Kate Fischer with James Packer at the opening of Fox Studios in Sydney.
Kate Fischer with James Packer at the opening of Fox Studios in Sydney.

‘What a waste’: Tziporah Malkah on regrets, starting over

ONE week after dodging jail time and having her license suspended in Victoria for erratic driving, Tziporah Malkah is sitting in her blue Holden Commodore, hurtling between service stations in search of cigarettes.

"Now I'm just starting to feel like a f***ing idiot," Malkah, the model formerly known as Kate Fischer who was once engaged to billionaire James Packer, says as she hurls her handbag on the back seat and slams the door after stopping at the third servo.

"It's hard to get menthol these days. I'm very 1987."

It's a hot Thursday afternoon and we're rattling down the quiet streets of a small coastal town an hour outside of Adelaide. Malkah's avoiding the service station she knows definitely stocks the cigarettes but she's hesitant to say why.

"I made a fool of myself," she says. "Just being an idiot. I was just being a bit loud. I'd just gotten back from Melbourne [following last week's court appearance] and I was very stressed. So I was being a bit mean to Guy."

Guy Vasey is the sailor she found short-term lust with as a 14-year-old model and with whom, after decades apart, she reconnected with about a year ago.

It's all very complicated. A bit messy. But that's most things in Malkah's life.

As we jet towards the local vet in the "teenager's car" to pick up her kitten, she apologises for the cigarette ash flicked over the centre console. Between the empty packets of Allen's lollies, piles of clothes and the Coca-Cola bottle with two cigarette butts dropped into the warm dark liquid, the light dusting of ash isn't that noticeable.

"The last two weeks have been so stressful," she says. "Losing my license and the possibility of going to jail."

But, even with the threat of three months' jail time, to say it's just the past fortnight that has been stressful is an understatement for Malkah.

This is the same woman who - after tossing away a booming career, losing the millions of dollars acquired in her Packer split while in Hollywood, falling into obscurity for a decade and spending two years living in a homeless women's shelter in Melbourne - was hunted down one year ago and dragged back into the public eye.

Despite appearing on Channel Ten's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! for a sizeable amount of money, it was revealed earlier this month she's living off $200 a fortnight. Malkah's life is stressful.


At 44, Malkah no longer has the size 28-inch waist she had in her early 20s as a model and actress. These days, she says she weighs about 100kg.

James Packer with Kate Fischer at the Logie Awards.
James Packer with Kate Fischer at the Logie Awards.

It's not the heaviest she has been, but it's not where she wants to be. Still, she has the same bright eyes, wide smile and clear skin of the 20-something girl who appeared in magazines and on screen in the '90s. The same girl who was photographed at flash Sydney events on the arm of James Packer.

What does she think when she looks at those photos now?

"What a waste," she says softly, without hesitation.

"I was gorgeous - I know that now. A bit late now. I look at that and think, I had the world at my feet. And I didn't know it. I had no confidence. I didn't think people looked at me and thought I was beautiful. [I thought] I was just photographed well - sometimes."

After starring in the 1995 film Sirens, she sparked a romance with Packer. A proposal followed, as did gigs hosting Channel Nine's What's Up Doc? and the short-lived travel show Time Out For Serious Fun.

But the relationship with Packer ended in 1998 and - walking away with $300,000 and a $2 million Bondi property - she decided to move to Los Angeles to make it in Hollywood.

One of her biggest regrets, she says, it not taking the advice of Don Burke - who produced her on Time Out For Serious Fun. Burke tried to persuade her to stick with television presenting but she ignored him and left the show after one season. Her other regret is not trying harder in Hollywood.

"I had money, so [I was] just shopping and travelling ... and men. I was just easily distracted by bright, shiny objects," she says. "I was just drifting around and being hedonistic. It's expensive, hedonism."

Malkah with her Sirens co-star, supermodel Elle Macpherson.
Malkah with her Sirens co-star, supermodel Elle Macpherson.

Malkah's 13 years in Los Angeles came to an end when she was ripped off of $2 million by a Rabbi she fell in love with. Returning to Australia in 2011 with little cash, she soon found herself in a homeless women's shelter in Melbourne.

Walking along the beach out the front of her coastal home, Malkah recalls how - after the Packer split - she threw all her expensive jewellery into the ocean at Bondi.

Today, she's wearing two bangles given to her by Vasey. Strapped to her right wrist is the plastic collar her kitten outgrew. On one hand is a gold plastic ring she bought for three dollars at a Thai takeaway shop while visiting her family earlier this month.

"Things come back," she says.


Two weeks ago, Malkah drove her Commodore 11 hours to Yass to visit her sick stepdad, journalist David Barnett. The visit meant she came face-to-face with her politician mother, Pru Goward. It was the first time they had been in the same room in almost a decade.

"A lot of people are critical of my mother," she says.

