Sonia Kruger digs in for Nine’s drought relief concert, Hay Mate: Buy A Bale
HER career has taken her around the country and around the world, before making her home with her TV executive partner Craig McPherson and their daughter Maggie, in a harbourside suburb of Sydney.
But Toowoomba-born TV presenter Sonia Kruger has felt her heartstrings pull her back to the bush where her mother Margaret and her large family were raised – in a rural community which, like many, has done it tough through the lean years of drought.
It was 1915 when Kruger’s maternal grandparents, Harry and Winifred Franklin, settled in Kingaroy – peanut country in Queensland.
“She was a war bride and came out from England. He was injured as a soldier in Gallipoli and so … they went to Kingaroy and she never left because she got pregnant every year,” Kruger tells TV Guide.
Seventeen children and 75 grandchildren later and the expansive Franklin family are spread far and wide around the Sunshine State – in one way or another feeling the effects of the devastating drought.
Kingaroy itself is one of the 23 local government areas across Queensland affected, with record low rainfall and very little to fill its catchment dams.
But as a little girl, Kruger remembers it in happier times, spending holidays on the “tiny farm” and relishing the freedom of country life.
“Let’s just say there was not a lot of cotton-wooling of children back then,” she recalls.
“I remember getting on these horses one day, bare back, my sister and I and the horse she was on just took off. I’m not sure how old we were, but they were heading straight for the clothesline and we were like, ‘duck, duck!’ Luckily, Deb fell off before we got to the clothesline, but we just ran riot. We played by the dam, we explored, it was wonderful.”
It’s personal, then, for Kruger to be co-hosting Nine’s fundraising concert and telethon
Hay Mate: Buy A Bale next Saturday night.
Broadcast live from Tamworth’s Scully Park, the benefit concert will be headlined by former Australian of the Year and multiple-ARIA winner John Farnham. Daryl Braithwaite, Guy Sebastian, The Veronicas, Jon Stevens and Andrew Farriss from INXS have also thrown their hat in the ring to rock the stage; raising money for Rural Aid (a charity which provides support for bush communities).
For a lot of city slickers, the drought can be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
But as Kruger knows from her experience on her family’s remote property, the mod cons of 2018 aren’t within easy reach for farmers and their children – strapped for cash and access.
“We went up to the farm as kids and I remember what it was like … how remote it was, how difficult it could be. As a city kid, when you grow up, you have cars with power windows and colour televisions and everyone’s got an iPad,” she says. “You go out to farms like that and it’s super basic and you are literally living off the land. You can’t be popping down to Coles or Woolies.”
Kruger moved to south Brisbane at the age of three, and teases that her 75 first cousins were the reason she f led the state and headed south to establish her showbiz career 25 years ago. “I was scared I might accidentally marry one of them,” she joked.
Determined to bring some of the sparkle she first showed in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom to the drought concert stage, Kruger is already planning the wardrobe of her co-hosts Richard Wilkins and David Campbell.
“Richard will come as Johnny Cash, dressed in black, obviously,” she explains. “And I’m trying to convince David to do the Rhinestone Cowboy, but he’s into being the Electric Horseman. Either which way, I want to see some Swarovski crystals up on that stage because, ‘that’s showbiz’.”
She has another reason to dress to impress and that’s the return of “Farnsy”.
While it’s become a running joke that the You’re The Voice singer has made a career later in life out of farewell tours, Kruger was front and centre as host of his very first “Last Time” concert, which was televised more than a decade ago. A celebrity phone bank will take donations across Australia, with Nine Network talent and industry favourites lining up to lend a hand. Nine has already kick- started its drought appeal, raising $10.5 million from Today and Today Extra’s audience support. “This is a devastating time for our farmers, so it’s a privilege to be involved with the Hay Mate: Buy A Bale benefit,” Kruger says. “Our aim is to raise a huge amount of money and provide some muchneeded relief to the farmers and families suffering out there.”
HAY MATE: BUY A BALE 7PM, SATURDAY, NINE EDITOR Holly Byrnes REVIEWS Amelia Saw, Colin Vickery, Leigh Paatsch, Cameron Adams COVER IMAGE Dylan Robinson COVER DESIGN Paul Leigh PICTURE EDITOR Neil Bennett ADVERTISING (02) 9288 2104 PRODUCTION Pagemasters. Published by News Limited, 26 Hume Hwy, Chullora NSW 2190, for News Corp Australia. PROGRAM INFORMATION: Is correct at the time of printing, but may be subject to late change by individual television networks amending their schedules.