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EXCLUSIVE: Ray Martin on how becoming a grandfather changed his life and why he will “never” retire

''You have forever to sleep – you’ve got to have a go!''
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After being in the media spotlight for more than 50 years, Ray Martin reckons he’s finally got the best job in the world.

Taking in the rugged landscapes of Norfolk Island, the veteran journalist admits he can’t help but feel a little guilty he’s getting paid to spend time in paradise.

“I never take it for granted. I always think, I’m getting too old for this stuff but then the phone rings,” says Ray, who spent weeks filming a documentary about the island, 1412 km east of the mainland, and its unique history.

Ray says he will “never” retire.

(Image: SBS)

“I feel really guilty! I get paid for this. It’s incredible fun and a privilege.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking Ray would be ready to put his feet up and relax at this time in his life, but the 77-year-old assures Woman’s Day he has no plans to slow down.

“I’m never going to retire,” Ray chuckles from his current base, a hotel in Geelong, Victoria, where he’s about to depart for his next adventure – a train journey on The Ghan.

David Attenborough is now 95 and he’s my role model. He says you’ve got to keep doing what you love.”

Reflecting on his career, NSW-born Ray confesses he finds it hard to pick a favourite moment.

“There are so many, but my holy trinity is Sir Donald Bradman, Fred Hollows, the iconic eye doctor, and David Attenborough – those three are certainly standouts,” he says.

Ray with his wife Dianne.

(Image: Supplied)

“And of course, there have been a lot of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

But with the highs come the lows, and Ray admits his career isn’t without regrets.

“My regret would be not doing more than I’ve done,” he reveals. “I lived in New York for 10 years as the ABC correspondent in New York and Washington in the ’70s and I worked eight days a week, and yet I think of all the things I didn’t do and should have done.

“You have forever to sleep – you’ve got to have a go!”

From popstars to popes, Ray’s interviewee list reads like a who’s who of showbiz, politics and world leaders, but he reveals there’s still one dream interviewee left on his bucket list.

“Every journalist would like to get the interview with the Queen,” he confesses. “Which will never happen, but she’d have secrets to tell. It would be amazing.”

“My grandson is four-and-a-half and he’s given me 20 years of life.”

(Image: Supplied)

Juggling work and family life hasn’t always been easy for Ray, who often had to work away from his wife of more than

50 years, Dianne, and children Jenna and Luke, for months at a time while reporting from across the globe.

So what’s the couple’s secret to a long and happy union? Well, the newsman says, it’s all about spending time apart!

“Filming [60 Minutes] we’d be away for 12 weeks at a time and we’d joke 60 Minutes would keep marriages together because we’d be away from each other so often,” he says with a laugh.

“I’ve got an amazing wife – Dianne is very independent, and she likes her own time, so during COVID when we were locked down for four months and we don’t often spend so much time together… the amount of times she looked at her watch and said, ‘Isn’t it time you went somewhere?!’ I’m surprised we survived.”

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But while he’s reported across breakfast TV, Midday, 60 Minutes and A Current Affair, for Ray the best job he’s ever taken on is the role of grandad to Arlo, four, and six-week-old Harper.

“My grandson is four-and-a-half and he’s given me 20 years of life. We spend a lot of time together,” says Ray, revealing he’s affectionately been dubbed “Mondo” by little Arlo.

“I see him almost every day and drop him at preschool a couple of days a week.”

And what does Arlo think of seeing Ray on TV?

“He’ll ask, ‘What are you doing, Mondo? How come you’re on the television?’ and I’ll tell him it’s just an accident,” Ray chuckles.

Norfolk Island with Ray Martin is now streaming on SBS On Demand.

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