Sam’s Sunrise replacement fires first shot
Exclusive: Natalie Barr has taken a bat to her Sunrise predecessor's provocative parting words - speaking up for Channel 7's army of working mothers who felt maligned by Sam Armytage's claims network bosses had gone easy on them when assigning extra duties.
In an extraordinary first interview - confirming she will start in the co-host job from tomorrow - Barr wasted no time addressing the incendiary Stellar podcast comments which exploded in Sam's final days before her shock exit from the top-rating breakfast show.
While newlywed Armytage said she was taking a break to "calm things down" with husband, Richard Lavendar, the controversial Seven star threw a few grenades on her way out - using her new News Corp Australia podcast, Something To Talk About, to also describe her TV colleagues as "sociopaths and narcissists."
While Barr said "everyone was entitled to their opinion" the popular TV newsreader railed against any suggestion Seven staffers with children were given an easier ride than childless singles when it came to overseas or breaking news assignments.
The married mother of two sons and longest-serving member of the Sunrise family defended her employers and "news junkie" work ethic.
"I feel like I've worked really hard and I've put my hand up for every job, every news story that involved going away," Barr said.
"I've been to floods and fires and terror attacks and US elections and I love taking on all that extra load," adding, "it's why I became a journalist. I put my hand up as high as I can to get to those jobs and do the extra stuff.
"If I was single and had no kids, I think I'd be the same. I mean, I do like the fact that I've got two boys and they know that their dad's job and their mum's job is equally as important … but that's the way our family operates. I walk out of the house [for work], and particularly in the last few years, they've got to know how to put the bolognese on, how to boil the pasta.
"They can cook rice, they've got their cooking repertoire going and they've still got to get the bins out on a Tuesday night. Isn't this the modern world?
"I don't feel like I've worked less being a wife and mum. I don't feel like I've had to prove anything either, that's how it's always worked for me," she said.
After 18 years as the bridesmaid of breakfast TV - working beside Melissa Doyle and Armytage in the top job - it was Barr's Oscar-nominated film editor husband, Drew Thompson, who told her to "woman up and get out there."
"He actually said that," Barr laughed.
"I'm naturally a bit of a scaredy cat type of person and have been very happy in my [newsreader] job.
"The job I had reading the news was my dream job. I came from a little country town [Bunbury, in WA] and just dreamt of getting to Perth, where I thought all the cool people lived," the 52-year-old said.
"My dream never stretched to Sydney and then I landed here, on this amazing show.
"My nearly 20-year-old son was an 18-month-old non-sleeping baby when I joined Sunrise, so it's almost been their whole life. Things have changed because he's not waking me up at night, although sometimes he does now, when comes stumbling in at 4am," she laughs.
Her eldest son, Lachlan is currently in his second year of university, studying cinematography and film, while the couple's youngest Hunter is in year 10, "six foot two and patting me on the head … that stage," she smiled.
But Barr also knows what it's like to create a public uproar, after a 2014 opinion piece angered feminists by asking: "If a man got the job ahead of you, was it because he was better?"
While Armytage has suffered from intense scrutiny for her conservative politics and private life during her 7.5 years on Sunrise, Barr joked her life was "so dull, I think the paps would realise that after two days and give up."
Still, she had already started setting up boundaries on social media, turning off all Twitter notifications "so [trolls] can't get to me."
"I thought 'that's a really good start.' I just won't read all that stuff. When I get that abuse, I just block people … every few days I block someone, and I have no problem blocking. It's self-preservation, really."
Edwina Bartholomew will add news reading duties to her entertainment editor role on Sunrise, as CEO James Warburton continues to look for cost savings.
Originally published as Sam's Sunrise replacement fires first shot