser of the Dur­ban 500, a world pro surf­ing com­pe­ti­tion later re­named the Gun­ston 500 and won by leg­ends in­clud­ing Midget Far­relly, Tom Carroll, Mark Oc­chilupo and Layne Beach­ley. Dad Dar­ryl, now 73, dis­tin­guished him­self as a surf­board shaper. At age 10, Holmes moved with her fam­ily – in­clud­ing sis­ter Jodi, four years her ju­nior – to Hawaii. (Jodi, now 47, still lives there, and is the gen­eral man­ager of the World Surf League.)

Those early years fu­elled in Holmes a pas­sion for trav­el­ling, but she ad­mits that af­ter com­plet­ing high school back in Aus­tralia, at the in­de­pen­dent Pittwa­ter House in Syd­ney’s Col­laroy, she didn’t know where to go next.

“I thought I’d en­joy sleep­ing for the next six months, but Mum had other ideas. One morn­ing in late De­cem­ber, she rang me around 11am – I was still in bed – and said, ‘I’ve had enough of this; when I get home, you’d bet­ter have found a job, be en­rolled in a course or have moved out.’ So I did all three.”

Tak­ing a pub­lic re­la­tions course at TAFE, Holmes was of­fered a job by one of her teach­ers, Kim Mckay, whose PR firm had landed a con­tract to rep­re­sent the world surf­ing cir­cuit.

“I knew every­one in surf­ing so it was a great fit,” she says.

Broad­en­ing her in­ter­ests, in 1988 Holmes be­came the pub­li­cist for the Aus­tralian Bi­cen­ten­nial Au­thor­ity’s Sport 88 Pro­gram – “We did 1500 events, and I was in touch with the ABC through­out that time, giv­ing them story leads; I also started fil­ing sto­ries for AAP if they couldn’t send a jour­nal­ist.”

When a trainee­ship be­came avail­able at the na­tional broad­caster in 1989, Holmes leapt at the chance. She went on to be­come the first fe­male host of a na­tional sports pro­gram, Grand­stand, and in 1996 took a cov­eted role as in­ter­na­tional me­dia spokesper­son for the Syd­ney Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee for the Olympic Games.

Two years later, an of­fer from SBS to cover the FIFA World Cup in France proved ir­re­sistible, and by 2000, Holmes had switched to com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion, work­ing on The Games pro­gram at the Seven Net­work.

That’s where she crossed paths with Grant, then host of To­day Tonight. The pair was sent to Greece to cover the light­ing of the Olympic torch, and an un­ex­pected at­trac­tion de­vel­oped. Months later, Grant sep­a­rated from his wife Karla – mother of his daugh­ter Lowanna, now 29, and sons John, 23, and Dy­lan, 20.

When Seven Net­work man­age­ment dis­ap­proved of Holmes and Grant mov­ing in to­gether, they both re­signed, with Holmes telling her boss, “With all due re­spect, you’re my em­ployer, not my fa­ther.”

La­belled a “Holmes wrecker” by the press, she has never been able to work out what all the fuss was about.

“I didn’t know what the fas­ci­na­tion was then, and still don’t know – even as we speak, peo­ple are get­ting divorces and mar­ry­ing other peo­ple, and plenty are more high-pro­file than me and Stan. Dur­ing the whole pe­riod, we just got on with it – we were a new fam­ily.”

In Au­gust 2000, Grant re­port­edly abused a jour­nal­ist for tak­ing his pic­ture in a shop­ping cen­tre, but Holmes in­sists that there was no “break­ing point” for the cou­ple.

“It didn’t drag us down, but it was an­noy­ing – when peo­ple start climb­ing over your neigh­bours’ fences in the mid­dle of the night, that’s be­yond any sort of rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion.”

Seven­teen years later, Holmes says life with Stan is “fab­u­lous”, as it’s al­ways been.

