Speaking to WHO exclusively former Channel Ten newsreader Tracey Spicer discusses becoming an “accidental activist”, setting an example for her children and a possible return to TV.
WHO: You played a huge part of bringing #MeToo to life in Australia. How dod it feel?
SPICER: It was quite overwhelming, but I felt I had a duty of are to every woman and girl – and really anyone regardless of gender – to hear their story. For so long people have been silenced, particularly [those who suffered from] violence and sexual assault. So when I saw the MeToo hashtag break in the US, I put out a tweet and said I wanted to do stories on two men I knew were predators in my industry.
WHO: What was that reaction like?
SPICER: The next day I received 2000 disclosures from a bunch of people all over Australia, sharing their stories. It’s been a real privilege to be a witness to these people’s stories. Some of them have never told anybody before so this is a huge moment in history.
WHO: Were you worried about your safety?
SPICER: I think anyone who speaks out about inequality does get threatened, particularly anyone who speaks out about feminism. I guess I’m kind of accustomed to it after receiving a couple of death threats five or six years ago. I know how to manage it now, Ii know which ones I need to take to the police.
WHO: Did you consider your family before putting your hand up for #MeToo?
SPICER: I felt I had to do it for the sake of my children and the generations to come, because we might have them going into workplaces or on the streets where they feel vulnerable and under threat every day. The only way to effect change is to speak out, so the benefits absolutely outweigh the disadvantages.
WHO: You’re also involved in Sponsor #1000girls, a World Vision initiative. How did you get involved in the campaign?
SPICER: I’ve been an ambassador with World Vision for more than a quarter of a century and had the great privilege of working with communities – particularly women and girls in developing countries – doing documentaries, covering stories, trying to make the people of Australia aware of the plight of girls in particular.
WHO: Why is this campaign so important to you?
SPICER: It’s so important because World Vision does wonderful work across the globe, including to educate girls, and we know that when girls are educated they’re much less likely to marry young and they’re much more likely to educate their daughters. So education is the pathway out of poverty, and it’s a grassroots campaign that can not only lift a girl out of poverty, but also her family and her community – I think the ripple effect is huge.
WHO: What’s the most shocking thing have you seen while working on this campaign?
SPICER: We went to a prostitute village, I saw this little girl ... She would have been about three or four and she just had these big, dead, empty eyes, like she’d been through absolute horror. This older man in a stained singlet was bouncing her on his knee and really touching her inappropriately for a young girl and there was nothing I could do about it.
I wanted to just grab her and take her away from these circumstances, but I knew there was no way that I could do that. She’s going to have to grow up in that village and at 12, face that choice ... it was just horrific.
WHO: You’re very passionate about activism, but do you ever miss your newsreader days?
SPICER: I consider myself an accidental activist. I’ve always been interested in personal justice and inequality – I’ve always done those stories as a journalist. I still consider myself a freelance journalist. Occasionally I’ll miss newsreading or hosting, but not very often, to be honest. I’m more intellectually challenged and energised by digging [up] stories that are not often told in society.
WHO: Would you go back to TV in some capacity?
SPICER: Possibly! I’ve never had a five-year plan with my career, I just tend to take opportunities as they come and I’m kind of relaxed about it. I’m really happy with what I’m doing now, speaking and writing about issues I’m passionate about – whatever comes from that in the future I am pretty relaxed about.
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