Wendy Harmer

Wendy Harmer (born Wendy Brown, 10 October 1955 in Yarram, Victoria) is an Australian author, children's writer, playwright and dramatist, radio show host, comedian and television personality. She is host of ABC Radio Sydney's Morning radio program.[1]

Early life and career

Harmer was born in Yarram and grew up in small country towns in Victoria, including Warncoort, Selby, California Gully, Freshwater Creek and Geelong, where she studied journalism at the Gordon Institute of TAFE and Deakin University and became a reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.

Harmer's journalistic career took her to Melbourne, where she worked for The Sun News-Pictorial newspaper on the rounds of transport, urban affairs and state politics.

As an arts feature writer, she was introduced to a comedy group performing at the Flying Trapeze comedy venue. This group included Ian McFadyen, Mary-Anne Fahey and Peter Moon.

Harmer left The Sun News-Pictorial and worked part-time at the Melbourne Times newspaper and began working in her days off as a stand up comedian.[2] She is acknowledged as the first Australian woman to enter the all-male domain of stand up comedy in the 2015 ABC TV series Stop Laughing This is Serious[3]

Not long afterwards, Harmer was headlining her own shows at the Last Laugh theatre restaurant, owned by entrepreneur John Pinder and later by Rick McKenna. The shows included Faking It, Sunburn Bloody Sunburn, and Sunburn the Day After,[4] which included the group from the Flying Trapeze and, among others, Mark Neale, Richard Stubbs, and Steve Vizard.

Harmer was on the board of the first ever Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 1987 which featured Barry Humphries and Peter Cook. She has also served on the boards of the Belvoir Theatre and the Malthouse.

She first appeared on television in the ABC children's show Trap, Winkle and Box. She then joined the satirical political TV series The Gillies Report, along with John Clarke, Phillip Scott, Tracy Harvey, Patrick Cook and Jean Kittson.[5]

Harmer went on to host ABC TV's, The Big Gig, including, among others, performers Glynn Nicholas, Rod Quantock, Greg Fleet, Jean Kittson and the Doug Anthony All Stars.[6]

She also hosted her own ABC TV talk series In Harmer's Way, with comedians Greg Fleet, Andrew Goodone, Simon Rogers and Tim Smith.[7][8]

Harmer performed at the Edinburgh Festival on four occasions: First with a two-handed stand-up show Harmer and Stubbs with Richard Stubbs. Also with the Australian Government's 1988 OZNOST [9] troupe which included Magda Szubanski, Rod Quantock, Gina Riley, Kate Ceberano and Circus Oz. She also took her one-woman show Love Gone Wrong to the festival where it was awarded "Pick of the Fringe" and was transferred to a theatre in London's West End for a limited season. Her fourth outing was as a solo stand up comic.

She wrote, performed and sang in two one-woman shows with musicians - Love Gone Wrong and Please Send More Money which was directed by Nigel Triffit. Harmer also appeared on the Ben Elton show Friday Night Live with Dame Edna Everage and the Doug Anthony Allstars.

Her stand up days were recalled in a 2015 episode of the ABC TV series Home Delivery hosted by Julia Zemiro. Her episode was advertised as a "moving account of her life" [10]

Harmer also appeared in Australian Story Operation Wendy in 2005 in which she travelled to Fiji with the team from Interplast [11][12]

Harmer's performed her one-woman stand up show Up Late and Loving It at the Sydney's Wharf Theatre in 2001.[13]

She performed at the 2016 30th anniversary of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.[14]

Radio career

In the mid 1980s Harmer started on radio at 3AK with a Saturday night shift she shared with Jane Clifton. Glen Robbins was a regular guest. In 1992 she hosted a drive programme called Kaboom on ABC Radio National.[15] In 1993, Harmer joined 2Day FM, co-hosting the highly rated breakfast radio show The Morning Crew for 11 years.[16] In September 2005, Harmer started in the morning shift at the new Sydney and Melbourne radio station Vega FM, but by March 2006, she had quit her morning show after creative differences with management.[17]

