At home with Caroline
Caroline Hutchinson is a mother, a wife, a friend, a radio personality and a charity patron – she even tried her hand at politics. But what strings these pearls together is a selfless and compassionate nature to nurture.
“I’m very lucky because I have a microphone, it’s easy for me to be helpful because I have a way of asking for help or telling people’s stories and that’s the beauty of radio.”
Sipping on tea in her favourite mug, overlooking the glittering ocean on a picture-perfect day, talking about her beautiful family and the job she feels so fortunate to have; Caroline Hutchinson is at home.
Both in a literal and figurative sense.
Having met her husband John at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in Sydney in April, 1988, they were married the following February and launched into successful careers in media – John in radio and Caroline as a television journalist who also dabbled in radio.
The lovestruck pair hit the road, following John’s job opportunities in regional Australia; Geraldton, Shepparton, Albury, which are also coincidentally, the birthplaces of their three children, Gabe now aged 25; Milli, 22; and Jemima, 20.
Work and life were perfectly aligned, until doctors found a cancerous tumour in John’s hip and diagnosed him with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1996, when Caroline was pregnant with Jemima. In the midst of John’s chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the radio show Caroline was working on was sold, and she had to move back to Sydney with their three young children. John stayed in Albury to finish treatment and once given the all clear, reunited with his family.
“I was working three jobs in Sydney; I had a late night radio job on a show called Truck Radio, was working for SBS radio doing weekend news bulletins and working during the day as a plus-sized model,” Caroline says.
“That was a very hard time, having tiny kids, trying to keep our heads above water and keep John alive and in the midst of all that I got a call saying, ‘Would you like to apply for a job on the Sunshine Coast?’
The thing that I love about radio is it’s a really immediate connection with your audience, there are people who I have been speaking to on an almost daily basis on the Sunshine Coast for 19 years, people who have watched my kids grow up, and I have been a part of big occasions in their lives.”
“It changed our lives forever in the best of ways … it just felt like we had come home.”
On 2 May, 1998, Caroline hit the airwaves on 92.7 Mix FM, joining radio stalwart Peter Lang, whom she worked alongside for eight years, following that she and Mark Darin formed the Mark and Caroline Show.
Despite all the laughs, high profile interviews and campaigns throughout the years, Caroline and her team truly shine during 92.7 Mix FM’s Give Me Five for Kids, a month-long annual fundraising appeal in June, which has raised more than $3 million for the needs of local paediatric patients.
“From the very first day we put it on the air, it blew all records out of the water, it feels great,” she says.
“I love that Mix FM has become known for helping people and I love that it doesn’t matter what we do, people respond. People can’t do enough on the Sunshine Coast and it feels really good to be part of that.”
And it’s what Caroline credits as making the Sunshine Coast so special.
“I think it’s because a massive proportion of this population has come from somewhere else and has had to find ‘family’,” she says.
“That’s why people are so committed to this community, because we’re so different, and we’re very generous, not just for projects I’m involved in, but any charitable organisations you speak to tell you the Sunshine Coast digs deeper than any other regional city and I think it’s because the Sunshine Coast is our family.”
Speaking of family, Caroline’s kids are now young adults and paving their own path; Gabe as a lawyer, Milli as a television journalist with Channel 7 in Bundaberg, and Jemima has just touched down in the United Kingdom, where she begins working at the Redhill Ambulance Station.
“It will be very weird, because I love having them at home. I will miss them,” Caroline says, evidently proud of her brood, but at the same time, secretly wishing she could freeze time.
“I never got the kids off to school, ever, never once in the whole of the history of my kids being at school, did I get them in their uniforms in the morning,”
I love that Mix FM has become known for helping people and I love that it doesn’t matter what we do, people respond.”
“I had their uniforms laid out and their lunches made and notes signed and anything they needed, but largely that was my husband’s job, he got them off to school every day and then I was home in the afternoon. So the kids had one parent in the morning and one in the afternoon and that worked quite well for us. When they were little it was a busy life, but that’s the same for so many working parents.”
Having shared so much of her life with her listeners, the Sunshine Coast really has watched her family grow up, and she wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I really love it,” she says with a brilliant smile.
“I grew up in a family that was really involved in the community – a small country town with 800 people in Margaret River, Western Australia, where everyone knew me and everyone knew my family.
“The thing that I love about radio is it’s a really immediate connection with your audience, there are people who I have been speaking to on an almost daily basis on the Sunshine Coast for 19 years, people who have watched my kids grow up, and I have been a part of big occasions in their lives.
“The radio is often described as the people’s friend, we try to be that and I think we are, and that’s what I love about it.”
Most memorable moment on air
It would definitely be ‘September 11’, no doubt about it. It happened during breakfast radio and was unfolding as the world woke up. People were going about their day, but realising something massive was happening and it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it, trying to get information to people. The internet existed and that was where I was getting information from, but people didn’t have the internet on their phones like they do now, so as soon as they left for work, they were desperate for information and the radio was where they got it from – that’s where radio shines. People still say to me, ‘That’s the day I started listening to you, on September 11”.
Favourite moment on air
Talking to Hugh Jackman! Those things are really fun, I do love them. When we jag a really big star it’s pretty exciting, you never forget them. He was so lovely and the funniest thing is I reckon he did upwards of 200 interviews that day, but he was so nice to us and pretended he was excited, he was great fun.
Least favourite moment on air
My least favourite moment came very early in my career on Mix FM. I won’t name the franchise, but I said at Easter time, ‘There’s only one chocolate I don’t like’, and I named a brand and then I spent the rest of the day driving around to franchisees apologising to them, while they cried and said I’d ruined their Easter sales. It was terrible, the worst day. But it was a really good lesson for me, I realised when you say something that you think is flippant it can actually really affect people.
When I was younger I never knew my voice was different, but my mum says I sounded like this in the pram, as a tiny baby. I’ve had my voice investigated and I don’t have scarring, I don’t have nodules, I don’t have anything that would suggest I should have this voice, but I’ve had it since I was a baby. I don’t love it, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I know people who say, ‘I hate her voice,’ but it’s kept me employed so I can’t really complain about it.