“We have an in­cred­i­ble mar­riage and have been able to give the kids great ex­pe­ri­ences, trav­el­ling over­seas and liv­ing in other coun­tries.”

In late 2001, when the cou­ple’s son Jesse was just six weeks old, they went to work in Hong Kong, re­turn­ing briefly soon af­ter for a sur­prise wed­ding at Syd­ney’s Moby Dicks Whale Beach. “All our friends thought that we were hav­ing a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion for Jesse, so they gave us Thomas the Tank En­gine presents,” she laughs.

Grant’s an­chor role with CNN later took them to Bei­jing and the Mid­dle East, where Holmes worked for China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion and Dubai Eye ra­dio re­spec­tively, as well as CNN.

Their 11 years abroad were shared with John and Dy­lan, with their mother Karla, a jour­nal­ist for SBS’S Indige­nous cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram Liv­ing Black, agree­ing the move would be a great ex­pe­ri­ence. (Their older sis­ter was head­ing into her fi­nal years of school, so re­mained in Aus­tralia.)

“We are all very close,” says Holmes. “Right from the start I said to John and Dy­lan, ‘Your mum is al­ways your mum. I’m happy to look af­ter you like a mum, but I’m not your mum.’ The boys were al­ways treated the same, brothers equally. Dy­lan, who is study­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and play­ing rugby union for Manly, still lives with us.”

Life in the Holmes-grant house­hold in Syd­ney’s in­ner west is never dull.

As Holmes tack­les her new gig, Grant is set­tling into his, as host of The Link on Fri­day nights on ABC TV, and the sta­tion’s first editor of Indige­nous af­fairs.

Of the sig­nif­i­cant ap­point­ment, Holmes says it’s not a case of Grant em­brac­ing his Indige­nous roots, but of “broader Aus­tralia” em­brac­ing him.

“Stan has al­ways been very close to his fam­ily and proud of his her­itage, but the [ABC TV] ap­point­ment comes at a time when there is a lot more dis­cus­sion about the Indige­nous pop­u­la­tion and our his­tory.”

Grant, 53, has played an in­stru­men­tal part in that dis­course. The au­thor of two books, The Tears Of Strangers and Talk­ing To My Coun­try, he spoke out in July last year against the mis­treat­ment of Abo­rig­i­nal boys in de­ten­tion in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Ac­cept­ing an hon­orary doc­tor­ate of let­ters at the Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales, Grant shelved his pre­pared speech to speak from the heart about his “pul­sat­ing rage”.

Like her hus­band, Holmes is not afraid to give her opin­ion. If this makes her a tar­get, par­tic­u­larly on so­cial me­dia, then so be it.

Af­ter the first Q&A Ex­tra aired last month, one de­trac­tor called it “left­wing non­sense”, and an­other “a fu­tile ex­er­cise in shar­ing ig­no­rance”, but Holmes is un­per­turbed.

“If you look at where peo­ple grow up, their cul­tural back­ground, ed­u­ca­tion, ex­pe­ri­ences, you’ll get some men and women who are en­light­ened, some who don’t want to be and some who are in the mid­dle.

“What we’re try­ing to do is ex­tend the con­ver­sa­tion – it’s more than the Twit­ter feed or the live au­di­ence on TV, it’s a way for ev­ery­body in the coun­try to have their say.

“The world is full of all sorts. We wouldn’t want every­one to think the same, and without chal­lenges, we don’t push our­selves.” Q&A Ex­tra airs 10.40pm Mon­days, on ABC News­ra­dio, while stream­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously on Face­book Live.

“I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE FAS­CI­NA­TION WAS – PEO­PLE ARE [AL­WAYS] GET­TING DIVORCES AND MAR­RY­ING OTHER PEO­PLE”

RID­ING THE AIR­WAVES A multi-task­ing Tracey Holmes.

POWER COU­PLE Holmes with hus­band Stan Grant at last year’s GQ Men of the Year Awards.

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