hris Bath isn’t used to having a camera in her face anymore. “I have forgotten how much I really don’t enjoy doing this stuff,” the 51year old says with a wry laugh as she poses for her Stellar photo shoot. But for more than 25 years, looking down the barrel was a daily event for Bath, who started her career at Sydney’s 2UE radio station then quickly moved toward television. At the height of her run at the Seven Network, she was presenting its current affairs program Sunday Night as well as anchoring the weeknight Sydney news.
Photo shoots might not be her thing, and she now hosts ABC Radio Sydney’s Evenings. But TV still feels like home, she admits, so she looks forward to getting in front of the camera again to host the ABC’S nightly round-up of the Invictus Games. “Television is a bit like putting on a comfortable old pair of jeans,” she says. “Sometimes being on radio is like being in a skintight dress with stilettos, and I feel really uncomfortable. Even though I’ve loved not having to worry about what I look like – god that’s been good! – I’m really looking forward to Invictus.”
The international multi-sport event, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans compete, was created by Prince Harry in 2014. Bath is already an avid sports enthusiast, but tells Stellar that’s not
why she signed up to host Invictus Games Today. “The thing I really love about the Invictus Games is that it’s not about who’s the fastest or strongest; it’s actually about the people who really need what Invictus can give them, and in a lot of cases it’s about giving them the motivation to get on with life.”
It’s also personal. Bath’s father Don had the first of two strokes nine years ago. “The other side of it is that coming from a family who’s been dealing with someone with a disability – and all the things that brings with it – the families and carers of people competing are recognised,” she says. “They get to march with them at the opening ceremony. Behind anybody in that sort of situation is a whole support crew. I think the hardest part of working on it is going to be not crying, you know? Because these stories just kill you – what these people have gone through and how they’ve persisted. They’re inspiring, but they break your heart at the same time.”
Bath’s return to TV after a three-year break has been cause for some reflection, and a reminder that the medium made her one of the country’s most familiar faces in the ’90s, particularly after she scored the coveted nightly news gig when Ian Ross retired in 2009. Being a woman on TV, she says, placed more pressure on her to get it right. “I honestly thought [anchoring the news] wasn’t a trailblazing thing,” she says now of the commentary around her appointment. “There were women before me who did, and I thought the world had gotten to the point where it was quite easy for a woman to do that.
“I do think women on television are often judged on their appearance rather than what comes out of their mouth. And I don’t think it just applies to television – it applies to a range of things. There are pressures on women in media that aren’t the same for men, but I think we’ve grown up a little bit and I don’t think women now are under the same pressure as some of the women in media who went before us,” she says.
Yet she admits that it depends, like so many things, on who you’re working for. “I’ve worked for some bosses who were gender blind; they didn’t care. If they thought you could do it, they’d get you to do it. But not everybody was like that. I have also worked for bosses who are complete psychopaths. It’s not necessarily because they were sexist… they were just sociopaths.”
When it came time to renew her contract with the Seven Network in 2015, Bath opted to walk away. The reason, she explains, is that “I was just ready for a change. It was a really big decision, but I just felt I was done… It was time to see what else I could do. I was actually pretty excited, to be honest, to have a bit of a rest! I didn’t do the gap year thing, so I had my gap year at 49.”
Her husband, sports journalist Jim Wilson, helped her with the transition. “Jimmy was a big part of the reason I felt comfortable enough and have enough confidence to go, maybe I should try something else,” she tells Stellar. The pair have been married since 2012, though they’d known each other, on air, for years. (Bath shares a 17-year-old son, Darcy, with her ex-partner, composer Denis Carnahan.) “To be honest, I didn’t really think about [marriage], and if you’d told me it was going to be Jim Wilson I would have laughed, which is a terrible thing to say! Jimmy was just the nice sporty boofhead.” Yet here they are. “Jimmy is the most generous, can-do, giving, wonderful man in the world. I definitely underestimated him.”
If she sounds like a woman driven by the heart, she’ll happily take it – at home or at work – and that’s whether the self-professed “bird nerd” is devoting radio hours to her passion for ornithology or teeing up her TV return out of a genuine connection to the project. “For me, the Invictus Games are primarily about love. I know that sounds really soppy, but I think it’s about love on a number of levels: love for your country, love for your fellow man, love of family and friends.” Invictus Games Today starts 7.40pm, Sunday October 21, on the ABC.
(from top) Actor Rami Malek as Queen’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury in the upcoming biopic Bohemian Rhapsody; with his Short Term 12 co-star Brie Larson in 2016; receiving an Emmy two years ago for his lead role in cult TV series