WA’s Sean Murphy Bids Aunty Farewell

 

 

 

 

Over the past three decades, West Australian TV presenter Sean Murphy has become a much-loved face on the ABC.  Since joining Landline 22 years ago, he’s won

many awards for his insightful reports on the popular rural programme. Now Sean, 63, has decided it’s time for change. This week the popular reporter kissed Aunty goodbye,  handed in his

ID card and signed off, ready to enjoy the next phase of his life.

Sean, who commenced his career at The West Australian before moving to Sydney in the early 90s, chats to The Starfish about his successful career, and what he plans to do next.

You’re still pretty young; why have you retired?
When you know you know. I just felt like a change. It’s only retirement from the ABC, not life. While I’m still relatively youthful I want to go surfing more. It’s my great love. I’m also an avid ocean swimmer so I’ll be doing more of that too, including doing the Hellespont and Dardanelles swim in Turkey next year. It’s the world’s oldest swimming race and the poet Lord Byron even famously did the 4.5km crossing.
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After 23 years at Landline, travelling across Australia how many kilometres do you think you’ve covered?
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No idea of the kilometres but it would be a frightening amount of carbon burned. Just one road trip in WA was from Perth to Tom Price, to Kalgoorlie and Albany and return.
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As a result of this job, what in particular do you have a much better knowledge and understanding of?
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I guess in the fields of food, fishing and farming I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none. When I started at Landline fishing and aquaculture were relatively under-reported. I’ve loved bringing those stories to the audience and spending time at sea with fishers made my job a wonderful life.
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What’s a country town the job took you to that you’d love to re-visit?
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It’s not exactly a country town but the Abrolhos Islands was a stand out. I did three trips there and loved them all. Great characters and a wild, rugged environment. Next time I’ll bring a surfboard.
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Most memorable story you’ve ever done at Landline?
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Too many stories to choose a favourite. I did about 400 films for Landline. Sleeping in a grass hut in a remote part of the Solomon Islands was pretty cool ,as was filming Paris Fashion Week for a story on wool and the controversial practice of mulesing. Countless dawns, especially on fishing boats, are in the memory bank. I’ll have a lot to reflect on.
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After all you’ve seen, If you had to be a farmer, what kind would you be?
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My mother’s family were farmers back in Ireland but I don’t think I got that gene. I’d sometimes fantasise about owning a vineyard and winery but it’s really hard work. I’d probably only be good for some 5pm cellar door charisma.Ha!  I’ve always loved filming oyster farms too but that is hard and dirty work. Not a lot of romance when you see the hard yakka up close.
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How positive are you about the state of agriculture in Australia?
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Agriculture in Australia is booming. Our farmers produce high quality, mostly sustainable produce; the world can’t get enough of it. A challenge will be retaining the culture in agriculture as opposed to agri business. Rural consolidation is making it harder for small communities to exist. The human things that make communities such as football and other sporting teams, church groups and voluntary fire brigades and emergency services are really important. Keeping towns and small communities vibrant is a real challenge.
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There’s a bit of an investment boom going on, which is good. More value adding of our raw commodities would be good for Australia.  Carbon trading is like the new black and farmers are seeing new opportunities to manage their country better and make a buck. Where I see that really growing is in the area of ecosystem services, where farmers will earn money as stewards of a healthy natural environment. It’ll be more than planting trees and building soil carbon with opportunities to benefit the natural environment for income too.
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What are the key challenges ahead?
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The challenges will be about sustainability. The constant churn of inputs, where farmers use more and more  synthetic chemicals to maintain yields can’t go on forever. There’s a shift to regenerative farming, which I think answers that challenge. Building soil carbon will bring savings with fewer inputs needed and better moisture retention.
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As you know, WA’s live sheep export industry has finally been halted, albeit in four years. The right decision, and why?
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 Live exports is vexxed and a hot political issue right now. If the trade is phased out as promised by Federal Labor, it’s crucial that WA farmers have some competition in the marketplace. There’s a saying I learned: It’s hard to be green if you’re in the red. The same could be said for animal welfare issues. Mixed farming has been the bedrock of success in the WA wheatbelt. Sheep are an important part of the mix. Without them, a cropping only industry could become just another fly-in fly-out job.
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In your travels, have you noticed more farmers are worried about the effects of global warming?
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Farmers understand climate change because they see and feel changes in the weather up close. Many have generational rainfall records so they see the evidence. They might be getting the same annual rainfall but nowadays it may come in a few big dumps rather than nicely spaced across their growing season. Farmers often refer to themselves as stewards of the land. They realise that their time is short and they want to leave their farms in better condition than they found them for future generations.
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Have you noticed more environmental degradation in just the two plus decades you’ve been doing the job?
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I can’t say I’ve seen more degradation. It’s such a big country, with so much more to see. Sure, there are areas in Australia that have become unproductive because of issues like dry land salinity. I’ve seen solutions where the innovation Australian farmers have always shown is helping revive land that’s been degraded.
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One thing I am concerned about is Australia’s heavy reliance on imported seafood. We’re an island girt by sea and yet we import 80 percent of our seafood in some States. Small in-shore fisheries have been closed down because of pressure from the recreational sector, particularly on the east coast. As a nation we need to be smarter at identifying sustainable species and exploiting them. More sustainable aquaculture is needed too  with good regulatory oversight so that the natural environment isn’t harmed. At the moment we are not even eating enough fish to satisfy the national dietary guidelines. We’re not getting enough of the essential omega oils important for good health.
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Has working at Landline made you more of an optimist or a pessimist about this country’s shape, and why?
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Murphy was an optimist and I certainly am too. The glass is always half full in my world. I only see good things ahead.
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What’s next for Sean Murphy?
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I’m not sure. A bit of a rest, some creative writing perhaps. I’m not keen on a job but projects may have some appeal down the track. I owe my wife Michelle and daughters Jazz and Holly a lot. They’ve supported my gypsy life for decades so perhaps it’s time to share some travel with them too. There are waves to ride so that will be a priority. The thing about surfing is you have to be in the moment. It grounds you.  A great man once said: “It’s the present. Get it?”
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One thought on “WA’s Sean Murphy Bids Aunty Farewell

  1. Wonderful wrap Jac.
    Murph The Surf’ & Landline are synonymous with our Great Southern Land (and sea in Murph’s case).
    He has been an important story teller, especially to Sunday city audiences for a very long time.
    He presents warmly and always ensures that the subject matter (and the interview subjects) are front and centre, not the reporter. Too often in today’s TV, the opposite is the case.
    As we wave goodbye to Murph, we thank him for bringing us such tasty treats with Sunday lunch on the ABC for so long.
    Enjoy your board and bombora Murph.
    And thank you.
    Brendon.

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