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EXCLUSIVE: Melissa Doyle on her next adventure, her departure from Sunday Night and her gorgeous daughter Talia

As the cameras stop rolling on Sunday Night, Melissa Doyle tells Tiffany Dunk that she's ready for a new adventure – and this time she's bringing along her daughter, Talia, for the ride.

By Tiffany Dunk
Over 15 years ago, Melissa Doyle experienced two life-changing events which would change the course of her life to follow – one gloriously happy, the other absolutely heart breaking.
With her today as she chats to The Weekly and clearly the apple of her mother's eye, Talia is Melissa's second child – son Nick is two years older – and completed the family she has built with her husband, sports marketing executive John Dunlop.
The pair met when Melissa was just 23 and starting out on her journalism journey and from the outset they knew they had found a love that would last the distance.
The latter was an event which would rock people the world over.
On Boxing Day 2004, a tsunami caused by an earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean near Indonesia devastated the region, claiming over 230,000 lives in 14 different countries.
At the time, Melissa was co-hosting Sunrise and she – along with her colleagues and peers at the Seven Network – knew she had to do something, anything, to help.
The major networks joined forces to put on a fundraiser, all TV rivals putting aside any professional or personal differences for a greater cause.
Melissa Doyle was the host of Sunday Night on channel 7. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly
And her work on that day led to a fateful phone call from World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Tim Costello.
Would she, he asked Melissa, consider joining the World Vision family as a Goodwill Ambassador?
"My involvement with them was prior to that," recalls Melissa who, like many Australians, has sponsored several children over the years.
"But to be able to actually do it in an official capacity was pretty special. It's an honour."
Melissa Doyle and her daughter Talia chat to the Australian Women's Weekly. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly

A harrowing journey

Her first trip with the charity – which works with vulnerable children, families and communities to overcome both poverty and injustice – came in 2006 when Talia was just shy of three-years old.
It was minus 40 degrees in Mongolia when she arrived and, says Melissa, "was the first time I had ever witnessed poverty to that degree."
She wept as she saw families making an unthinkable choice in the depths of winter – today, do we buy food or firewood to sustain us?
Work in the community she visited was sparse, water unclean, illness rife and an education a pipedream for most.
Returning to Australia a changed person with a purpose, it was then, says Melissa, the importance of her involvement truly hit.
"The most confronting moment was when I came home and turned on a tap and there was clean water, I didn't have to traipse five kilometres to a well," she recalls.
WATCH: Melissa Doyle interviews William Tyrell's birth mother on Sunday Night. Story continues...
"I flicked on a light switch and there was electricity. Nick was going to the public school up the road, he had access to education and the kids could walk to the park safely,"
"Coming home, you see that contrast. You see the conditions that people face and you see what needs to be done – and you know you can do something tangible to help them."
Upon her return, Melissa consulted John and the kids and the family sponsored a girl from the region, Khulan, who today is 18 years old and studying to become a railway engineer.
Then she started figuring out where she could go next.
Juggling work, family and more, to date she has travelled to places in need including drought and famine stricken Southern Ethiopia, headed to refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan to learn first-hand the stories of those fleeing war torn Syria and returned to Indonesia on the 10th anniversary of that devastating Boxing Day tsunami.
"Because Mum has been doing this for 15 years, I've just grown up with it, I guess, so I've always known what she was doing with World Vision," says Talia of her mother's tireless efforts to lend her voice and profile to the cause.
"But I think I first became properly aware of it when I heard about Khulan. Mum would always tell us stories about her and give us little updates on what was happening in her community. She'd come back from trips telling us stories about the places she was going and why she was going there – what was happening and what it was like."
Melissa Doyle with Olivia Newton-John at the annual Wellness Walk and Research Run Getty
"I thought it was really important for the kids to know why I was going to be away from them," Melissa explains.
"I wanted them to recognize that if Mum's not there, it's because I needed to be doing something somewhere else. I wasn't just leaving them for a few weeks for no reason."
"I understood it was pretty important work she was doing," says Talia, with a smile for her mother. "She was like, 'I'm going to go and help people' and I was like, 'Sure, go do that!'"
Melissa Doyle has been working with World Vision for 15 years. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly

