News

Toni took on everyone who thought they were smarter, stronger

Toni McRae at work in the Chronicle office.
Toni McRae at work in the Chronicle office. Valerie Horton

FEW journalists were as good or as passionate about the media industry as Toni McRae.

Ms McRae was an international print journalist, who worked in Israel, Europe, Iran and New Zealand.

She filed exclusive national and international stories and won three United Nations Association Media Peace awards.

Sadly, Toni McRae passed away peacefully during her sleep overnight on Wednesday, aged 67.

Born in New Zealand, Toni had a life many journalists aspired to - full of scandals, stars and scoops.

In 1964, as a teenager, Toni sat in an armchair with her notebook out, interviewing the "very ordinary" Beatles.

She recalled falling in love with Paul McCartney that day - ironing his shirt during the interview so he could wear it at the gig that night.

Eleven years later, a story written by Toni in Fairfax's Sun newspaper about Junie Morosi's relationship with Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns, sent the Gough Whitlam government "into freefall".

She was nominated as Australian Journalist of the Year by her editors at the Australian, for risking her life covering conflict in the Middle East.

In Iran she had a gun held to her head and after infiltrating a few gangs in New Zealand she got caught in a few hairy situations.

It was all because of her duty and desire to find the truth.

But the Chronicle's admiration of Toni's work goes well beyond the first-class international journalism.

From 2005 to 2011 Toni was serving the region as a journalist for the Fraser Coast Chronicle.

She was renowned as a respected and brilliant investigative reporter.

And despite moving back from the big smoke to the laid back lifestyle of the Fraser Coast, Toni's awards kept rolling in.

Toni, along with former editor Nancy Bates, began a crusade to recognise our region's indigenous heritage.

Spearheaded by Toni, the Chronicle began a weekly "Let's Learn Butchulla: Hands in Time, Journeying Together" series, aimed at promoting our Butchulla heritage.

In one of the Chronicle's proudest moments, in 2008 that campaign won the United Nations Association Media Peace award for Promotion of Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Accepting the award from the ABC's Kerry O'Brien, Ms Bates heaped praise on her chief reporter.

"She should be the one up here receiving this award," she said.

Later in life, Toni remained a straight shooter with a sharp sense of humour.

She was grateful doctors in Hervey Bay found breast cancer in her body in April last year.

She had chemotherapy and in typical Toni fashion, she fought to recover for six long months.

While the cancer was pushed out of her body, there was no getting rid of the political bug.

After her retirement as a journalist, Toni joined the political office of Member for Hervey Bay Ted Sorensen and later became media advisor to Maryborough MP Anne Maddern.

"She came into our office like a whirlwind, full of life, enthusiasm and wit and now she is gone, leaving a dull and empty space," Mrs Maddern said.

"We will miss her dreadfully."

While many come to this beautiful region to slow down, Toni was the opposite.

She chronicled the story of one of this region's most famous faces, Con Souvlis.

In a letter, Mr Souvlis was heartbroken about his "beautiful friend".

"My heart is broken today with the sad news of my beautiful friend passing away," he said.

"She was a true lady and a ray of sunshine who came into my life a few years ago.

"We would share a merlot while she was interviewing me for my book.

"I am now so much richer for knowing her - she would light up a room just with her presence."

Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said Toni was loved as a local, respected as a journalist and admired for her enthusiasm for our region.

"For the many years that I knew Toni, she was always working on projects close to our community and close to her heart," he said.

"Toni had a special interest in learning about and telling the stories of local veterans, working closely with the RSL and the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum.

"Toni's warm, disarming and engaging charm will be sadly missed by all her knew her."

But probably the only person who knew the real Toni McRae was her dearest friend of 30 years, Les Wilson.

The quietly spoken gentleman was in shock on Thursday but managed to pay tribute to the "special lady".

"The real Toni McRae is an unbelievable journalist, maximum style," he said.

"This bird did everything.

"She was the ultimate journalist, never took a backward step.

"She took on everybody who thought they were smarter and bigger and stronger."

Topics:  butchulla, con souvlis, hervey bay, journalist, nancy bates, toni mcrae, warren truss




KILLER SPEED: Coast drivers exceed limit by more than 40km/h

Police in the Maryborough district have caught hundreds of drivers behaving badly in the past two months.

Close to 700 drivers have been caught speeding

Distressed boatie gets helping hand as yacht hits strife

A Gold Coast boatie had to be rescued from his yacht off Arch Cliffs in the early hours of Thursday.

A distressed Gold Coast boatie had to be rescued from his yacht

COLD SNAP: Don't put the winter woolies away just yet

This pooch is warming up during the cool snap on the Fraser Coast.

We can expect a beautiful sunny weekend with chilly minimum temps

Latest deals and offers

Katy Perry: 'I stay normal with therapy'

Katy Perry says she relies on therapy to help her 'stay normal'

World's highest-paid actor revealed

The highest-paid actors in the world have been revealed

Jessica Alba regrets her tattoos

Jessica Alba regrets getting her tattoos

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson highest paid actor in world

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Johnson earned almost $20 million more than Jennifer Lawrence

Why Depp and Heard are fighting again

Amber Heard is furious over Depp taking advantage of her generosity

Kim Kardashian West steals hotel bath robes

Even Kim Kardashian steals bath robes from hotels, don't feel bad

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa