Like most journalists, Tara Brown would prefer to be the one posing the questions – and, despite fronting 60 Minutes for so long, almost nothing has been written about her. Until now.
Sitting at her desk, surrounded by a photo of her beautiful boys, six-year-old Jack and four-year-old Tom (and shots on the job with AC/DC and Powderfinger) Tara is warm and accommodating – even if she does spend half the chat torturing a screwed-up tissue in her hands as she talks.
She may seem a picture of calm on screen, but she isn’t completely devoid of neuroses.
“Tara frets over interviews,” says 60 Minutes’ Executive Producer, Tom Malone, “because she knows, if the interview doesn’t fly, then the story isn’t going to fly.”
Tara is known for her forensic approach and nowhere was that more evident, says Tom, than in her interview last year with baby Gammy’s father, David Farnell, a convicted child sex offender who abandoned his son with Down syndrome in Thailand with the child’s surrogate mother.
“She got the tone right, and it’s a hard thing to do because you can’t just go in and beat someone up,” says Tom. “You know you’ve got Australia riding on your back, wanting you to ask the tough questions, but you’ve got to do it delicately and in a manner that is as objective as it can be.”
It would be naïve, however, to think that total objectivity is possible.
Since becoming a mother, Tara says, she has become more prone to tears and more strident in matters involving the mistreatment of children.
“As a journalist, you try to go into these things open-minded, but I think the truth of it is, you still come with a bias,” she says.
In her recent “Baby Bling” story, she met a mother who fake-tanned her toddler and put the child on stage to hip-thrust in a Hooters costume. “As a mother, I probably go into it much more judgmental because I do think it’s a form of child abuse,” she says.
“I don’t understand why women would do that to children.”
Tara spent her own childhood riding horses and devouring Enid Blyton books.
In the early years, she grew up with her two younger brothers on a property outside the small NSW-Queensland border town of Wallangarra, in a house built by her father, a stonemason.
When she was about nine, though, her parents divorced. “It was a very bitter split,” recalls Tara, “and I haven’t seen him since shortly after that time.”
To read the full interview pick up a copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly, on sale Thursday.