“I’LL AL­WAYS LOVE HER”

PRU GOWARD IS ONE OF THE MOST AC­COM­PLISHED WOMEN IN THE COUN­TRY – BUT IT IS HER FRAC­TURED RE­LA­TION­SHIP WITH DAUGH­TER KATE FIS­CHER THAT MAKES THE HEAD­LINES

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy JOHN FOTIADIS Words MIRANDA DEVINE

Politi­cian Pru Goward opens up about be­ing es­tranged from her daugh­ter, for­mer model and It girl Kate Fis­cher.

Pru Goward tries not to cry when asked about her frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with el­dest daugh­ter Kate Fis­cher – the one-time It girl of the ’90s, ex-fi­ancé of bil­lion­aire James Packer, for­mer home­less shel­ter res­i­dent and, most re­cently, a con­tes­tant in the re­al­ity-tv show, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out

Of Here! “I love her and I al­ways will love her,” Goward tells Stel­lar, and her eyes well with tears.

Mother and daugh­ter are long es­tranged, and Fis­cher, 43, who has con­verted to Ortho­dox Ju­daism and legally changed her name to Tzi­po­rah Malkah, has been busy air­ing dirty laun­dry on TV and on the cov­ers of women’s mag­a­zines.

A lot of it. About her mum. About James Packer. But mostly her mum, whose shin­ing ca­reer she has eclipsed with ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty and bound­less self-pity. “It has al­ways been quite a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship,” Malkah told Net­work Ten ear­lier this year, “I re­spect my mother and I un­der­stand my mother… that she is not moth­erly.”

Her mother’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, she added, is “where all [her] love has gone”.

Ouch.

GOWARD, THE NSW Min­is­ter for Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, Min­is­ter for So­cial Hous­ing, and Min­is­ter for the Pre­ven­tion of Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence and Sex­ual As­sault, is one of the most ac­com­plished women in the coun­try. A twice-mar­ried econ­o­mist, she launched a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an ABC po­lit­i­cal re­porter in Can­berra in the ’80s, was ap­pointed by John Howard to run the Fed­eral Of­fice of the Sta­tus of Women in the ’90s, and later be­came the Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sioner.

But for all her pro­fes­sional suc­cess, Goward, 64, has been a mother since the age of 21, and re­sents the pub­lic ex­po­sure of an adult daugh­ter still set­tling scores from her child­hood.

Goward couldn’t bring her­self to watch Malkah on I’m A Celebrity, even though mil­lions of Aus­tralians couldn’t take their eyes off her as she bared her soul. Malkah dis­closed that she suf­fered post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der from un­spec­i­fied events in her child­hood, that she de­vel­oped bu­limia at the age of eight when her par­ents split, and that she was pleased she’d lost 14kg in the jun­gle, though her fig­ure is still a far cry from her mod­el­ling days.

“She’s 43 years old, she can make her own de­ci­sions,” Goward says curtly. “I know that she’s very able, a very clever girl. She was al­ways very good at maths, good in­stincts, good with peo­ple.”

And she was gor­geous. “Yes, she was re­ally some­thing,” her mother agrees.

At 14, the leggy brunette who tow­ered over her mother, but had the same big brown eyes and ex­quis­ite fea­tures, won the Dolly mag­a­zine cover girl com­pe­ti­tion and a con­tract with a pres­ti­gious mod­el­ling agency.

Against her mother’s wishes, she dropped out of school and went to live in Syd­ney with her agent, Ur­sula Huf­nagl. She was mod­el­ling in New York at 16, on the cover of Vogue Aus­tralia, and star­ring top­less with Elle Macpherson in Sirens.

Goward wor­ried con­stantly. “I was very con­cerned about her go­ing into mod­el­ling so young. I thought she should wait, but it wasn’t to be. For many years it gave her ac­cess to a won­der­ful world, but to­day there are quite dif­fer­ent rules around un­der­age chil­dren mod­el­ling. Back then it was a bit freer, and for par­ents it prob­a­bly made it more dif­fi­cult.”

Malkah’s high-pro­file, five-year re­la­tion­ship and en­gage­ment to James Packer, then-heir to Aus­tralia’s largest for­tune, ended in tears when she was 25. Fear­ing she had be­come a laugh­ing stock, she fled to LA, where she stayed for al­most two decades. “I like James,” Goward says. “These very high-pro­file re­la­tion­ships are tough on young peo­ple. They were so young… how can they pos­si­bly have [had] the space to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with the scru­tiny?”

