Anniversary completes transformation


Third career move … Former newsreader Jo Palmer marks a year in Tasmanian politics.

It is a perfect pastel fusion, an exquisite button up baby blue blouse and tailored cream trousers, complemented by a matching cream double breasted blazer, finished with gold buttons. A reputable, determined, and unapologetic woman tops off her outfit with a comforting pair of coffee-coloured, flocculent Ugg Boots.

“The first thing I do every single day without fail, when I walk through the doors I take off my high heels and put on my Ugg Boots,” she says. “I do it for comfort, but I also do it as a symbolic gesture. I am home, I’m no longer at work, I need to be present in this environment, and this environment requires Ugg Boots.”

This petite and delicate woman oozes proficiency and power. She is daring and fierce, yet tremendously kind. She is compassionate and empathetic, yet excruciatingly brave. She is endearing yet individual.

She is Jo Palmer.

Her golden umber eyes seep deep intelligence and passion and they tell the captivating story of their owner thus far: A story that is full of love, acceptance, empowerment, and courage.

A year ago, Palmer was elected into the Tasmanian Legislative Council after standing as a Liberal endorsed candidate, representing the electoral division of Rosevears. The endeavour was the beginning of her third bold career change.

In 1993 the 22-year-old brunette beauty was crowned Miss Australia, the first Tasmanian to do so since 1927. This soon led to a career in television. Her honeyed, yet rich voice emanated from lounge room televisions at dinnertime for 24 years. For 18 of those, Palmer anchored Southern Cross News, delivering stories of triumph to tragedy, devastation to delight and sunshine to sorrow to the homes of Tasmanians.

With growth comes change, and Palmer had certainly grown. “It’s a hard industry to be in,” she says. “I was really proud of the longevity that I’ve had with my career, but I started to feel there were changes afoot.”

Palmer’s resignation marked the end of an era. Her articulate, eloquent but compelling discourse was destined for new inaugurations.

“For about a year I’d been thinking, ‘what am I? What else can I do? What am I qualified to do? And where do my passions lie?’” she says. The local member of the Legislative Council who had held the seat as an Independent for 18 years had just announced his retirement. “I remember sitting there listening to a radio interview and him talking about that, thinking, ‘I can do that, that’s it, that’s the job that I think I can do.”

And that she did. This began the transition from Tasmania’s most adored news reader to controversial politician, which brought with it judgment and opinions, both valuable and critical.

“The minute you put your hand up and say, ‘I’m going to go into politics’, immediately half the people hate you. I had to be really grounded in knowing who I was, what my foundation in life was, what my beliefs were and what my morals were. I had to be so strong as a woman because overnight, you are at the mercy of social media.”

Despite the judgment, Palmer believed in her values and followed her heart.

“This was the career that would allow me to be part of the conversations that would shape our state. I have an opportunity, I have a seat at the table, I can express my opinions, but I can also shine a light on the opinions of the people that I represent. I hope that when I get to the end of my time in politics, I have been a voice for people with quiet voices,” she says.

Her pride in career and achievements might be checked by her awareness of her publicly-elected role, but it is instantaneously apparent that the responsibility Palmer is most proud of is her title as a mother. The pride and admiration she feels for her family and four children is simply beautiful. “I am reminded that above all, I am a mum, and that is the greatest responsibility that I will ever have in my life.”

“Through all the craziness of it all, a year in, they are my priority.”

Her resilience and gallantry prove to carry her through each leap and bound. “Sometimes in life, you just have to do things scared. With that churning tummy and with the shortness of breath, and all the things that come with being scared comes extraordinary power, conviction, and bravery. It’s actually a power source from which you can either launch yourself or shut down, and I feel like I launched myself.”

One year into politics, and she is now soaring.