Libbi Gorr is a multi award winning Radio and TV Broadcaster. She is currently the producer and presenter of the ABC Radio Melbourne Sunday program. Libbi studied Arts/Law and the University of Melbourne.
1. You were the first female in Australia to host their own late night sports show (Live & Sweaty) and political show (McFeast). What has been your experience of gender imbalances in the media?
My experiences in media were always within male dominated areas – sport and comedy. All the gate keepers of power were blokes. I was very lucky that I had a lot of very kind, good and clever men who were taken by my passion, desire and willingness to learn and listen. Coupled with whatever else I bought to the table in terms of talent and intelligence, my willingness to put in the hard yards is what opened the doors for me.
For young women and men, there is not any real different in being prepared to work hard. It is a difficult industry. It is at times exploitative, always exciting and never dull. But at times it’s also heart breaking. Don’t think you can expect any favours because you’re female. It’s hard for everyone.
Winding the recent Me Too movement into things, if my generation called out inappropriate behaviour at the start of our careers we would never have worked again. When I look at what’s going on today, part of the social change is the confidence to be able to call out that behaviour. However, the second part of the equation is not being so damaged by doing so that you are able to maintain your career and indeed flourish. Calling it out is one thing. Surviving the call out is another. Ultimately, there is strength in numbers.
I have noted over my time if you use your sexuality to get ahead, eventually it will be used against you. You live by it, you die by it. You can’t have it both ways. You need to take responsibility for how you present and behave. In the 90s, when I was McFeast and a satirical character, it was very ‘spice girls feminism’. You can flaunt your sexuality and be smart, but ultimately that doesn’t come without backlash. You are judged on your appearance and consequently you are the subject of body shaming. Actually that’s not quite true. There always has been and will be body shaming for women, regardless. The difference is now theres body shaming for men as well. That’s equality for you.
2. How have law and media intertwined in your career?
For me, media had always been a parallel journey to law. My formal academic life took me into law, while my extra curricular life took me had always revolved around drama, media and performance.
In HSC, I did a study unit on politics in media. I was lucky enough visit David Syme and Co, which was a predecessor to Fairfax. I sat in Ranald Macdonald’s office, with his personal assistant and she shared with me research about media ownership and how it affected democracy. This has been my bottom line passion from 17 years of age – free speech, democracy, advocacy.
Additionally, my dad had always bought home the Herald newspaper at night. In early primary school I wasn’t a strong reader, and my parents and teachers colluded by encouraging me to read about what I was passionate – that was Peter McKenna, star full forward and The Collingwood Football Club. So I’d sit with the newspaper, start with reading footy news and then go back to the first page. News and politics were a big deal in those days. When I was seven, the Whitlam government was elected. It was a big deal. The whole thing was a media campaign. Televisions were just in. At the time when I was having my formative experience as a child, politics and media were coalescing on the television. This is probably what sparked my interest. It was time!
As for Law, it is an excellent degree for thinking. It’s enabled me to understand the fact that show business is both a show and a business. Unless you can understand the pragmatic side of your creativity it won’t be sustainable – emotionally or financially. I don’t think a legal degree protects you from being vulnerable as an artist. But it certainly does give you a rational approach to life. There are two sides to every story.
When I was running around every week on television from 1991-2000 it was the time of Hawke, Keating – then Howard – and a feeling of equal opportunity. It was an environment in which a smart, sassy, young woman from a seemingly ethnic background but with a very Melbourne upbringing could find her place on television as a leader. And now, more and more, there are women who host their own shows.
3. What is your favourite memory of Melbourne Law School?
The Law Revues were wonderful for me. They gave me a way of finding my tribe and fitting in. At first they were very intimidating because all the cool kids did them, but once I got into it and found my place, I felt more comfortable about going to university.
I also found that my university friends are ‘stayers’. There is a intrinsic bond between us. The memories aren’t as colourful as those from secondary school, but they are richer because of what we did and what we are capable of achieving. A lot of my friends went in very different directions to me, but there is an innate safety in our friendship. We all know we can think we if we have to! And if pressed for time, we can borrow each other’s notes. I wish I could do law school again, actually.
Interview by Amy Clements