Family

Amanda Keller’s husband: The man behind the Parkinson’s

Harley Oliver is an artist.
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Radio host Amanda Keller became emotional while live on the Jonesy and Amanda show in May, breaking down about her husband Harley Oliver’s brave battle with Parkinson’s disease.

close-up selfie of Amanda Keller and husband Harley Oliver, barely smiling
The couple just celebrated their 34th anniversary. (Image: Instagram)

The tears came as Amanda began sharing a story about planning their son Jack’s 21st birthday party. She wanted to put a slide show together to play throughout the night – something that would have traditionally been Harley’s domain.

“He has been the guy who will make the kid’s birthday invitations. He’s very creative. He will work on the computer to do this funky stuff. Normally, he would have done all of that,” Amanda shared.

“And with the way things are with Harley at the moment, he’s got Parkinson’s disease and things are just hard.”

THEIR LOVE STORY

Amanda and Harley live in Sydney’s seaside suburb Coogee, and they’ve just celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary on May 27th.

Harley gifted Amanda a pearl necklace tucked inside a pretty yellow box.

The couple got married in 1990, the same weekend as the Monaco Grand Prix. But their love story began two years prior in 1987.

Harley was a producer on the show Beyond 2000 that Amanda was auditioning for, and he knew she was the one the moment he laid eyes on her.

This particular role saw his leading lady wedged into a tiny, two-man submarine making an ascent from the choppy waters. Recalling that magical moment, Harley laughed, “The lid was lifting up and there was Amanda desperately trying to remember what her piece to camera was going to be.

“And all she could do was vomit over the side as the thing bounced around the harbour. It attracted quite a crowd in the viewing room! But she was pushing through it. She was being a brave soldier – and that’s what she is like.”

A BRAVE BATTLE

Harley and Amanda attended the Save Our Sons Gala in September 2017. (Image: Getty)

Ironic how not much has changed. Amanda has continued to put on a brave front since they received Harley’s devastating diagnosis seven years ago.

However, it was just last year in 2023 that the radio host disclosed his health challenge publicly on her Double A Chattery podcast.

“I first noticed Harley’s footfall around the house changing, like he was dragging his leg, and his hands started to shake, and he said he’d just been whacked in the thumbs as a wicketkeeper playing cricket, but I felt something was going on,” Keller told her podcast co-host Anita McGregor.

“I know Harley so well, and how protective he is of his inner core, he was absolutely scared and in denial, and who would blame him.”

Shortly after the show aired, Harley received the gut-wrenching diagnosis. “When he came home (from the doctor), we both just sat there completely numb,” Keller said.

LONGING FOR THE WAY THINGS WERE

Parkinson’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that causes uncontrollable movements like shakiness, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination. Sadly, symptoms gradually worsen over time.

Only human, Amanda has opened up about “hating herself” for wishing things were different and getting frustrated at the situation.

“I miss the ease of life. Of going to a restaurant, [but then] Harley’s back gets sore, and he’s quietly spoken so the noise overwhelms him. I miss the ease of travel. It changes us,” she said.

Amanda Keller wears red, hosting her show, overcome with emotion, hand to face, head angled down
It’s hard to always keep a brave face. (Image: Instagram)

“But we’re not alone in that. Life is this stuff, isn’t it? We talk a lot about long-term relationships, and how popular culture celebrates the beginning and the end.

“But the meat of life, the joy of life, the sadness of life, the true human condition, lies in the middle,” she said, her voice breaking.

THE BIGGEST SURPRISE

The heartbreaking week she had planning their son’s birthday made all these feelings come crashing back. She admitted to feeling “lonely” and that her heart breaks for her darling husband whom she thought would have to miss the birthday celebration.

She knew how hard it would have been for Harley to make it.

However, it was Amanda who was, perhaps, given the biggest surprise of all on Jack’s special day. The couple’s friend Pam and their driver Cole came walking into the party with none other than Harley.

“A lot of people were shocked because they hadn’t seen Harley for a while. But I know what it cost him to get there. And he said to me, how could I not be here?” Amanda said as tears began to form.

HARLEY OLIVER: THE ARTIST

Harley stands proud wearing a t-shirt in front of his nude artworks
Painting is in Harley’s DNA. (Image: Supplied)

Harley was born in New Zealand but grew up in London. While he’s best known for his career in television, Harley’s first love – other than Amanda – has always been painting.

It’s a passion that comes naturally. Harley was practically born with a paint brush in his hand. His great, great, great grandfather was Samuel Massey, a well-known English portrait artist. Samuel married his sister’s friend, also a painter, JN Rhodes.

So when Harley picked up a brush at the tender age of eight, it was no surprise that he took a liking to painting as well.

His affinity stuck with him. Harley attended Wimbledon Art School in London in the late 1960s. There, he painted English landscapes that stood out in an era of abstract minimalism. After art school, however, he got into television as an editor at the BBC.

Later, he moved into a producer role, then a director. He began making documentaries for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel as well as various programs for TV channels in Australia and New Zealand.

Of course, in between projects, he’d find time to paint. But it wasn’t until around 2014 that Harley decided to dedicate more of his time to being an artist. He debuted his first solo exhibition, Inappropriate Nudity, at Stanley Street Gallery in Sydney that year.

Since then, Harley has had two solo shows featuring some of his best works at the gallery, including Hitters, Grapplers & Strongmen and Dad Took A Picture.

Harley has also painted portraits of the Sydney Roosters rugby league team.

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