Rhiannon used to be on first-name terms with TV hosts Michael Parkinson and Mike Walsh, and with the superstars – Dusty, Elton, Billy, Twiggy and Ringo – who thought nothing of jetting halfway round the globe to be interviewed by them in front of record-breaking Aussie audiences, writes Sharon Bradley at The Age.
It was the 1970s and ’80s, the heyday of the chat show and there was money to burn.
She was working for Channel 10 in North Ryde as a vision mixer, earning $70 a week. And when colour television came to Australia, as it did in 1975, she moved into production and trained as a director’s assistant. Her first big job was on Number 96.
The next decades of her career, which she spent as an associate producer, were a kaleidoscopic whirl of hit game shows, Logie Awards, Australia Day concerts, talk shows and talent quests across most of the nation’s TV networks. She earned good money and had a comfortable lifestyle on Sydney’s northern beaches.
In 1974, just one year after coming to Australia, she gave birth to her first son, James. She lived with her baby’s father for four years before they separated and, much later in 1991, she gave James a little brother, Oliver.
In 2000, at 49, she was diagnosed with glaucoma.
Today, at 68, she’s blind in her left eye, with 40 per cent vision remaining in her right, but that, too, is failing. The diagnosis is end-stage advanced glaucoma.
The past few years have been a pride-swallowing siege of repeated personal setbacks and humiliating bureaucratic defeats.
Three years ago, when she turned 65, Rhiannon transitioned with heartbreaking inevitability from sickness allowance to the age pension, but couldn’t find anywhere affordable to live.
Rhiannon*, 68, lost her job and hit rock-bottom as a result of advanced glaucoma.Credit:Tim Bauer