Back in 1988, the year of the Australian Bicentennial, Trisha Goddard, then 29-years-old, made the headlines when she was appointed host of the public affairs program '7.30 Report' (Sydney edition), and in the process becoming ABC's first black presenter. David Hill of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation expressed at the time, "It is appropriate that the ABC does it first, and it's long overdue." Trisha told Robin Oliver of 'Fairfax Media' in 1987, "Suddenly everything is black, black, black. I keep picking up the paper and seeing these things that are said about me and I'm having to remind myself that I'm black. Having to consider the color of my skin has come as a big surprise – I actually see myself as a human being." 

On radio, Ron Casey told David Hill Trisha's appointment was a "cute trick. The ABC is playing the token multicultural game and how can someone who's only been a journalist for 3 years (since 1986) and only been in Australia for 2 of those years (since 1985) front a national nightly current affairs program? There is only one bloody country in the world where this kind of thing could happen – stupid multicultural Australia." 

Ron maintained, "I'm not against her appointment because she is black. If she had 10 years experience as a journalist and had lived in Australia a while, then her color would not matter. But this is the ABC being tokenist. It's racism in reverse and no one can say anything about her appointment without being accused of being racist. Here is someone who is flaunting their cultural background."

David countered, "Your argument is, one, she’s inexperienced and, secondly, because she’s so-called multicultural. It’s too shallow an argument. I think it’s because of the color of her skin that you're upset." Even before making her debut, Trisha Goddard's appointment already caused "an enormous heat in the community." Graham Wiliams reported viewers had called ABC's switchboard complaining Trisha was a Pom and inexperienced and why Jane Singleton's successor "had to be both a black and a woman" as some "preferred to have an Aboriginal" as host. On her first week as presenter, Norman Abjorensen noted "the ABC’s voice coach, Arch McKirdy, was giving Ms Goddard intensive training (because of her Surrey accent)."

Born in 1957, Trisha's mother, Agnes, came from the Caribbean island of Dominica and her stepfather, Peter, was a British from Norfolk with red hair and freckles. Pip Cummings of 'Fairfax Media' reported in 2013, "A DNA test in 2008 revealed that Goddard's genetics are 90% sub-Saharan African and around 10% European." Trisha added, "I've since had a heritage DNA test, which shows I am also 9% Asian, which implies that my biological father was West Indian too. I always had my doubts about my background: my skin color was darker than my 3 younger sisters."

Trisha was born in the east London district of Hackney and raised in Tanzania, east Africa and Surrey. She told Roz Lewis of 'The Mail on Sunday' in 2014, "We moved around a lot when I was young. When I was 6, we moved to east Africa for almost 3 years ... I was schooled in an expat community where you learned that everyone was the same, despite being different nationalities and skin color. I think it helped me embrace moving round the world later in my life for work."

Back in 1987, Trisha told Robin Oliver, "When I first came to this country (Australia) as a new bride (to Robert Nestdale of UNICEF and a former leader of the Young Liberals whom she met on the plane) 2 years ago (in 1985), I got the most horrible culture shock of my life. My hair wasn't braided then. I met all things that I am now used to – and they got me hard; people shouting out offensive remarks, that sort of thing. The worst incident being in a taxi in Melbourne, from which I was forcibly ejected after jumping into the car at traffic lights. The driver didn’t want a black in his car. It was a baptism of fire."

However Trisha told Roz Lewis, "But Australia in the 1980s wasn't as racially tolerant as it is now (in 2014), so when the news got out (I was going to be Australia's first black TV presenter!) it stirred up a huge media storm. Everyone had an opinion as to why a Pommie black female was on Australian TV. Surely if a person of color was going to be on television it should be someone from the indigenous Aborigine population?"

Of being "that black girl on television", Trisha made the comment at the time, "I know I’m walking into a hornet’s nest. People ask how I feel now that I’m in Jane's shoes. I respect Jane Singleton and admire what she's done, but I don't feel I am filling her shoes. We are 2 completely different people. It's a lovely challenge. I expect a mixed reception. It could be hostile, but I think it's more likely to be curious. But they'll get used to me after a while." A while turned out to be 2 years. Trisha then decided to "set up my own production company to make a chat show called 'Live It Up', which was then noticed by Anglia Television in Britain." She also appeared on the children's program, 'Play School'.

Of being on the '7.30 Report', Trisha told Bernard Lagan at the time, "With the ABC's network I hope I’m a small step in just letting Australians know that, whether they like it or not – they will like it – this is the new face of Australia. People of as many different backgrounds as you can imagine are pleased to call themselves Australians. That pleases me. I actually think that white Australians, however they respond to me first off, will actually respond to me as a human being and my color will come secondly. Sure, a lot of people are going to turn on and gave a few reservations. When people meet me they see past the color and into the personality. I don’t see why that should be any different for the audience at large."

It was understood Trisha could speak 5 languages and was a "flying waitress with Gulf Air" based in Bahrain for 5 years. Trisha told Robin Oliver in 1987, "People get the wrong impression. It was very hazardous work, not at all like Qantas. It was very hard and you worked abominable hours. But I used my time in the Middle East researching subjects like women in Islam, which was an aspect of life that I found very interesting. We flew to Third World countries like Bangladesh. There were bomb scares and other threatened dangers. You know, there is nothing like the possibility of imminent death to hone the senses. People think of us as flying waitresses. There's plenty of that, of course, but we're really there to cope with emergencies."  

In 1998, Trisha returned to England to host 'The Trisha Goddard Show' until 2010 and then moved to the U.S. to host 'The Trisha Show'. "The only similarities we ('The Oprah Winfrey Show' and 'The Trisha Show' ) share is that she's (Oprah Winfrey) a black middle-aged woman with a talk show, and so am I. Sometimes my staff and people refer to me as an African-American. I'm not."

Blog Archive