In 2016, Harmer returned to radio presenting the morning program on ABC Radio Sydney.[18]

Writing credits

Harmer is the author of seven books for adults: It's a Joke, Joyce (1989),[19] Love Gone Wrong (1995),[20] So anyway--: Wendy's words of wisdom (1997) (a collection of her weekly columns from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend Magazine), Farewell My Ovaries (2005),[2] Nagging for Beginners (2006), Love and Punishment (2006).[2] Roadside Sisters, was published in April 2009. Her fourth was Friends Like These was published in 2011[21]

Harmer's books have been described as being in the genre of chick lit or hen lit. Harmer wrote[22] that the genres were misunderstood for The Age newspaper.

"And if it's all just banal 'women's stuff? If children, marriage, friendship and happiness are just of marginal concern? Pass me the pastel-covered girlie book and break out the chocolate!" They are popular light novels, and very humorous.

Harmer has also written a series of children's books called the Pearlie the Park Fairy series. There are 17 books in the Pearlie series published to date. They are bestsellers in Australia, and have been published in ten countries around the world. The animated series Pearlie has been shown on Australian, Canadian, and American television, and Harmer adapted the first book in the series, Pearlie in the Park, for the stage. In 2005, this play toured around Australia, performed by the Monkey Baa theatre company.[23]

I Lost My Mobile at the Mall (2009)[24] was Harmer's first novel for teens. The sequel was I Made Lattes for a love God in 2012.[25]

In addition to the Pearlie in the Park adaptation, Harmer has written two plays, Backstage Pass[26] and What Is the Matter With Mary Jane?[27] She also wrote the libretto for Baz Luhrmann's Opera Australia production of Lake Lost.

She has written for numerous Australian magazines, and has been a contributing columnist for The Australian Women's Weekly, New Weekly, The Good Weekend, HQ, Sunday Telegraph and Yours magazine.

Harmer contributed to Marie Claire's What Women Want in 2002, My Sporting Hero, edited by Greg Gowden and published by Random House Australia, and a volume of The Best Ever Sports Writing . . . 200 Years of Sport Writing.

She also wrote a chapter on "Women talk back",[28] for Destroying The Joint: Why Women Have To Change The World, edited by Jane Caro.[29]

Harmer founded the website The Hoopla, a news and opinion site for Australian women, in 2011.[30] It closed in spring 2015.[31][32][33]

Television credits

Harmer was the host of the TV series The Big Gig, had her own TV chat show in 1990, In Harmer's Way, and co-starred in the World Series Debate with Andrew Denton from 1993 to 1994. Harmer hosted the Logie Awards of 2002, and was caught up in widespread media criticism of the event, with some focusing on her personal performance.[34][35] In 2005, Harmer was the subject of an ABC Australian Story episode. Stuff, a four-part television documentary series which Harmer produced, wrote, and presented, premiered on ABC TV in 2008. The same year, Harmer commenced writing for the animated series Pearlie, based on her series of books. Harmer wrote many of the episodes, acted as a creative producer on the series, and even made a cameo appearance as Astrid the Dream Fairy.

Political views

In a 2015 article for The Sydney Morning Herald, Harmer described herself as a "tragic lefty".[36] In a 2013 humorous piece for The Hoopla, she described herself as an "old lefty".[37] Harmer told the ABC Q&A program in November 2015 that her politics sounded "like an old fashioned socialist", that she objected to trends towards privatisation of public assets, and that the GST is not fair.[38] In a 2014 piece for the Herald, Harmer cautioned against being too dismissive of opposing political views: "right and left need each other to progress, we should be more humble about our supposedly deeply-held beliefs and not so quick to label our opponents as either carelessly ill-informed or purposefully evil. Although, don't expect any extremist wingnut or idiotic greenie near you to get that any time soon!"[39] Harmer advocated against the election of Republican Donald Trump at the 2016 US Presidential Election.[40]

