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Celebrity Spotlight: Ita Buttrose
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 6, No. 3 - May/June 2014

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Who inspired you from a young age to progress into the media career and why?

I was influenced by my father who was a journalist, editor and author but I always knew that writing was what I wanted to do and decided to become a journalist when I was 11. I had no idea that my career would develop the way that it has though. I have had a wonderful career that has allowed me to travel, meet people - some famous, some not famous - and also to witness historic events. I have never regretted my decision all those years ago to become a journalist.

Please tell us about your family.

I was one of four children and grew up with three brothers Julian, William and Charles. Sadly William died eight years ago from cancer. I have two children Kate, who is an architect and managing director of an architectural company in Sydney and Ben, who is a senior research scientist at the CSIRO in Canberra. I have five grandchildren - three girls and two boys.

Do you speak another language?

French - but not very fluently as I don't get to use it enough.

What is your favourite hobby and why?

I like gardening and growing roses. I love being out of doors and having the time to enjoy planting things and watching them grow. I am now preparing a part of my garden to become a veggie patch.

If you could have chosen any other career path, what may it have been?

I did once think I might become an opera singer but my calling wasn't strong enough to overcome my desire to become a journalist.

How do you feel about the changes in technology and the influences these changes have had on the communications industry over the years?

I think technology is exciting and that it has changed the way we communicate for the better. It has certainly transformed the publishing industry. When I first started work, it used to take a couple of days to fly colour film from London to Sydney. We would collect it at Customs at Sydney Airport and then deliver it to our photography studio in Castlereagh Street in Sydney's CBD, where it would take several hours for the film to be processed. Today via the Internet we can transmit photographs form all over the world to Australia in a matter of minutes. The biggest challenge all of us have is to keep up with technology. For instance what we know about technology right at this very moment will be very different in 12 months' time.

What has been your most memorable career highlight to date?

Without doubt being named 2013 Australian of the Year is the most memorable thing that has happened to me and something that no one ever imagines happening to them. It allowed me to talk about matters of concern like the rapidly increasing rates of Alzheimer's disease and dementia which affects so many Australians and, without a medical breakthrough, will impact on millions of us in the years ahead. As National President of Alzheimer's Australia, I welcomed the opportunity of being Australian of the Year to raise awareness of dementia.

What advice do you have for parents who find it hard to maintain a healthy work/life balance?

You're only here once and you need to make the most of every moment. Work is exciting and fulfilling (most of the time) but when we are older and relaxing in our rocking chairs we won't be thinking about things we did in the workforce but about our relationships, especially the ones we have with our families. All relationships need to be given time and that includes time with your children when they are little and in their teens. Recent surveys tell us that children want to spend more time with their parents. They would like their parents to listen to them and many of them wish their parents didn't drink alcohol as much as they do as it makes kids feel anxious.

If you could invite any guest to dinner, who would it be?

Hugh Jackman - I think he is a really nice man, a great advertisement for Australia, and a versatile performer who can act dramatically and also sing and do musical comedy... so after dinner I would ask him to sing me a couple of songs.

What magazines do you read? Do you read them online or do you prefer a hardcopy?

I read magazines online and also as hardcopy. I love magazines. I always read The Australian Women's Weekly and I like Vanity Fair, Wellness Magazine, Mind Food and the magazine inserts in The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review.

What are your top five healthy tips you can recommend since training with your personal trainer, Lee Campbell?

Try and exercise every day; walking is the easiest of all exercises and doesn't cost money; walking up and down stairs is great for legs and hips; use your local park as your gym - for instance you can do push-ups on a park bench; watch what you eat i.e. not too many sugary foods and juices and watch your portion sizes too, and make sure you eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.

What are your top holiday destinations?

New York and London. They are both vibrant destinations and I always return home relaxed and raring to go - and also with lots of new ideas.

About Ita Buttrose

Born on 17 January 1942 in Potts Point, Sydney, NSW, Ita Clare Buttrose has had an extraordinary career spanning over fifty years from newspapers and magazines, to television, radio and electronic publishing.

Her mind was set from an early age of 15 when she left school to work as a copy girl at The Australian Women's Weekly. Soon after, she became a cadet journalist on the Daily &Sunday Telegraph Women's Section in Sydney. She married her architect husband at the age of 21 and a few years later had two children, Kate and Ben. She was appointed women's editor of the Telegraphs at just 23 years old and in 1972, launched the very successful new women's magazine Cleo.

Three years later, Ita was appointed editor of The Australian Women's Weekly. She was editor-in-chief of both magazines from 1976-78, and then appointed Publisher of the Women's Division of Australian Consolidated Press. In 1981 she became the first woman to ever edit a major metropolitan newspaper in Australia when she was appointed editor-in-chief of The Daily & Sunday Telegraphs, a position she held until 1984; she was became the first woman to join the board of News Limited.

From 1984-1988, Ita was chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS). She currently co-hosts Studio 10 on Channel TEN and also dedicates her considerable energy and skills to supporting medical education and health care. Since 2011, she has been National President of Alzheimer's Australia and is also Director Emeritus of Arthritis Australia. She uses her national profile to raise awareness of breast cancer, HIV/AIDS. Prostate cancer and macular degeneration.

Ita is also a creative author and has published 11 books including her autobiography, A Passionate Life. In 2009, Penguin published Get in Shape: A complete workout for strength, health & vitality and in 2011, A Guide to Australian Etiquette.

More recently, Ita became the 2013 Australian of the Year and commended for her brilliant and groundbreaking media career.

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