Goward was her­self just 20 when she met Malkah’s fa­ther, Dr Alas­tair Fis­cher, at The Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide. He was her eco­nomics pro­fes­sor and nine years her se­nior. Goward com­pleted her hon­ours de­gree, and Malkah was born when she was barely 21; sis­ter Penny came along two years later.

“Mums do the best that they can do and I just loved her to bits,” Goward says of Malkah dur­ing her in­ter­view with Stel­lar in her har­bour­side of­fice in Syd­ney’s CBD. “When I was preg­nant with Penny, we were mov­ing into a new house and I couldn’t bear to think of Katie just be­ing at home with Alas­tair or a babysit­ter. [So] I used to put her in a back­pack and go over there and paint the house. I was prob­a­bly over­pro­tec­tive… Be­ing a mother, it’s a won­der­ful de­vo­tion.”

Goward’s friend of 35 years, jour­nal­ist and TV host Ita But­trose, de­scribes her as a “trailblazer” for women and says “she has packed a lot into her ca­reer”. But, like most work­ing moth­ers, bal­anc­ing it all has also meant “jug­gling madly”.

“She had a short spell of be­ing su­per­woman – some­thing most women em­braced in the ’70s and ’80s (we must have been nuts) – and then re­alised the im­por­tance of try­ing to lead a life with some at­tempt at bal­ance,” But­trose tells Stel­lar.

Goward was a stay-at-home mum un­til Malkah was four. “That was my choice and I un­der­stand women who want to stay home, ab­so­lutely, but I also un­der­stand a lot of women not only can’t af­ford not to work, they can’t af­ford not to work for pro­fes­sional pur­poses… But when I went back to work when Katie was four, one of my rel­a­tives said, ‘Well, why bother hav­ing chil­dren?’”

She be­gan her jour­nal­ism ca­reer in Ade­laide as a re­searcher for ABC TV’S This Day Tonight in 1978, and then moved to Na­tion­wide, a nightly cur­rent af­fairs show, as a re­porter.

In 1983 Goward trans­ferred to Syd­ney, leav­ing her hus­band to take care of their young daugh­ters.

“Katie is 43 years old, she can make her own de­ci­sions. I know that she’s very able”

She told a news­pa­per at the time that she had “run Ade­laide dry… I knew Ade­laide back­wards, I knew ev­ery­body and ev­ery­thing that was hap­pen­ing. It wasn’t much of a chal­lenge.”

Goward won a Walk­ley Award that year for her ac­claimed TV in­ter­view with no­to­ri­ous Syd­ney crim­i­nal Ge­orge Free­man. But while her ca­reer took off, back home Fis­cher was com­plain­ing about be­ing a house-hus­band.

The mar­riage broke up, and Malkah and Penny joined their mother in Can­berra, where she be­came the first fe­male po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for ABC TV’S The 7.30 Re­port, and ABC Ra­dio’s AM, PM, and The World To­day shows.

In 1986, Goward mar­ried jour­nal­ist David Bar­nett, 20 years her se­nior, a for­mer press sec­re­tary to Mal­colm Fraser, and a friend of John Howard’s.

Bar­nett al­ways sup­ported her ca­reer, says Goward. “It was won­der­ful to be mar­ried to a jour­nal­ist who knew so much about the world af­fairs.”

The cou­ple moved to a farm near Yass and had a daugh­ter, Alice, now 28. But by then, Goward says, at­ti­tudes to work­ing moth­ers had soft­ened.

“No one’s sit­ting there wag­ging their fin­ger be­ing dis­ap­prov­ing,” she says. “But it doesn’t al­ter the fact that it’s a huge strug­gle for a con­sci­en­tious mother. When I had Alice, I had my own ra­dio show on the ABC in Can­berra. If I’d taken my whole ma­ter­nity leave en­ti­tle­ment, I wouldn’t have got my slot back, be­cause you can’t have a ra­dio slot empty for 12 months. It’s very com­pet­i­tive, so I went back to work at four months with Alice.

“I used to feed her in the morn­ing be­fore I started work at 6am to be on air at 8.30am. I’d feed her, get to work and then ex­press be­fore I went on air, freeze the milk and give it to my mother… and she would feed her the ex­pressed milk. It was so hard and I felt for Alice, too.”