Gender fluidity

Harmer wrote in 2016 that acceptance of "gender fluidity" could be one of the "best things" to happen in her lifetime, and that "I believe, with all my heart, that we exist on a dynamic spectrum of sexuality and that labels are at best useless, at worst tragically destructive."[41]

Abbott-Turnbull Government

Following the first Budget of the Abbott Government in 2014, Harmer wrote: "The government we have now confounds me. It seems it is oblivious to all advice, evidence and entreaties. I just cannot understand how Joe Hockey has come up with a budget that offers no joy. At all. No carrot, all stick. All punishment and threats. No reward he’s able to articulate. No budget emergency that stands up to scrutiny."[42]


Harmer is a republican.[43] In October 2015, she tweeted that she is a member of the Australian Republican Movement, and encouraged others to join.[44] In 1993, she participated in a comic debate "Does Australia need the Royal Family", arguing the case for the negative alongside future Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull and Labor politician Graham Richardson.[45]

The Greens

Harmer described long term leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown as "a good man prosecuting the good cause...".[42]


Harmer was one of 28 members of the National People with Disabilities and Careers Council (NPWDACC), created to advise the Australian Government on the development of the National Disability Strategy. She was also the ambassador for Interplast.

In 2014, Harmer wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald that her husband is a "dedicated greenie" and "Activism is now the core of our lives. Our kids have grown up behind protest banners."[42]


In an article written for The Sydney Morning Herald in March 2013, Harmer described herself as "born into an atheist household", but said she attended Church of England Sunday school for a time until her father declared himself "humanist".[46] She wrote in 2016 that her father was "a steadfastly non-religious man, a self-described humanist".[41]

Nevertheless, she wrote, "I've remained deeply attracted to the tale of suffering and resurrection at the heart of the Christian narrative. Endlessly fascinated by accounts of religion, belief, myth, legend and fairytales... I'm one of those pathetic non-believers philosopher Alain de Botton bangs on about. The sad, godless orphans who can't pass a church or temple without entering to light a candle or offer a flower."[46]

In an essay in Destroying The Joint: Why Women Have To Change The World edited by Jane Caro, Harmer wrote that her two children have been confirmed into the Catholic Church.[29]


Harmer is married to Brendan and has two children. She is a co-founder, of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles's Angels, the women supporters' group for the local Rugby league club.[47]


