Noni Hazlehurst: How people power saved Aussie drama

When A Place to Call Home was axed by Channel 7 last year, there was a public outcry – especially among Starts at 60 readers. Thousands of you told us the show was the best thing on television, and a petition with more than 7000 signatures begged the network not to give up on your favourite show.

Thankfully, the program was spared – in a surprising agreement between Channel 7 and Foxtel, the show has moved to a new home with a guarantee that it will remain as captivating, detailed and realistic as ever.

Starts at 60 sat down with Australian icon and star of the show, Noni Hazlehurst and asked her, how does it feel knowing that people power saved A Place to Call Home?

“I’m just delighted that people have learnt that they have power, because one of the issues that we all face is that we feel powerless – recent government shenanigans have made us all think, ‘Well, what’s the point? We can’t achieve anything as individuals.’ But a crowd is just a group of individuals who got together.”

“We now have five and a half thousand members of the Save A Place To Call Home Group and we’ve got members in Israel and Germany and Canada and England, it’s just lovely. People can change things. Do we think the big supermarkets would have put organic fruit and veggies in if there hadn’t been consumer demand?”

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Noni says she is very happy at her new “home” and is grateful to the pay-TV network for taking the show on. For someone whose career in the media has spanned four decades, the changing face of television is a blessing – and a curse.

“On one level, it’s never been easier to create a show – you can shoot it on a phone – and that’s brilliant for creative people; they’re not at the mercy of the boys’ club who are usually the powers that be,” says Noni.

“But I think quality drama is always going to face an uphill battle in this country.

“What I think is really sad is that, rather than show the best performers in the world by choice, the networks show the wannabes. So our kids are watching not-great talent –not-great singers, actors and dancers – but people who think they can do it. We used to watch shows and think, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that’, now [our kids] watch shows and think ‘oh, I can do that’ .

“There’s a dilution of quality and people just aren’t being exposed to the best, so I think it’s wonderful that Foxtel wants to nurture quality drama because there’s going to be less of it as more is spent on sport.”

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Noni also believes that women are not represented and that television tends to be a very “blokey culture”.

“Given that women are more than half the population, we need to have more reflection of that – certainly in society, but also on our screens. I think we need to vote with our feet and with our remotes and say we’re not interested in what they’re giving us. Sometimes I think the networks would put the test pattern to air in between ads if they thought they’d get away with it.”

In order to keep the show going, an alternate ending of the second series was shot, and this sets the scene for series three. Noni’s iron-willed character Elizabeth Bligh has decided to leave Ash Park and set out on her own and she finding it more difficult than anticipated.

See our interview with Noni as she explains why she loves playing Elizabeth, how she relates to her and how A Place To Call Home has brought multiple generations of viewers together.

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A Place to Call Home season three will premiere on Sunday, September 27 at 8:30pm EST on Foxtel’s SoHo channel.

What do you love most about A Place to Call Home?

This is the first of two interviews with Noni Hazlehurst: tune in on Sunday as she shares her thoughts on life at 60.