Moving on up: Pioneering reporter Helene Chung shares her property journey

Helene Chung is selling up in North Melbourne and moving to Hobart.

Former ABC China correspondent Helene Chung made history when she became the first non-white reporter to appear on television in 1974.

She rewrote the history books again when she became the broadcaster’s first female journalist posted on assignment in 1983.

Ms Chung’s reported from Australia, Hong Kong, Britain, Egypt and China throughout her career.

Her reporting included covering the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 and she’s completed freelance gigs for foreign news outlets including the BBC, CBS and Hong Kong radio.

Here she shares with us her property journey.

FIRST HOME

I bought my first home at 23/30 Queens Rd, Melbourne, in 1977. I bought it via private sale and my boyfriend, John Martin, (who I later went on to marry), would commute from his home in Geelong to visit me and I would make the trek to see him.

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Ms Chung listed her home at 14 Shiel Street, North Melbourne, in May with a price guide of $1.9m-$2.05m.

The building was designed by the architect Frederick Romberg who later went on to work alongside Sir Roy Grounds, the architect who designed the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was just a one-bedroom, one-bathroom place and I renovated it to include new carpets and bookcases. I was based at the ABC office in Elsternwick at the time, so it was convenient to get to work. I have also always loved the arts and the theatre, and I loved that the apartment provided easy access to the city for shows and exhibitions. My apartment was on the third floor and the balcony had a fantastic view of the city skyline. It was wonderful with the sunlight streaming through the windows on a sunny day. But then a developer built a 17-storey tower in front of my building and blocked out all the light. That’s when I decided to move.

CURRENT HOME

I moved from Queens Rd to a Hawthorn brick terrace at 14 Shiel St, North Melbourne, that John and I bought in December 1986. It was in a derelict state when we got it and had not been lived in for a while, but we renovated it with the help of the architect Norman Day.

The circular extension designed by award-winning architect Norman Day.

It houses the kitchen and the dining room.

I loved that the home was near the city and had space for a garden. I also loved that it was double fronted, with rooms on either side of the hallway when you walked in. It was important to both John and I that we had space for a garden, and when we had the plans drawn up for the backyard extension, we told Day we wanted it designed with the garden in mind. He then came up with the idea to create a circular structure that would house the kitchen and dining room and that included floor to ceiling windows. It’s one of the best parts of the house and makes you feel as if you’re sitting in the garden when you sit there.

Ms Chung said the extension was the perfect spot to admire the garden.

John also wanted French doors, so we had those added. One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday was to sit in my upstairs bedroom and look out over the rooftops of the neighbouring homes in Dryburgh St. I’d have all the Saturday newspapers spread out in front of me, which would keep me occupied for quite a while. I also loved to sit on a banana lounge underneath the big magnolia tree in the backyard and read a book. The foliage of the tree was so thick in some seasons that it could rain and I wouldn’t get wet. No matter where I was posted for work, I always loved coming home when I lived here. In many ways, this was my dream home and I was sad to leave it — particularly the garden.

DREAM HOME

When I was a child growing up in Tasmania and living above the family fruit shop, I used to dream about my ideal family home.

She is also the author of a number of books, including her memoir Ching Chong China Girl, which details her life growing up in Tasmania.

My parents were divorced and I didn’t grow up with my father, so my fantasy home would always include a mum and a dad. In my fantasy we’d also live in a house that looked like a doll’s house that had a swing out the front that my older sister, Lehene, and I could play on. In my daydreams we’d also go for long drives in a Holden together on the weekend as a family, just like other Australian families.

I now live in a brand new home that I bought in Hobart. I’m working slowly to turn it into my (real) dream home. It’s modern, so not much needs to be done updating the bathroom or the kitchen, but I’d love to work on the garden, build a deck and make the home accessible for people with disabilities — as well as for suitcases! The first flowers I think I’d like to plant are some Pope John Paul II roses. I also want to have an extension built down the track and I’d like to add a 6m above ground pool that I can swim in for exercise. Now that I’m 76, I don’t see myself moving again. So I’m happy to make this place as comfortable as possible.

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rebecca.dinuzzo@news.com.au

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