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From television to tourism

5 Apr 2022

Farm life can be pretty ruthless. Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar said it best in her 1908 poem “My Country”, ‘…a land of drought and flooding rains’. As if those on the land needed lessons in resilience, we were served them in spades.

I grew up the eldest of three on a beef and cattle farm between Gympie and Maryborough. We went to a tiny country school where one teacher wrangled the lot of us. Growing up in the bush taught me to work hard, a job isn’t just 9 to 5 and sometimes life isn’t fair.

Our family was never poor but at times struggled. We never wanted for anything and as far as I knew I could do anything, be anything and achieve anything I wanted to.

We were isolated but never felt that way. Part of this was probably due to the buzz of local news in the house. ABC radio in the mornings, 7 Local News at night and a fortnightly subscription to Queensland Country Life. We always felt connected to the world around us.

As farmers we were generally cynical. We whinged about the weather and shook our heads at politicians and journalists. So, I’m not sure if it was because of it or in spite of it, I followed my curiosity and my annoying habit of questioning and back chatting into a career in news.

Broadcast journalism here I come

USC provided an enviable grounding in theory and practice. The internship program between USC and 7 Local News was unrivalled and offered a direct pathway from study to the studio. Even a decade after graduation, with the rise of online journalism platforms, the foundations remain the same. It’s even more critical now in the age of information overload to know how to choose your sources carefully and separate fact from fiction.

It’s as true then as it is today that staff teach students to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and be leaders in their field. To be the ones coming up with new ideas, brainstorming ways to innovate and advance their careers. A USC education crosses industry boundaries and stays with you long after you’re handed a piece of paper at graduation.

It was this same skill set that I drew upon when facing that niggling feeling a career change might be on the cards early last year.

Career and lifestyle 180

My husband was a news camera operator and our love of telling stories was only eclipsed by our love of road trips and camping. We would spend our annual leave ticking off a bucket list of red dirt roads, starry nights in the swag, bush walks and wildlife spotting.

It's important to us to show our kids rural and regional Australia and this is what inspired us to make a change and champion the tourism industry. Reflections Holiday Parks was the perfect fit, with the organisation’s focus on nature-based experiences.

So, after 16 years reporting and presenting for 7 Queensland, I turned off the microphone.

A complete career 180 isn’t easy. Learning new systems and processes can be challenging. But I would urge other alumni to be confident in marketing their own transferable skills. True leaders will recognise that talent is more than just what’s on a resume.

Running a holiday park isn’t all that different to a day in the life of a news crew. Every day is different, every day you’re dealing with the public, you’re running an office, prioritising jobs, meeting deadlines, analysing data and making videos to showcase your piece of paradise to the masses. It’s hectic and exhausting but incredibly rewarding. And our kids are living their best life. They’re at the beach most afternoons, have a revolving door of mates to play with and because of the limited phone reception here, they get to live in the moment, switching off devices and getting back to nature.

Connection with USC continues

In 2019 I was invited to join the University Council. I feel privileged to be part of such a visionary group of professionals and experts in their fields who work together to continue the USC story. Part of this role meant the opportunity to fill in for the Chancellor at Graduation last year which was an incredible honour and a special way to continue my connection with USC.

No matter where my work takes me my heart lies with rural Australia and furthering the opportunities for country kids to have the same access to quality education as anyone in the cities. I’m confident that USC’s presence in regional Queensland will help this cause and will mean many more farm kids just like me get to follow their dreams from the paddock to prime time and beyond.

 

 

Katie Toney

Katie Toney

Katie Toney (nee Blowers) graduated with a Bachelor of Communication in 2006 and has spent 16 years as a journalist and news presenter with the Seven Network across Queensland before changing the script of her own story. Katie has moved to Seal Rocks NSW where she and her husband manage the Reflections Holiday Park. Katie is also a member of the University Council, playing an active role in the USC community.

Katie Toney at the news desk for Channel 7
Katie Toney during her broadcast journalism career with 7 Local News
Katie Toney and her family
Katie Toney with her family managing Reflections Holiday Park, Seal Rocks, NSW.
Katie Toney at USC Graduation
Katie Toney speaking on behalf of the Chancellor, USC 2021 Graduation