Then, a friend of mine was due to go along to the local newspaper, the Melbourne Herald, which had a cadetship intake every year, and I went along with her. We were interviewed and had a look round the office, and I thought it was something I'd love to get into. I'd been editing the school magazine, but journalism wasn't something I'd thought about before then.
I got a job, which was great, but it really was a case of starting at the bottom - getting cans of Coke for hungover old hacks, and having to listen to their dreadful stories. But it was a good training-ground: they got you to do court reporting, and sometimes you'd be on the graveyard shift, chasing ambulances and fire engines and seeing heinous car accidents at three in the morning. I was also sent to do a journalism degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and spent a year at the paper's Sydney bureau.
In 1989, when I was 22, I did what every single young Australian does: resigned, packed my backpack and travelled through Europe with a girlfriend. After four months, I had to find a job. I landed in London, and the idea was that I'd work there for six months to a year.
So I started working for the News International bureau in the old Today building, which was made up of Aussie journos filing copy back to the Murdoch papers in Australia. But that was only shift work and, because I knew by then that I wanted to stay in London, I thought I'd better get a proper job. And I ended up working on Campaign, the advertising trade magazine, which I have to say I didn't enjoy. The people were fun, but the work itself was pretty dreadful - all the very dry direct marketing and below-the-line stuff, rather than the glamorous agency stuff. It was nothing like I expected, and I lasted a year.
I then freelanced for about three months, but was just appalling at it. I had no self-discipline whatsoever, and I found cold-calling editors with story ideas just hideous. I did a bit for Elle in Australia, and some of the weeklies, and another Australian girl I shared a house with, who was a brilliant freelance, used to feed me all her scraps. But I found it the most lonely, confidence-breaking, soul-destroying period, and I was desperate to get back into an office.
Then a friend of mine at The Mirror said there were some shifts going there. It was basically just writing about flower shows and children's holiday activities, but there was a brilliant atmosphere, and I loved the whole British tabloid scene. I started to write a few bigger features, and then Mary Riddell, who was editing the Mirror Woman pages at the time, took me on as one of her writers and helped me to develop my skills. Eventually I became a staff feature writer, and had a brilliant time doing things like staking out flats during David Mellor's affair with Antonia de Sancha, and stealing the story of Noeline and Laurie from the Sylvania Waters TV series from a furious Sun.
In 1993, after a big shake-up at The Mirror, I ended up being made women's editor. I really loved editing my own section, and it was then that I decided I really wanted to get into magazines. I heard on the grapevine that there was a vacancy at Company, because Mandi Norwood was leaving to go to Cosmo, so I got my portfolio together and went to see the Nat Mags managing director, Terry Mansfield, saying: "Interview me!" He did, several times, and amazingly, in November 1995, I got the job.
For the first year it was quite tricky, trying to understand the difference between magazines and newspapers. It took me a while to realise that the true value of magazines is in their intimacy; they talk to a targeted section of people. Doing Mirror Woman I was having to deal with everyone from nine to 90 but, for Company, 18 to 26-year-old single women are the focus.
The title had been enormously successful before I arrived, but it needed to be taken on a bit. It had grown on shocking sex stories, which gave it its reputation, but by then the teen magazines were doing that, so we had to rethink our whole philosophy. We're now dealing more with relationships than with sex, and are building the fashion profile, and it seems to be working. We've had three periods of circulation increase - it's now just over 284,000 - and the big challenge now is to break through the 300,000 mark.Reuse content