Parental Supervision

Raising kids with a charitable outlook has always been important to Melissa and John.
Both grew up with parents whose generosity was unfaltering and they wanted their own family continue in the same vein – to be generous not just with money but with time, compassion, care and, crucially, follow up.
"I want them to know that there is life outside this bubble," Melissa explains of the family stance.
"I never want them to feel guilty about what they have, but I want them to stop for a minute and recognize it and know that by helping others who don't have all of this is two-fold. Primarily you are helping them but I also think it's a special thing to do that makes you a better person."
So it's unsurprising that Talia, who recently turned 16, would want to see the work her mum does first hand – and become a World Vision Australia Goodwill Ambassador herself.
Together, they tell The Weekly, they are currently planning their first trip for Talia to make that step and for Melissa to pass the baton on to a new generation.
Melissa Doyle's daughter, Talia, wants to follow in her moms philanthropic footsteps. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly
"Being a young girl myself I'm really passionate about helping young girls around the world have the same experiences (I have)," Talia says of her eagerness to follow in her mother's footsteps.
"Education is such a big thing and we take that for granted here in Australia. I want to help women around the world not only be able to go to school but to stay and graduate and find a job."
In an age where teenagers often aren't taken seriously, whilst also being frustrated as what they feel is a lack of action from older generations, both mother and daughter are hoping to change those perceptions.
Her children, says Melissa, will often point out issues that may have gone under her radar. And their ideas are often more progressive than her own.
The topic of climate change is one that is very much on the agenda for youth – Talia included – and the work that teen activist Greta Thunberg is doing is exciting for her to watch.
"I've seen how much of an impact that she has had and it's pretty inspirational to see a 16-year-old girl doing that," says Talia.
"Climate change is something that everyone, all my friends, is really passionate about because it's our future. What we do now, the little time we have to make the change, can determine so much.
"One day we are going to be the leaders of this world and it's only fair that our voices are listened to now – and that we listen to everybody else's before we get into those roles and start to make those bigger changes."
Many people young and old cite Greta as a hero. But who, we ask Talia, are her others? Who inspires her most?
Melissa Doyle's daughter, Talia, looks up to activists like Greta Thunberg. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly
She grins shyly, glancing at her mother before answering with heartfelt words that see Melissa's eyes suddenly glisten with surprised and delighted tears.
"As much as it's a cliché and very expected," she starts hesitantly, "it's Mum. I see how hard she works behind the scenes, I see her perseverance and determination for her goal and how passionate she is,"
"She never gives up and never stops moving. When I'm like, 'I don't want to do this Mum, I don't want to get out of bed," she's like, 'Nope, you've got to get up and you've got to push through.' She's always been the one to look up to when I need it."
Melissa Doyle works with various charities, one being Adopt Change AU. Supplied

The next chapter

That can do attitude is definitely in place as we talk.
Just weeks prior news hit that Sunday Night, the show Melissa has hosted for close to four years was to be axed. The final episode aired on Sunday November 24.
Admitting she's not sure yet what the future holds for her workwise, one thing that she does know is that she's excited to see what's ahead.
"I think change is really healthy," she insists.
"Change keeps you fresh, keeps you invigorated, keeps you thinking. Having said that, I loved Sunday Night and we were all disappointed but these things happen and now maybe I can find a way to fit new things into my schedule – like this trip with Talia that we've been talking about.
Melissa Doyle looks forwards to spending more time with her family, but isn't crossing anything out. Photo by Alana Landberry. Women's Weekly
"When I left Sunrise [in 2013, she was replaced on the couch by Samantha Armytage] and it was a case of 'what's next?' I remember saying to myself, 'I'm just going to throw my arms open to the universe and say yes to everything and see what happens.' And look at the amazing things that have come since."
With Nick just having finished high school – he's currently weighing up his future options while catching up on some well-deserved sleep – and Talia heading into year 11, having that time to spend with family is welcomed.
They are real homebodies, Melissa laughs; all four preferring to spend Saturday evenings at home watching Netflix together rather than going out on their own separate ways.
Her family, she says, are her favourite people – a sentiment heartily echoed by Talia who as yet shows no sign of being a teenager desperate to be anywhere other than with her parents.
It's also a time, reflects Melissa with a definite hint of pleasure, that she's finding her kids require more of her attention than ever before.
"When they're little, you know that they need you," she explains.
Melissa Doyle talks with two of the Thai cave divers on Sunday Night. Supplied
"But I wish someone had told me that the older they get, the more they need you. At the moment, it's a patch where they really need us to get them through those next couple of years. It's an exciting time. I look at Nick and think, 'You are on the precipice of the rest of your life."
Being a mum is what will always give her the most pleasure. And for Talia and Nick, despite the fact that she's a household name, that's what Melissa is – she's "just Mum."
"She's always been on TV so it wasn't weird to me," she says of watching Melissa navigate her on air career over the years.
"But one time Mum, Nick and I went go-karting and paparazzi followed us there and asked for photos. I can't remember how long ago that was but it's one of my earliest memories of being, 'Wait, Mum's known to a lot of people. Maybe she's a bigger deal than I thought!"
So is she keen to follow in her mother's footsteps, not just with World Vision but with starting a TV career of her own?
"I don't think many children want to do what their parents do," chuckles Talia, and admits she's more interested in industrial design.
"I mean, TV's interesting, but it's not the path for me."
The January 2020 issue of The Australian Women's Weekly is on sale now.

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