Meet Melissa Downes. You know her as that warm and welcoming face behind the Channel Nine news desk at 6pm weekdays. But she’s also mum to Dee Dee (6) and Anja (4) and the beloved wife of D-J Wendt.
Tell us about your role on Channel Nine news and how you came to sit in that chair?
I’m the Monday to Friday newsreader with Andrew Lofthouse. We’ve been reading together for more than seven years but my TV career began more than 20 years ago. I started as a journalist and I still consider myself a journalist before being a newsreader. Although I don’t get out on the road as much anymore, I still get excited about covering a big story. There’s nothing quite like the adrenalin rush you get when a story’s breaking and you’re finding your way as you go. Having said that, I was once told the most important story is the one you’re doing today and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Each story is important to someone and it’s our responsibility to tell that story in the best way possible.
What’s your career background before Channel Nine ?
Growing up, I had a number of ambitions. I wanted to be a kindy teacher, a Japanese interpreter, even a professional volleyball player! But when I left school I studied for a year and then had two years off to model in Sydney. When I returned to Brisbane, I studied Journalism at UQ, thinking I could go into copywriting as I’d always loved writing but somehow I found my way into television news. I was with Seven for seven years working as a reporter and back up reader for 7 News, reporting for the Great South East and hosting events like the RAQ Fashion Design Awards – that was a real thrill. At the end of 2001, I moved to Nine.
Who have been your mentors along the way?
We are really fortunate in Queensland to have incredibly strong female role models in the local TV industry. Kay McGrath actually helped me into the industry. I introduced myself to her at a shopping centre one day while I was still a student and she told me to ring her to organise work experience. That was my foot in the door. She was a wonderful mentor as was Chris Collins. At Nine, Heather Foord took me under her wing and I’m also really fortunate to have Kylie Blucher as Managing Director at 9 Queensland and Amanda Paterson was recently appointed as News Director. I am always learning from them!
What time does a typical day start for you?
No week is ever the same! We do have set hours for the newsroom which cover afternoon updates, the news and evening updates but there are always other things to do. This week I was out at USQ at Springfield being interviewed for a show the students produce, then off to the RSPCA to shoot a community service announcement for them before coming up to the Mountain. Another day I shot a news story, another day a promo for Nine and on the weekend, I’m presenting an award at the Qld Media Awards. We also host a number of charity events – it’s a really lovely way of giving back and meeting some of the amazing people in our community. One of the things I miss from my reporting days is talking to people and meeting new people so being involved with different charities allows me to stay connected.
Who does the cooking and cleaning at your house?
My husband is a fabulous cook. I’m his assistant and the one who usually cleans up! As for housework, we share the load and we have help.
If you have 10 minutes to yourself, what do you like to do?
Read, exercise or sleep – depending on how I’m feeling!
What do you do for childcare?
I think we’ve covered all options at some point in time. We had live-in au pairs for a few years which worked well as my husband travels with his job, so it was handy having someone else in the house. We use day care and babysitters and most importantly, family. We both have really supportive families and we are forever grateful for their help.
Do your kids do many extracurricular activities?
Not really. My eldest has singing and piano lessons at school, and they both do swimming but I’m holding off on everything else for as long as I can. The weekends are our time together, so I like us to do things as a family. I know sport will rule our lives one day, but not yet!
What do you do for fun as a family?
We love to go bike riding, to play in the park, fly a kite. We’ve had a family pass at Lone Pine for a few years now – that’s a wonderful place to take young children. Allowing them to interact with the animals is just magical. We love spending time on the water, fishing, crabbing, swimming, exploring – there are so many beautiful waterways in the south-east. We also love going to the AFL to support the Brisbane Lions.
What is your favourite thing to do for date night with your partner?
We love trying new restaurants, seeing a show, or going to live music. We had a real treat a couple of months ago – a weekend getaway to Splendour in the Grass. We’ve been before but that was before children. To have a whole weekend to ourselves felt very decadent.
What is your favourite local place to visit?
I love GoMA – we’ve been so many times. I’ve attended beautiful events there and lost time looking at spectacular exhibitions but one of my favourite pastimes there is “Toddler Tuesday”, an interactive session for parents and children.
How about your favourite place to eat out as a family?
Yum cha is a great option with young children. It’s quite acceptable to be messy!
Where do you head to when you get time for a girls’ night out?
It’s always nice to dress up and go out but I think the most fun is usually had behind closed doors! My last girls’ night out ended in a friend’s lounge room with us playing “Heads Up” – it was hilarious!
What is your best beauty tip for mums?
Skincerity. My make-up artists put me onto it a couple of years ago. It’s a night-time mask that is anti-aging, anti-bacterial and keeps your skin hydrated. My skin gets a fair work out with make-up every day. This is a way to balance it all out while I sleep.
Favourite place to shop (locally and online)?
I still love the city – it is the quintessential one-stop shop! And I don’t do that much shopping online. I’m a bit old school – I like to touch and feel and try on things!
Must-have parenting tip or tool?
Patience and the ability to enjoy the moment. Someone once said, ‘The days are long but the years are short’ – and it is so true. As a working mum, I really try to make the most of the time I do have with my children and try not to sweat the small stuff.
Can you share any tips on finding the right work/life balance?
I think we need to stop seeing work and life as two separate things. It’s all one thing – life. Perhaps it’s more about prioritising things and eliminating or managing the things at the bottom of the list. I recently did a 250km trek through the Simpson Desert for Youngcare and one of the things I realised is that I do love my life, even the crazy weeks when I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails. It’s what makes life exciting and also allows you to appreciate the sweetness of the calm times.
How do you stay motivated in your career?
I have my parents to thank for a strong work ethic and I think that’s what keeps me motivated. That sense of always wanting to do things a little better than I did yesterday, and that goes across everything in my life.