A few words with Kate McGrath

Kate McGrath is the Nine News Chief of Staff for Melbourne and an all-round legend. She is so humble she will get cross at us for saying this, but we think she’s just great. As you will see below Kate is straight-talking and completely grounded, despite her impressive success.

Word on the street is that you were the first female to have held the news Chief of Staff role at Network Nine and the youngest female to have held the role at Channel Ten? After achieving so much at such a young age, do you find you feel more pressure (from others and yourself) to perform?
I was not the first female COS at Channel 9. I inherited Sally Pickering’s job and Nine Sydney has the very talented COS Fiona Dear. When I first started doing this job 3 years ago, female COS’s were in the minority but this has altered significantly since. In fact, it’s about 50/50 in Melbourne now.

Thanks for the compliment but I think at 36, and after nearly 14 years in the business I’m hardly a wunderkind. Pressure is par for the course in a newsroom. In fact, the adrenaline is the thing that keeps you going for such long hours. We all put pressure on ourselves and encourage each other to do a better job than the competition, get it first, have exclusive content. But I do not feel anyone is “pressuring” me. It’s the culture and probably one of the more addictive aspects of the job.

I never think of my being female as a point of difference.  I am certainly not treated any differently to anyone in the newsroom. While I may be one of the few women in daily production meetings, in my experience a newsroom is a very fair and egalitarian workplace. I have never felt I have been treated differently because of my sex.

When you were coming up as a junior journo you would go to the office on your day off to get more experience and you made a point of socializing with your colleagues. What additional advice would you give to other young women with their eye on the prize? 
It’s an oldie but a goodie – but if your job is your hobby, you’ll never work a day in your life. Take the time to discover what it is you enjoy. Take all opportunities, especially at university, to try new avenues of learning, travel, and open yourself to new experiences. Then, when you discover the field you want to dedicate your life to, investigate. Get as much work experience/ unpaid work as you can to see if it’s an environment you enjoy.

Also, deeds not words. The world is divided into two groups; people who tell you how much they’re going to accomplish “one day”, and those who just get on with it. And it’s mostly populated by the “talkers”. So it’s really not that hard to set yourself apart.

Once you get there, just work harder than everyone else. And then, never complain that you work harder than everyone else. It will be noted.

Also, be a decent human being. Be the person you’d like to work alongside for 15 hours a day. Have a laugh, make genuine friendships, and never take your bad mood out on people who don‘t deserve it. That’s the worst character trait in my mind.

And remember, you’re always making future contacts, so don’t treat people who are starting out their journey less well than someone in a position of influence. Today’s shit kicker could be tomorrows CEO.

Ken Robinson (from the famous TED talks on education) says “finding your passion changes everything”. Do you believe it’s possible to be really successful if you don’t love what you do?If you don’t love what you do, then you cannot be truly happy, therefore you cannot be truly successful. Financial reward is not the only measure of success. Yet it’s the one most people strive for.

As well as sitting on the fundraising board of St Vincent’s, you are also a member of women’s charitable network The Sisterhood. Do you feel that a person’s social impact is becoming as important as their career achievement in society today? 
The Sisterhood is a fundraising group borne of my work at the St Vincent’s Foundation. I joined the foundation because I realised my skillset could be used for creating other things than news. I am honoured to be a small part of such an incredible foundation, raising money for St Vincent’s, which offers health care to all, rich or poor, cradle to the grave.

And it is essential to give back if you can. I believe it is your obligation, as a member of society, to give what you can where you can. And it’s not about giving money. Giving someone in need your time and your attention can be just as important. It’s about trying to make the world a slightly better place, which I think is what makes the world go around.

And building on this, as you get further along in your career do you find yourself redefining your view of success?  
Not really. As long as continue to do what I love, I’ll always be happy with my career and my choices. I feel no more successful than when I was a junior reporter, reporting on the show bags at the Royal Melbourne Show. The way I see it I’m just older, know the ropes a little better, so have more responsibilities.

We all get moments of uncertainty, challenges that can make us question whether it’s all worth it. How do you find you get yourself through these tough times?  
I have the best cheerleaders in the world. My family and my friends are amazing people. I have always felt I could do anything I wanted because I have so much love and support. I am incredibly lucky. That, and an “I’ll show you” mentality. If someone crosses me, I am a force to be reckoned with. No mercy.

What is the question that you wish people would ask you about your career choices/your journey? 
I can’t believe anyone is interested enough to ask me questions to be honest. Most of my friends are doctors and save lives daily. Surely that’s far more interesting?

And finally can you tell us about the three most ambitious people you know? 
I know lots, but these are the first three that popped in my mind:

Martin McGrath – my dad. I know where I get the fighter’s passion from. He had a lot more to fight and work for though. It’s because of his ambition that I was afforded such a privileged life.

Mitch Catlin – Swisse. There is nothing Mitch can’t do when he sets his mind to something. In my opinion, most people had never heard of Swisse before he started there. Now that brand is worldwide and ubiquitous.

Amber Petty – Everything. Amber is best known for her work in the music and radio scene, but there’s no pie this woman doesn’t have her finger in. She’s incredibly creative, spiritual, loves fashion and food and is always, always thinking of ways to take her personal experiences and what she loves and share them with the world. She always has about 4 projects on the go and I cannot keep up. She is passion personified.


Kate McGrath began her career in the Melbourne Ten Newsroom in 2000 just days after completing her Honours year in History at Monash University. After a stint of work experience in the South Yarra studio, she worked as a Production Assistant after forgoing a place in RMIT’s post-graduate Journalism course. By 2001, Kate had debuted as a cadet reporter for the network.

Over the next ten years, she covered all manner of stories, notably the Melbourne Underworld shootings, and overseas assignments including the death of Pope John Paul II from Vatican City and the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles from Windsor in the UK.

Kate is best known for her role as Ten News Court Reporter. Well known for presenting live news reports, over nearly four years she covered the high profile trials of Tony Mokbel, Thomas Towle, Peter Dupas and the sentencing of Carl Williams. Kate twice took out the Law Institute of Victoria’s Best TV report award, and was awarded the 2008 Columb Brennan Award for Excellence in Court Reporting.

In 2010, after a six month stint as the Public Relations manager for Myer, Kate took up the role as Ten News Chief of Staff. The following year she moved to the rival Nine Network, in the same role as Chief of Staff.

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