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Leigh Sales talks about her new job and her dream musical theatre role

''I wanted to be freed.''
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Leigh Sales used to know exactly where she would be at 7.30pm weeknights: grilling politicians on the ABC’s nightly current affairs show 7.30.

That meant she couldn’t be with her sons, Daniel and James.

”I missed out on sitting down with my kids every night and cuddling on the couch while we watch TV together,” she tells TV WEEK.

Leigh has been with the ABC since 1995.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

Having left 7.30 in the middle of last year, Leigh is now host of the long-running Australian Story.

That leaves her free to do other things with 11-year-old Daniel and nine-year-old James at 7.30pm.

”We’re watching Australian Survivor at the moment, because our friend Benjamin Law was on it,” she says.

”We were rooting for Ben, but I switched allegiance to Shaun [Hampson, the former AFL star] in the first 10 minutes because he’s so handsome. Nobody tell Ben.”

Chris Uhlmann was Leigh’s 7:30 co host in 2011, before she helmed the show solo.


Brisbane-born Leigh spent more than a decade as host of 7.30, gaining a reputation as one of Australia’s most respected journalists.

But over the years, viewers also got to see glimpses of her fun side on social media.

An accomplished pianist who once dreamed of being a musical theatre star, Leigh performed a little song when Tim Minchin appeared on 7.30 – and when Jimmy Barnes was on the show, she accompanied him on piano as he sang the Beatles’ ”Something”.

In Leigh’s six months off in between 7.30 and Australian Story, music was one of the things she focused on.

”I’ve been learning the cello,” she explains, ”and loving it so much.”

Leigh and Annabel Crabb launched an award-winning podcast in 2014.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

Having that time off also meant Leigh, 49, didn’t have to prepare to front the cameras night after night. It was a break she clearly relished.

”In the immortal words of [Australian fashion entrepreneur] Pip Edwards, ‘That’s not my circus,”’ she says.

When Leigh announced she was leaving 7.30 in February last year, she didn’t say where she was going. But she was never going to go far, explaining that it ”wasn’t a hard decision’ to stay at the ABC. She said yes to hosting Australian Story because she thinks it’s ”brilliant”.

”Such amazing stories, so well-told,” she adds.

”It was flattering and humbling to be asked to be associated with it.”

In front of the cameras for 7:30 in 2021.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

On top of that, she was looking for a change.

”I wanted to be freed from having my life dictated by the daily news cycle after decades of it,” she says.

Leigh believes a lot of people are currently avoiding the news because it makes them feel ”overwhelmed and anxious or depressed”.

She thinks Australian Story is the right program for the times.

”It doesn’t simply show one frozen moment of tragedy or disaster again and again,” she says.

”It gives you hope that most humans are adaptable and resilient.”

A fun set visit from sons Daniel and James when they were younger.

(IMAGE: Instagram)

This is something Leigh explored in her best-selling 2018 book Any Ordinary Day, where she interviewed people who’d been through unspeakable tragedies.

In the book, she also opened up about her own experience of a uterine rupture when she was eight months pregnant with her second son. It almost killed her and put newborn James in intensive care.

Leigh is working on another book, which she started during lockdown.

WATCH NOW: George Calombaris breaks down on ABC’s 7.30. Article continues after the video.

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”It’s a series of conversations with some of the country’s top journalists about the craft of journalism,” she explains. “It’ll be published later this year.”

In between Australian Story, her new book and some other projects she’s working on for the ABC, Leigh has plenty to keep her busy. Still, if the right musical theatre role came along, she wouldn’t say no.

”Look, if any of the understudies for Hamilton go down, I know every word of every song!”

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