#SheInspires – Women In Media – Melissa Downes

November 3, 2020


Media has played a big part in our lives throughout 2020, we have relied heavily on listening and watching when we have needed to be guided through the fires, the pandemic, the storms and floods and all of the other milestones that this year has thrown at us. The one constant that has been by our side and with us throughout the year has been our amazing women in media throughout Australia. From switching on the radio of a morning to hear friendly familiar voices to start the day, through to settling down at night with a trusted news source being presented by a familiar face that could almost be part of your family. We’re a lucky country to be able to have relatable and personable women in media delivering us some of the most important information keeping us informed. SheSociety are spotlighting some of Australia’s favourite women in media in the coming months to celebrate the incredibly important and wonderful job they do for us.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do:

I am a wife, mother of two girls and weeknight news presenter for 9News Queensland, a role I’ve held for 11 years. I’ve been in the TV news industry since 1994. 

What are you most proud of in life?  

The opportunities I’ve had to tell people’s stories, with respect. We often come across people in extreme situations, floods/cyclones/fires and still, they invite us in and share that experience with us.

Which person inspires you to be the best person you can be?   

My two daughters. As my Mother taught me, you must lead by example, and they inspire me to do my best and set a positive example for them.

What has been a life-changing moment for you in your life? 

Most people will have more than one! From a work point of view, a life changing moment was when a show I was working on (early in my career) folded, just three months after it started. I thought it was going to be my dream job, but it wasn’t. The show just didn’t work. That was my first real career fail and I found that very difficult. But you always learn more from failure than success, and that experience taught me to believe in myself. I knew I had tried my absolute best, perhaps others didn’t, but I knew I had, and that had to be enough. 

What drives you as a woman in media? 

I hope that everyone in media has the same goals, to tell stories with respect.

What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt (in life or career)? 

Career – How to run in front of a train! It sounds strange, but that’s how live television was described to me when I first started. It explains the need to focus on the moment. If you make a mistake and fall, and keep thinking about it, you’ll fall again and get wiped out by the train. In life and live TV, you need to focus on the step you’re taking, not the last one and not the one after it – just the one right now and do it to the best of your ability.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom? 

Never be afraid of fear, advice from my Mum. Fear is a good thing, it keeps you alive. It prompts you to stop and question what you’re doing. Listen to that fear. If you realise the only reason you’re not doing something is because you’re frightened, because it’s new or challenging, then take a deep breath and do it. Never let this type of fear stop you.

What quote do you live by in your everyday life? 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Talk us through a typical day in your life…

The mornings are the time I have with our girls, helping with music and homework and getting them ready for school. Then I usually take our dogs for a walk or do exercise of some sort. There’s always a bit of housework or some admin to be done, other days I might be hosting a charity event or a Nine event, before heading to work. We write and present the afternoon updates, we do radio chats and other promos associated with the 6pm bulletin. Then it’s home to have some last cuddles before the girls go to sleep and then the evening with my husband.

What has been the highlight of your media career to date? 

I absolutely loved heading to London in 2011 to cover William and Kate’s wedding. It was just a few months after Brisbane’s devastating floods and I have to admit, it was delightful to cover something so joyous. The weather was beautiful, London was beaming, and I couldn’t believe I was there, perched opposite Westminster Abbey, watching the big day unfold.

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

All sorts of things! A kindy teacher, a fulltime volleyball player, a Japanese interpreter! When I left school, I studied for a year, took two years off to model and then headed back to Uni, still not really sure where I was headed. But I always loved writing, so I started a journalism degree, and that’s when I found my way.

What are your top 3 bucket list items? 

I did an assignment on Peru in grade 5 and since then I’ve dreamt of visiting Machu Picchu. Hopefully I’ll get there, but really I don’t think about “bucket lists”, I just try to enjoy every day, wherever I am!

What attracted you to your career? 

I’ve always loved reading and writing, and when I was at Uni I realised I enjoyed the way television allows you to tell a story. I like working with words, vision, music and graphics. And of course, the people, I love talking to people.

What do you think the key to success is? 

Integrity, humility and respect for others. I watched a wonderful speech from the head of Toyota, and he talked about these three things as “the Toyota way”, it should be everyone’s way. 

Who has had the biggest impact on your life? 

My parents. I’m forever grateful for their love and guidance.     

We know you work a lot with charities outside of work, tell us a bit about these and why you support these particular charities?

I try to support as many charities as possible, it’s my way of giving back to the community. My greatest contribution was walking across the Simpson Desert, raising funds and awareness for Youngcare, which provides appropriate accommodation for young people with high care needs. It was a remarkable experience. 

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace? 

Have courage and be kind. It’s from the modern remake of Cinderella. I love it, because you do have to have courage and stand up for yourself and what you believe in, but it’s also really important to be kind at the same time and help those around you.

How can we encourage and support more females in media in Australia? 

There are a lot of wonderful women in media in Australia, it’s keeping them there that’s the trick, especially when they have a family. At Nine Queensland, we’re so lucky to have a female News Director and a female Managing Director. They understand what we’re trying to juggle. But on a broader scale, we all need to support each other and help other women find their strengths.

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