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'Paying It Forward': Sandra Sully Celebrates 30 Years At Network 10 With Journalism Scholarship

She might be one of the most recognised faces in Australian media, but Sandra Sully is determined that -- even on the celebration of her 30 years in the trade -- the spotlight won't just be on her.

The veteran newsreader is this month celebrating an illustrious three decades with the network by helping pave the way for aspiring young journalists to one day follow in her footsteps.

The ‘Network 10 Sandra Sully Journalism Scholarship’, valued at $7,500, will provide support for a student enrolled in the Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) degree at Western Sydney University. The student will also have the opportunity to undertake a tailored work placement in the Network 10 newsroom.

For Sandra, the scholarship is about giving back to the community, as well as her insistence that her 30-year anniversary celebrations would not be focused solely on her.

Thirty years young at Network 10.

"Over the years I've done a lot of mentoring and spoken to schools about career paths and I sort of had this epiphany that I'm really not comfortable with all the attention being on me," Sandra told 10 daily.

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"There are plenty of people who have survived in the industry for a lot longer than I have and I was not entirely comfortable about making as big a fuss about me, and I thought this was a really nice way to take the spotlight off me and pay my good fortune forward."

"In an industry that is experiencing so much turmoil on so many fronts, it's nice to be able to continue to support good journalism."

Image: Supplied.

The decision to partner with Western Sydney University was a 'stars aligned' moment, Sandra explained, with the university celebrating its own 30-year milestone in 2019.

"I'm particularly grateful to Liz Dibbs, the vice-chancellor of the university, for helping me facilitate this and the coincidence of it being the 30 years celebration for the university and my 30 years said to me that the collaboration was meant to be."

The Queen Of Australian Television

After 30 years behind the news desk, Sandra has become a constant in how Australian households engage with the news, in what has otherwise been a relentlessly evolving industry.

And that transformation of Australian and global media is what Sandra believes young aspiring journalists need to be most prepared for: the ability to straddle a number of different platforms.

Sandra Sully in her early reporting years with Channel 10.

"The best advice I could give would be to experience more platforms and get as much opportunity as you can because you never really know when another door opens and another opportunity presents itself," she said.

"From the day I started, I've been hearing about the demise of journalism and particularly broadcast journalism and yet we are continually seeing an appetite for quality journalism the world over."

Image: Network 10.

It's the sort of mindset she's also used herself, last year launching her 'Short Black' podcast which has already reached the top 33 on the Apple Charts.

The 10 Speaks podcast sees Sandra talk candidly with intriguing and inspiring women who have something interesting to say about what really matters, she explained.

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But of course, it's still behind the 10 News First news desk at 5pm where Sandra feels most at home.

"I don't think you stay somewhere you're not happy," she said when asked what's kept her with the network for so many decades.

"I've been really happy at 10 for a very long time, I really admire the people I work with and work for and it's a tribe I'm proud to belong to."

And of course, she couldn't not mention her "cohort in crime" as she describes them -- sports presenter and news-desk banter pro Matt Burke and weather-wall extraordinaire Tim Bailey.

"I think it's pretty obvious to all that we genuinely like each other and get on," she said.

"There's just a rapport between the three of us that's cheeky, fun and respectful that just makes going to work every day so much easier."

'I Fell In Love With The Industry'

It's difficult to pick one stand-out moment in Sandra's 30 years. While she's perhaps best remembered for her rolling, live coverage the night of the September 11 attacks, she says visiting New York a year on from the devastation was also an incredibly powerful moment in her career.

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"Behind the scenes, there was a quiet, frenetic energy as we scrambled to make sense of it."

"I've been very privileged to cover some big stories and of course September 11 tops the list because it was world-changing and the magnitude was something of which we had never seen before," she said.

Sandra Sully Was Live On Air When The US Came Under Attack

Sandra said covering the Thredbo landslide in 1997 would also be a significant memory for her.

"Being there when it happened and then staying on that week until Stuart Diver was rescued and all the emotions for the people in Thredbo," she recalled.

