From singing educational (not to mention catchy) songs for young children, to acting as a no-nonsense matriarch in A Place to Call Home, “varied” is certainly an apt name for Noni’s career. So, with plenty of projects under her belt, what does the presenter most want to be known for?
“Telling good stories and encouraging people to connect with each other,” Noni says. “That’s really the function of the arts, to forge connections and make people realise that they’re not alone. And for honesty and integrity. They’re sort of old-fashioned concepts, but I think if more people followed them, the world would be a happier place.”
Noni certainly forged many a connection during her seminal time on Play School which, the 67-year-old explains, taught her invaluable lessons about communicating, as well as “how confusing the world is for small children and how much we need to care for them”.
Being on the show for over two decades, the Hall of Fame inductee was an undeniable source of comfort for multiple generations.
“Play School gave me a remarkably wide demographic. Doing it for 23 to 24 years, that’s a lot of generations of two-year-olds and their mums and dads and carers and grandparents. So, it really kind of catapulted me to a point of recognition that was really wide in this country and gave me a lot of opportunities for which I’m really grateful.”
And while many performers may find it difficult to discern which opportunities are worthwhile, the actress has been very particular with how she’s navigated her career, meaning she has experienced nary a regret.
“There’s always something that you’d wish you’d done differently but it’s nothing that I would lose sleep over, really. I’ve always tried to choose stories that are worth telling, that will be informative or uplifting or inspiring or, you know, just calming on some level. Or maybe stir people up; there’s always that opportunity as well.”
WATCH: Noni Hazlehurst honoured in the Great Hall of Fame at the 2016 Logies (Article continues after video)
Throughout both her professional and personal life, Noni has engaged in a lot of self discovery. The 67-year-old credits getting older as having afforded her the wisdom to stop “worrying about how people perceive (her)”.
“I think, particularly for women and to a large extent some men, we spend so much time and energy worrying how people will judge us. And the bottom line is, most of us are pretty good people, and we just want to connect with other people. It’s not rocket science,” she says.
Despite her desire to form connections, as she’s gotten older, Noni has noticed an undeniable disconnect between generations, explaining that “we live in very divisive times, and we’re set against each other”.
Working within the media sphere, the presenter has realised firsthand how the act of ageing can have a direct correlation with diminished opportunities.
“The emphasis in film and television, and theatre to some extent, is on youth, the way that it is in life, so that’s just reflecting the reality. And the reality is, when you get older, your opportunities diminish because of that judgment, that perception that our stories aren’t as interesting as the stories of young people.”
And that’s why Noni’s latest storytelling project surrounds ageism. The 67-year-old has teamed up with SBS to understand Australia’s perspectives and prejudices when it comes to old people.
“Ageism is something that is going to affect everyone, if they’re lucky. So, it has a far more pervasive possibility for damage, or for encouragement and achievement,” Noni stresses.
The three-part documentary series is to explore disability, old people, and obesity to paint a clear picture of how stereotypes and misconceptions remain prevalent in Australian society.
What Does Australia Really Think About... premieres 8.30pm Wednesday 18 August on SBS and SBS On Demand, and Old People with Noni Hazlehurst airs on 25 August.