Compering a Moet & Chandon champagne tasting in Sydney on October 23, Lisa Wilkinson was all upbeat charm, riffing to the A-list crowd on the usual mode of using a job title by way of introduction. “I’m Lisa Wilkinson,” she said drily. “And I’m from nowhere.”
Maybe – but she was everywhere. Days earlier, the 58-year-old gobsmacked the Australian TV industry and her legion of fans by dramatically defecting from her co-hosting role on Nine’s Today show after ten years in the chair. There were no fanfare or farewells: Wilkinson used social media to breezily announce her departure from the breakfast show then, just as coolly, tweeted she already had another high-profile gig and was jumping ship to Ten’s The Project in 2018.
While she’s remained classily close-mouthed since dropping her bombshell, Wilkinson’s motive in kicking Today to the kerb was theorised upon endlessly in the media and around water coolers.
Reports claimed she wanted Nine to give her salary parity with co-host Karl Stefanovic and took a stand when they didn’t. Nine fought its corner and spilled insider details, saying it offered their experienced star a $1.8 million package but were still “unable to meet expectations” during contract negotiations.
Other high-profile journalists, including Women in Media national convenor Tracey Spicer, hailed Wilkinson as a hero who highlighted the issue of gender pay gaps. The BBC reported on her “equal pay row.”
Her daughter, Billie FitzSimons, was among those talking up Lisa’s stance, taking to Instagram with a photo of the pair in workout gear, giving matching thumbs up: “Thank you Mum, for paving the way for the next generation. You are a leader and an inspiration for so many.”
Meanwhile, the lady herself took pleasure in small things – going to an evening movie, dinner with the family, sleeping in past 3AM – and was friendly to media who camped for days outside her waterside mansion. But she was way too canny to give them more than a signature mega-watt smile. Her husband, author and columnist Peter FitzSimons, hinted that the lady herself will tell her story when she’s good and ready.
“I am very proud of Mrs Wilkinson,” he said. “But I’ll let her speak for herself.”
Bring it on.
From A-list stars to politicians and athletes, we’ve named the 13 Australians who made headlines and sparked conversations – both heated and admiring – across the nation in 2017. Some covered themselves in glory. Some created controversy. Some made reputations, others lost them. From the cricket arena to the same sex marriage battlefield, regardless of whether they were beloved or booed, their personal and professional wins and downfalls had us talking over dinner tables and media channels.