“You see life through their eyes”
Having raised four children over the duration of their 40-year marriage, David and Libby Koch are enjoying the next chapter of their lives: their five grandkids Photography NICK SCOTT Styling IRENE TSOLAKAS Interview AMELIA SAW
David and Libby Koch invite Stellar into their home to celebrate Grandparents Day and share the joy and chaos of family time with their five beloved grandkids.
Taking a simple family portrait for Stellar is anything but straightforward at the Koch house: with five grandkids ranging in age from two to 11, it quickly becomes clear the task is nothing short of unbridled chaos.
“Hey, Poppy! Look what I can do!” yells one grandson, as he swings off a beam from the pergola roof where the family is sitting, in a scene that calls to mind Mowgli in The Jungle Book. David Koch shoots the little boy a warm smile, but his attention is abruptly drawn to his left leg, where a twoyear-old is throwing a tantrum that could wake the dead.
The Sunrise presenter leans down, scoops up the bawling boy and begins rocking and dipping him in his arms until the child, mesmerised by the movement, stops crying. This only provides a segue to the next drama, as a third grandson shoves his chin in David’s face, demanding it be inspected for a splinter.
It’s exhausting to watch but in the eye of the storm, grandparents David and Libby Koch are perfectly calm. Perhaps it’s a technique they’ve refined over 40 years of marriage, the building of a media empire and the raising of four children – all of whom were born by the time they were 32.
Now, with five grandchildren in the mix, they say today’s Grandparents Day will give them the chance to relish the wonderful mayhem that this life chapter has brought. “Look, having families isn’t for everyone,” says David, 62, finally enjoying a moment’s peace in his stylishly decorated living room in the family home on Sydney’s northern beaches. “We decided to have our kids really young and it was a deliberate decision because we wanted to be young enough as they grow older that we could understand them and still be active, and so we have also been really active grandparents.”
For 16 years, David Koch has been a familiar face in Australian households as the longstanding host of the Seven Network’s breakfast TV show Sunrise. It’s a gig that comes with 3am wake-up calls and the unrelenting pressure of a ratings war with Today, its fierce rival on Nine. Then there’s the family businesses, content and marketing agencies Pinstripe Media and KBB Digital, and David’s TV program Kochie’s Business Builders, which has produced more than 100 episodes.
In addition, he’s chairman of the Port Adelaide Football Club and the couple is heavily involved with charity Youth Off The Streets, which has seen them establish the Koch Centre for Youth and Learning, to help disadvantaged young people in western Sydney. These are no doddering grandparents.
Libby, 61, admits becoming hands-on grandparents to their daughter Samantha’s children, Matilda, 11, Oscar, nine, and Lila, six, and their daughter Brie’s kids, Jax, six, and Teddy, two, has made life more of a juggle – but it’s a complication they have embraced.“it’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful; it’s enriched our life, but it’s definitely busier. But that’s because we want to be involved and it gives our daughters a big hand,” she says.
David, who refers to Libby, a former nurse, as the “world’s greatest mother and nurturer”, believes his grandkids are the perfect antidote to adult negativity – a phenomenon he suggests is far too widespread for a country that is thriving economically.
“If anyone’s grumpy to me I just say, ‘ Why on earth are you grumpy when you consider what we have in this country?’ We’re on a world record streak of economic prosperity, but it’s the most hated period,” he says. “And that’s what grandkids do: they make you look at the world through their eyes. And it’s so pure and passionate.”
He applies this same optimistic attitude to his jam-packed schedule. Rather than complaining about the crack-of-dawn wake-up calls, he celebrates his baldness. It means less time in the make-up chair than co-stars Samantha Armytage and Natalie Barr, and by default extra cherished minutes of snooze time.
He’s also had to learn to take controversy in his stride – with live TV
“This gig started because we wanted to be together and wanted a family, so we remind ourselves of that”
giving David ample time to land himself in hot water. There was the time he was threatened with a mob of angry mums outside the Sunrise studio after he said women should be “classy” when breastfeeding, and the moment he set social media alight with criticism by suggesting Irish republicans may be behind the Boston Marathon bombings. Then earlier this month, while discussing Jamaican-born sprinter Usain Bolt’s potential transfer from football club Central Coast Mariners to play with Maltese outfit Valletta FC, he made a reference to slavery that raised eyebrows.
“Basically, the use of the word slavery is a reference I’ve used to defend players who want to trade clubs or change jobs in sport,” he later clarified on Twitter. “You can’t keep them... it’s a free world. There’s no slavery any more. People have rights. I admit it was clumsily put this morning when talking about Bolt shifting clubs so early and I should have explained it better.”
But for the most part he is unapologetic when it comes to those who take umbrage at what he says in the course of several hours of live TV every week. “What you see is what you get. Sometimes I share too much about Lib and the kids,” he admits, adding that he has regularly come off air to see an angry message from his wife. “That’s what I love about text messages,” says Libby. “I get it off my chest straight away.”
Yet this time last year, the popular host considered quitting. “I thought this would be our [my] last year doing Sunrise. I was wondering whether it was time for a change but Seven disagreed, so it was good. I’ve got another two years,” he says. Eventually, he negotiated a four-day work week to sweeten the deal.
When it does come to an end, he’s not sure what his next move would entail, but is resolute about one thing: he’ll never stop working.
Being able to appreciate the good times is not just something that the Koch family recommends, it’s been a necessary factor in making it through four decades of marriage, a milestone they’ll be celebrating come January with an anniversary trip to Dubai.
After marrying in their early 20s in 1979, David and Libby welcomed their first child, Samantha, when they were 24 and 23, respectively. It was before they had established their careers and coincidentally just before the staff at The Australian newspaper, where David was a cadet journalist,went on a six-week strike due to the introduction of computers. “So that was a bit tense,” says Libby.
“Certainly having kids so young – and I ended up starting our own little business – it puts a lot of strain on your relationship, but it made it stronger, a lot closer and the kids have grown up closer,” adds David. “It was a workthrough,” explains Libby. “But because you work through it, with the next thing that comes along that’s a struggle you think, ‘ Well, OK, I handled the last thing, I can do this.’”
They admit arguing, and loudly, is a regular part of their relationship, but believe airing their differences and moving on has been key to keeping them together. They don’t adhere to the advice of never going to bed angry, but try to retain a healthy sense of perspective.
“We always take it back to why we started doing this. This gig started because we wanted to be together and we wanted a family, so we remind ourselves of that. We’re both Pisceans, and like the Piscean sign we are two fish that go in opposite directions,” says David. “But sometimes,” Libby adds, “we swim together.”
“What you see is what you get. Sometimes I share too much”
David and Libby Koch, as photographed for Stellar.
(from top) FAMILY David BUSINESS Koch and Sunrise co-star Samantha Armytage interviewing then-pm Malcolm Turnbull on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games in April; David and wife Libby with their four children in 2016; the couple on their wedding day in January 1979.
(below, from left) DAVID WEARS Trenery shirt, trenery.com.au JAX WEARS Tiny Cottonstop, and Rylee + Cru LILA WEARS Tiny Cottonsoveralls and top, as before OSCAR WEARS Rylee+ Cru overalls, as before; Zara shirt, zara.com/au LIBBY WEARS Country Road top andpants, countryroad.com.au Zara top, asbefore; Rylee + Cru pants, as before MATILDA WEARS Zara dress, as before