Be­fore Alice was born, Goward’s job was even more hec­tic, and she tried to be su­per­mum. “We lived quite close to Par­lia­ment House, so I’d get off air at 8.30am, rush home and take [the kids] to school,” she re­calls. “I’d oc­ca­sion­ally do tuck­shop duty and then I’d have to get back to work for the next show at mid­day... Then I’d take Katie and Penny to mu­sic classes, which meant rush­ing them to the mu­sic teacher, hop­ing they didn’t get de­layed so I could get back to Par­lia­ment House to in­ter­view the Prime Min­is­ter or some­thing for PM.”

She feels guilty now that she rushed her daugh­ters: “We are hard on our­selves as moth­ers.”

In an in­ter­view Malkah did in her 20s, she re­mem­bered her mother as, “this sexy, glam, bunny-fur-coat wear­ing fig­ure. All the other mums would come to net­ball in their track­suits or their nice, neat, ironed jeans, and Mum would ap­pear, go­ing, ‘Oh! I’m such a bad mother. Oh! You must read some Ger­maine Greer. Oh! I must work in the tuck­shop.’”

But Malkah and Penny en­joyed Par­lia­ment House. “They grew up there,” Goward says. “Some days they caught the bus from school and I’d take them to af­ter­noon tea. The at­ten­dants spoiled them. [Bob Hawke’s ad­vi­sor] Col Parks al­ways let them sit in Hawke’s chair. They were a big part of my life.

“I re­call Katie pick­ing up the phone when Paul Keat­ing called to rouse on me. He said: ‘It’s Paul Keat­ing here,’ and she said, ‘Yeah, and I’m Fa­ther Christ­mas. Mu-uu-um, there’s this guy who says he’s Paul Keat­ing on the phone!’”

Goward was axed from The 7.30 Re­port in 1987, soon af­ter new ABC man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Hill ar­rived, be­cause she was seen as too con­ser­va­tive. She went on to host a show on Can­berra ra­dio. But in the late ’90s, she left jour­nal­ism. As Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sioner, she de­vel­oped Aus­tralia’s first paid parental leave scheme. It was re­jected, but she’s proud of hav­ing started the de­bate.

In 2007 Goward em­barked on her third ca­reer, as the Lib­eral MP for Goul­burn in NSW. She now spends her time try­ing to work out “why the 13th largest econ­omy in the world can have in­ter­gen­er­a­tional poverty and fam­ily dys­func­tion like we do. Why have we spent bil­lions and bil­lions for so long and still have kids whose great-grand­par­ents didn’t work and ev­ery gen­er­a­tion is grow­ing up in pub­lic hous­ing? I see these poor lit­tle faces, dis­rup­tive kids, ex­hausted kids, kids who go on the school ex­cur­sion and don’t have any money.”

Goward is an ad­vo­cate for us­ing adop­tion to res­cue chil­dren from harm­ful en­vi­ron­ments, and late last month an­nounced a range of re­forms be­ing im­ple­mented by the NSW Gov­ern­ment de­signed to pro­vide per­ma­nent homes for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, in­clud­ing a means-tested adop­tion al­lowance to en­able more fos­ter fam­i­lies to con­sider adop­tion. “If par­ents can’t ad­dress their par­ent­ing prob­lems, such as drugs and al­co­hol, you have no choice re­ally: you’ve got to give the child a sta­ble home.”

Is she still am­bi­tious? “I think ev­ery­one has a ba­ton in their knapsack… I think if I’d gone into par­lia­ment 10 years ear­lier I might have had dif­fer­ent am­bi­tions, but I had the huge re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of man­ag­ing teenage daugh­ters, so that wouldn’t have been great.”

These days, she spends as much time as pos­si­ble with her three young grand­chil­dren – Penny’s daugh­ters, Ade­laide, Mathilda and Ce­celia – who live a cou­ple of hours from the fam­ily farm at Yass, where Goward shows them how to col­lect fresh-laid eggs from her three chooks and cook with them. “It’s great be­ing a grand­mother,” she says, “be­cause you don’t have that over­whelm­ing sense of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery­thing ev­ery day.”

As for Malkah, who now lives in Mel­bourne, Goward hopes they will rec­on­cile one day. “We’ll see. We have quite a few years to go.”

“It’s great be­ing a grand­mother be­cause you don’t have that sense of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery­thing”

MOTHER & CHILD (from top) Pru Goward with her daugh­ter, then known as Kate Fis­cher, in 2001; Tzi­po­rah Malkah in her re­al­ity-tv role.

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