  1. Wendy Harmer announced as new host of ABC Sydney's 702 Mornings program; smh.com.au; December 4, 2015
  2. Schmidt, Lucinda (13 December 2006). "Profile: Wendy Harmer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  3. "Stop Laughing...this is Serious: ABC celebrates the history of Australian comedy". DeciderTV. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  4. http://www.wendyharmer.com/stage.html
  5. "The Gillies Report (TV Series 1984–1985)". imdb.com. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  6. "Tuesday Night Live: The Big Gig (TV Series 1989–1991)". imdb.com. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  7. "In Harmer's Way". IMDB. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  8. "A big year ahead for our own national broadcaster". Canberra Times. 5 February 1990. p. 32. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Trove.
  9. "Oznost tickles Edinburgh". Roadrunner twice. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  10. "Trailer: Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery - Series 2 Ep 2: 9.00pm Wed 22 Oct ABC : ABC iview". iview.abc.net.au. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  11. "Interplast - We exist to repair bodies and rebuild lives". Interplast. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  12. "Australian Story - Operation Wendy". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  13. "Wendy Live: Up Late and Loving It". AusStage. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  14. "Melbourne International Comedy Festival Guide". The Australia Times. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016. Featuring comedic heavyweights Tommy Little, Cal Wilson as your illustrious hosts, the superstar line-up includes Eddie Perfect, Rich Hall, Greg Fleet, The Umbilical Brothers, Wendy Harmer, Rachel Berger and many more!
  15. Wallace, Mark (27 January 1992). "Allen's mates are doing their best to welcome him". Canberra Times. p. 4. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Trove.
  16. "Speaker Details – Wendy Harmer". Saxton Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  17. "Fed: Wendy Harmer leaves Vega", AAP, 3 March 2006
  18. Bodey, Michael (4 December 2015). "Wendy Harmer to replace Linda Mottram on 702 ABC Sydney". The Australian. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  19. Warden, Ian (16 December 1989). "The season to be silly". Canberra Times. p. 4. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Trove.
  20. Warden, Ian (5 June 1992). "Vinegar". Canberra Times. p. 3. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Trove.
  21. Pitt, Helen (18 March 2011). "Priscilla's date with Broadway destiny". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  22. "Putting the chick into lit - Books - Entertainment - theage.com.au". www.theage.com.au. 13 August 2005. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  23. "Wendy Harmer's Pearlie in the Park". Monkey Baa. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  24. Coates, Karen (2011). "I lost my mobile at the mall: Teenager on the edge of technological breakdown". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 64 (8): 373–374. doi:10.1353/bcc.2011.0246. ProQuest 862549835.
  25. "Wendy Harmer". ABC. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  26. "Harmer writes play". Canberra Times. 18 November 1989. p. 4. Retrieved 28 August 2018 via Trove.
  27. "Plays by Wendy Harmer". The Playwrights Database. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  28. Harmer, Wendy (2013). "Women talk back". In Caro, Jane (ed.). Destroying the joint: why women have to change the world. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press. pp. 172–181. ISBN 9780702249907.
  29. Wendy Harmer on men and talk radio; Adelaide Now; April 27, 2013
  30. Simons, Margaret (5 December 2011). "New Kid on the Block: Wendy Harmer talks all things Hoopla". Crikey. Private Media Operations. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  31. Robin, Myriam (7 April 2014). "After jumping through enough ad hoops, a paywalled circus begins". Crikey. Private Media Operations. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  32. Robin, Myriam (23 March 2015). "'When elephants go to war, the ants get trampled': The Hoopla closes as field gets more crowded". Crikey. Private Media Operations. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  33. Harmer, Wendy (23 March 2015). "The Hoopla … Last drinks! Alley oop!". The Hoopla. We Magazines. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  34. Warneke, Ross (2 May 2002), "Ho hum, another night at the dreary Logies", The Age
  35. "Logies host bites back", ABIX (Australian Business Intelligence), 30 April 2002, archived from the original on 23 October 2012
  36. A way of shaming that leaves no room for compassion; Wendy Harmer; smh.com.au; June 19, 2015
  37. A LEFTY GOES DOWN THE SHOPS; The Hoopla; August 4, 2013
  38. Q&A 2 November, 2015: GST, Gonski, Population and Diversity; abc.net.au
  39. Feeling beats thinking when fear is on the brain; September 27, 2014
  40. MPs slam ABC’s US election coverage as biased against Trump; The Australian; 14 November 2016
  41. Wendy Harmer: Why gender and sexual fluidity could be one of the best things to happen in my lifetime; Wendy Harmer; abc.net.au; 22 Feb 2016
  42. Wendy Harmer: why is Tony Abbott so down on optimism?; Wendy Harmer; August 19, 2014
  43. A Stirring in the Republican Crypt; Quadrant Online; Michael Copeman, Aug 9 2015
  44. Harmer, Wendy (6 October 2015). "Bloody love it... Aussies for a republic are "GO"! Let's do this!! I'm a member, are you?". twitter.com. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  45. Wendy Harmer interview with Malcolm Turnbull, ABC Radio, 11 March 2016
  46. Quiet day taps yearning for sacred space; Wendy Harmer; smh.com.au; March 29, 2013
  47. Proszenko, Adrian (30 July 2015). "Eagles Angels supporters group considers parting with Manly". The Eagles Angels, formed in 2002 by Wendy Harmer and Sarah Murdoch to support Manly. Fairfax Media. SMH. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
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