"Everyone was living with their hearts in their throat for a week, day by day and hour by hour as rescuers sifted through the rubble."

And there have of course been plenty of happy stories as well -- from the Royal weddings of Will and Kate and Australia's own Mary, to releasing orphaned orangutans into the jungle and greeting Jessica Watson on the steps at Sydney Harbour after she successfully circumnavigated the globe.

Releasing orphaned orangutans into the jungle in Borneo. Image: Supplied.

Like any seasoned pro, she has a bloopers reel to boot, recalling one of her favourite unscripted moments she said still makes her laugh: a play of the day sheep racing event saw Sandra and sports presenter Brad McEwan dissolve into giggles, unable to recover through the rest of the show.

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While she's known for her professionalism, Sandra also has a cheeky streak and, ahead of her 30 year anniversary, she shared one particular OMG memory about then 'Bold and The Beautiful' star Ronn Moss.

Moss, best known for his character Ridge Forrester on the iconic soap opera,  was in Sydney in 2005 when his manager tried to organise a date for him with Sandra -- but she had to decline, having already committed to hosting a Surf Life Saving award event.

"The whole night, as much as I was completely present, I quietly chuckled and thought to myself 'you have no idea how much I have sacrificed'," Sandra laughed.

"I've watched him since I was in high school, he's Ridge Forrester!!"

Ronn Moss and Sandra Sully during the Cartier Party on Melbourne Cup Day at the Sydney Opera House in 2005. Image: Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images.

While she's Australia's Queen of Television, Sandra said it's just one part of what makes up who she is.

From serving on the Walkley advisory board for five years to launching her International Women's Day Project 'Agenda' last year, Sandra said her career has helped her to contribute to the community in a variety of different ways.

Sandra launched her IWD project Agenda last year and says there are more exciting developments to come in 2020. Image: Supplied.

Being an adoption awareness ambassador is particularly close to Sandra's heart, because her own step-daughter, Mia, is adopted.

Sandra with her husband Symon Brewis-Weston and daughter Mia. Image: Supplied.

"I've been a step-mum for nearly 10 years and I'm a passionate supporter of adoption awareness and have joined forces with Deborra-Lee Furness and her campaign," she said.

Sandra has been part of the Adopt Change campaign with Deborra-lee Furness and Jack Thompson for a number of years. Image: Supplied.

Sandra has also joined forces with Spinal Cure Australia and Kerri-Anne Kennerley to successfully lobby the NSW government for $15 million in funding for spinal cord injury research.

"That's been really important to me personally to be able to try and make a difference in the community space," Sandra said.

"People think maybe she's just preoccupied with what I do on television, but it's really only part of who I am, and what's a significant part of who I am is what I can do to give back."

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And of course, there's Sandra's lifetime love of hockey.

Newly named Hockey Australia's Vice President, Sandra said she's proud to have been involved in the establishment of a brand new global hockey series, with the Australian leg of the competition to begin this weekend.

"Through the last five years, to have been able to contribute and give back to a sport I loved and played as a kid has been really terrific and if it wasn't for the job I have now I would not have had that opportunity," she said.

Sandra at the NSW Ambulance Patient Experience Summit 2018. Image: Narelle Spangher.

But hockey was never the only sporting love for Sandra, who actually came into the industry completely out-of-the-blue, having been an aerobics instructor in her hometown of Brisbane... with the leg-warmers to boot.

"No one in my family including me ever expected that I would end up doing what I'm doing, but I fell in love with the industry completely by accident and I'm very grateful for the opportunities -- many and varied as they have been -- that have been presented," she said.

Asked if she'd ever put the leg-warmers back on part-time, our ever-cheeky Sandra laughed,"... maybe I already have."

But, that's a story for her 40th year celebration.

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The Network 10 Sandra Sully Journalism Scholarship is open to students who are commencing study or currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) degree at Western Sydney University. For more information, visit the Western Sydney University website.

Sandra Sully is the consulting editor of 10 daily. You can check out her 'Short Black' podcast  on AcastiTunes and Spotify