When it was reported this year Malkah had spent two years living in the shelter, many wondered why her parents didn't swoop in and save her. And it's because Malkah didn't tell them.

"We were at loggerheads," she says.

Malkah in the Bondi apartment Packer gave her which she sold in 2000.
Malkah in the Bondi apartment Packer gave her which she sold in 2000.

"It's still a bit of a sore point, to be honest. It's the whole Jewish thing. Growing up we always knew we were Jewish but we didn't practice the religion. But then my mum went into politics and the talk about being Jewish went away. And she doesn't really want people to know.

"I respect her. She's a happy little ham-eating, churchgoing Jew. If she's happy, be happy. But if you're Jewish, you're Jewish - you can't deny it. So the fact she wants nothing to do with it ... it really upset me for several years."

While in Los Angeles, Malkah began dating a Jewish man and her dedication to the faith grew. She says she never predicted her mother's "complete hostility".

"I rang and I said, 'I've been talking to a Rabbi. And I've changed my name to Tziporah officially now instead of it just being my secret Hebrew name,'" she says. "Mum was sort of faintly encouraging but said, 'I don't want anything to do with it.'"

When Malkah lost all her money and moved back to Australia, she didn't want to ask for help. Partly, she was in denial and thought she could still get it back. But mostly, she was embarrassed.

Malkah with mother Pru Goward in 2006 before they fell out.
Malkah with mother Pru Goward in 2006 before they fell out.

"I was so ashamed," she says.

"I just sort of thought I'd been stupid. Who lets someone take $2 million from them? I felt I needed some tough love. I had been a princess in an ivory tower for too long. I had this feeling I didn't actually know how to manager life properly.

"I just thought, I've got to face myself. I couldn't distract myself with sex or money or shopping or men or work or fame. I just had to sit down and face myself."

The first time Goward and Barnett found out she had spent two years living in a shelter was when it was reported earlier this year. It had been three years since Malkah had moved out and got a job as a carer.

"My stepsister Alice indicated that my stepfather was very upset. [But] we've not discussed it," she says. "We're not a 'talk about your feelings' family."

Despite their differences, Malkah talks with affection and admiration about her mother. She inherited her erratic driving from the politician, she jokes.

"She doesn't deserve to be treated like she was evil. I didn't ask people for help ... and I intentionally didn't," she says.

Granting her stepfather's wish, the pair reconciled in Yass and behaved "very well with each other". They bonded over conversation about broadcaster Alan Jones.

Malkah reconciles with Goward in Yass two weeks ago.
Malkah reconciles with Goward in Yass two weeks ago.

She says she's kinder to her mother now. "I just got over myself," she says.


When Malkah re-emerged in the spotlight a year ago, it wasn't by choice. She was more shoved and then begged.

After Woman's Day published photos of her walking to her mailbox in only a sheet, producers on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! began calling. "I wasn't seeking it," she says.

At the time, she was working as a carer in a nursing home. Going into the jungle, she didn't realise what she was in for. She only agreed, she says, to raise awareness and money for a charity helping homeless women. But with only $5000 raised from viewer donations, the result left her disappointed.

"I was so embarrassed I'd been so naive - that I didn't brush up on my media skills and didn't know what I was getting into," she says of the experience. "I was stupid. I had no idea."

‘Naive’ ... Producers begged Malkah to appear on I’m A Celeb.
‘Naive’ ... Producers begged Malkah to appear on I’m A Celeb.

Malkah was approached four times to appear on the reality show, with producers eventually doubling the money.

In court earlier this month, her lawyer said Malkah was living on only $200 a fortnight. So what happened to the reality TV cash?

"I'm not doing anything illegal," she laughs, explaining that, after South African tax, the I'm A Celebrity money is paid in three portions throughout the year rather than a lump sum.

She intended to go back to work once she left the jungle, but injured her foot after dropping a gate on it. "I'm not a great saver," she says. "But it's more I don't really care about possessions as much."

Just one month after her 44th birthday, Malkah's life isn't what she imagined 20 years ago. "I was probably hoping to be what Elle Macpherson is now," she says of her Sirens co-star.

"A businesswoman and supermodel. Where she still looks incredible and does the odd photoshoot. Her hair's amazing, she's got great taste and she's clever and she speaks French now. She has interesting people over for dinner. I think I thought I'd probably like to be like her."

Malkah strikes a pose last month at an event in Melbourne.
Malkah strikes a pose last month at an event in Melbourne.

With wet hair and wearing a pink bikini, Malkah stands outside her home overlooking the beach as her teenage love waits for her inside. She says she's content with her life. But she wishes she could have skipped some mistakes.

"Sometimes I just think we tend to take everything as a lesson. And some lessons you don't need to learn," she says.

"People say never have regrets ... But I do. I regret that I had to lose $2 million so that I could grow up. Why couldn't I just grow up with the $2 million?"

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