Q&A Noni Hazlehurst says women need to help each other when those in power don’t.
ACTOR & PRESENTER
It’s International Women’s Day this week. What do you say to those people who call for an International Men’s Day? Oh, get over yourselves. I just can’t believe that there’s any kind of backlash against equality. What’s the problem? It’s bizarre that some men are so frightened of women not being subservient and submissive that the whole reaction to #Metoo is, “Men are going to be too scared to talk to women.” No – just don’t be an arsehole. Just behave like a human being with respect. You’ve said you were raised to believe wearing a nice dress and being nice to people was the way to get ahead, but that turned out not to be true. What was true? What turned out to be true is what I learnt on Play School, which is to be yourself. One of the few joys of getting older is you care less about what people think of you because you’re not in that competing arena of being young and trying to be attractive. You’ve worked out who you are to some extent, and my advice is: acting is easy, being is hard. We need to be aware that we all wear masks and we’re encouraged to wear masks. That’s why I appreciate very young children – they don’t have them. They can teach us how to be authentic. You were the second woman inducted into the Logies Hall Of Fame in 2016, and you called out sexism in your speech. Then 2017 brought #Metoo. Why do you think we are having this moment for gender equality? It’s never been more obvious that we can’t trust those in power to look after us, so we have to look after each other. I think the answer is action: doing whatever you can in your own environment and having a ripple effect, particularly with children, pointing out to them what is ethical and moral and what isn’t. You come from generations of vaudevillians, which gets explored in an upcoming episode of Who Do You Think You Are? – did you discover anything unusual about your ancestors? It was mind-boggling to find out about my great-grandparents, and I also learnt about my own parents, some things that happened to them that I wasn’t aware of. Their legacy was that you have to be able to do everything. They made sure that I could dance, sing, do accents, comedy, play the piano… they really made sure I could answer any call, basically. I think that versatility is the key to longevity – as well as turning up on time and knowing your lines. You’ve just finished a two-year tour of your one-woman play Mother. Is there anything special you take on the road to make any place feel like home? I take pictures of my sons, Charlie and William. And I think that I might have died of starvation in a previous life because I never feel
“Play School didn’t prepare me for having children; it just gave me craft techniques” “It’s never been more obvious that we can’t trust those in power to look after us, so we have to look after each other”
quite settled until I’ve done a bit of a shop: proper tea, coffee, vegies. And my Bialetti coffee maker. Did Play School help prepare you for parenthood? What I realised having my own children is that when I said, “Would you like to sing with me?” I always assumed the answer would be yes. And then I realised they were just as likely to go, “Nup.” It didn’t really prepare me for having children at all; it just gave me some craft techniques. How does it feel to be considered a spiritual mother to a generation? It’s the thing I’m proudest of. It taught me so much about communication and the preciousness of young children; that no child is born a bigot, and they need protection from the world. Every day of my life someone tells me they watched me on Play School. It’s fabulous. Your brilliant reading of the humorous “children’s book” Go The F*ck To Sleep went viral. Why do you think that resonated with so many people? When I read the book, I laughed like a drain because my first son didn’t sleep through the night until he was two. Women particularly don’t talk about this because we want to appear to be coping. There’s a lot of competition around parenting, and I felt it was just such a relief that someone had given voice to all the frustration and grief that you can’t settle your own child in such a funny way. For me, it was a cheeky way of doing something that I felt had a higher purpose. You’ve been married twice, you’ve cohabited, you’ve enjoyed the single state. What do you think is best? I enjoy being alone. I love my work, I love my kids and I very much enjoy my privacy and peace. I have a tribe-sized group of fabulous friends. We all look after and trust each other – and I think that’s enough for me. Square, round or arch window? I don’t have a preference! But my favourite toy is Little Ted, the underdog.