ALWAYS A LOCAL
Born in Wangaratta and brought up in Chiltern, meet journalist Barrie Cassidy.
Can you tell us about life as a kid in the North East?
I was born at Wangaratta hospital but brought up at Chiltern and I didn’t leave the North East until I moved from the Border Mail in Albury to the Shepparton News when I was 22. Didn’t go far. But eventually, I was offered a job by the afternoon Melbourne Herald.
Can you tell us briefly what you do now and where you are?
For the past 17 and a half years I’ve been hosting a program that I established myself, Insiders, a political discussion program on ABC Sunday mornings. It’s developed to the point where it now has the largest daytime audience of any show on Australian TV.
What did you love about growing up in the North East?
Growing up as a kid in Chiltern was ideal. It seemed like the whole town was the playground. Nobody had any fears about kids, even of primary school age, just wandering about and enjoying the place. The highway went through Chiltern’s main street when I was young and that brought with it a certain excitement. You never knew what you would see in the main street.
Let us know some of your career high points?
I’ve had a full and varied career. In the main I’ve been a political reporter, which was never the aim until it was suggested to me in my late 20s. I started at the Victorian parliament and eventually became senior political correspondent in Canberra. I then went on to be Bob Hawke’s senior press secretary for four years, and I travelled with him to about 30 countries. I’ve also worked overseas in Brussels and Washington. And, as I mentioned, I’ve hosted a few programs over the years – like Meet The Press, The 7.30 Report, Insiders and Offsiders.
What’s the first thing you do when you return to the North East?
My parents have both passed on, so I don’t go back as regularly as I used to. But I still find all sorts of excuses to go back, not just to Chiltern, but to other towns in the region like Rutherglen, Beechworth and Yackandandah. To my mind they are the best examples of the old gold mining towns that you’ll find anywhere in Australia. The first thing that I do? Probably check out the pub and see if I can still put names to faces. Once, I would have said go to the footy. But it’s been quite a while now since Chiltern have been a strong side. Hopefully that’ll change soon enough.
After living away from the region, what is it about the North East that has always stayed with you?
The North East – and Wangaratta in particular – is why I barrack for Collingwood. I, along with my younger brother Megsie, got lost in the main street when I was about four. A sports store owner found us and took care of us until my parents tracked us down. His name was Bob Rose. A legend then and a legend forever. That did it for me. Megsie stuck with Dad’s team, Melbourne.