She may be a Gold Logie-winning television starlet, but deep down Kate Ritchie is a country girl through and through, and she boasts the undisputed honour of being born at Goulburn Base Hospital back on August 14, 1978.
These days, 33-year-old Ritchie lives with her husband Stuart Webb in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and is currently enjoying a bit of time out from show business. Amazingly enough, this is the Post’s first-ever interview with the former Bradfordville girl, and Kate spoke openly with DAVID BUTLER of love, work, and life after Home and Away.
KATE Ritchie’s journey from our cosy country town to the bright lights of show business has been a long and public one, despite her young age. That can happen when your career begins at age eight and is televised daily to the nation at large.
As the Post discovered when we caught up with her last week, she’s come through it all with flying colours, and Goulburn still holds a special place in her heart.
The story of how this talented young actress came to be born in Goulburn – and more importantly, why we get to claim her as one of ours - starts back in Bradfordville in the mid-seventies.
As with so many families, it was the NSW Police College that first brought the Ritchies to Goulburn. Dad Steve was a local copper, and his wife Heather was to give birth to two of their four children here at Goulburn Base Hospital- eldest daughter Kate and her sister Rebecca. They lived in a modest house in Reign Street.
Although they’d soon move on to Campbelltown when Kate was just three-years-old, Goulburn will always be able to claim the much-loved darling of Australian TV drama as one of our own, and it seems the feeling’s mutual.
“I was only about three-years old when we moved from Goulburn: I was practically a baby, but my sister and I were both born at Goulburn Base Hospital,” Ritchie said.
“But I still feel like I’m a bit of a Goulburn girl, and I claim that I was born in rural New South Wales.
“Even after moving to Sydney, I still went to an agricultural college - I went to Hurlstone Ag in Glenfield - and there were loads of boarders there from the bush. One of my best girlfriends there was a girl from Taralga. So even despite having moved from Goulburn, I still feel a real connection with the area,” she said.
Only five years after leaving Goulburn, Ritchie would become one of the original members of the fictional Australian town of Summer Bay, a sleepy seaside village that proved to hold its fair share of drama and scandal over the years.
Bathed in that televised glow, she would grow from an eight-year-old child star into a talented young woman, a natural actress with a genuine persona, yet still retaining that country girl warmth. But after 20 years as Sally Fletcher on Home and Away, the bright and bubbly, girl-next-door Ritchie is enjoying a bit of a break.
She wrapped up shooting on Home and Away back in 2007, and has since done a two-year breakfast radio stint on Sydney’s Nova FM with comedians Merrick and Rosso, as well as acting in the short-lived drama series Cops LAC on Channel 9. She also got married late last year to former St George Illawarra hooker Stuart Webb in a small, intimate celebration in Tasmania.
Now with time on her hands and a few years yet before settling down to start a family, Kate told the Post she’s at a bit of a loose end.
“Since I left Home and Away at the end of 2007, it’s been a real change of pace in some ways. I did the Channel 9 series Cops LAC, which we only got the one series unfortunately, but on top of that I’m an ambassador for Vaseline and Ski Activ (yoghurt), so they’re kind of the commitments that I have to meet randomly throughout the year.
“So I’ve actually had a bit more time on my hands and I’ve been trying to develop all my other skills, because eventually I’d like to work behind the camera. I’ve been doing a bit of writing, and I think one day down the track I’d like to produce drama here in Australia,” she said.
“But it’s such a long road though. I think the biggest change going from working on a show like Home and Away to basically working for myself, is that you really have to be committed and focused, because you’re driving yourself.”
For a career television star, it was an opportunity to work on radio that helped spark her post- Home and Away career. She started work on Nova FM’s breakfast show in 2008, and was thrown in the deep end alongside radio veterans Merrick Watts and Tim Ross.
Unscripted, unprompted, and without a character to hide behind, Ritchie not only had to hold her own amid the chaos of live radio, she had to establish her own identity before an audience who knew her only as Sally. It was the steepest learning curve of her life.
“I started on Home and Away when I was an eight-year-old child, and to be honest, I didn’t know what my life would be like without it. So that was a real challenge, because not only was I doing a completely different job, but I kind of had to adjust to being out of my comfort zone,” she said.
Despite the challenge of radio and a lot of fond memories collected during her two years at Nova, it’s television where Ritchie ultimately sees herself working once more.
“I only did the two years, and radio is something that I think I’d like to go back to later in life. But at the time, I was just so eager to get back into working in television and acting again. So I certainly haven’t learnt all that I can from radio, but I think that I’ve had enough for now.”
And of course, there was that lavish celebrity wedding in Tasmania last year.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” she said.
“We didn’t want anything big and flashy- we only had 50 people there or something like thatand Tasmania seemed like the perfect spot. And it was absolutely lovely.”
How about family plans?
“Of course. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and now I’m lucky that I’ve found the person that I want to have a family with, but at this stage, there’s no (immediate) plans as such, but a bigger plan, yes, at some point in the future.”
And that, the Post cheekily suggests, involves moving back to Goulburn and raising a family.
“Well exactly. I’m going to have to buy a property out at Crookwell and give birth at Goulburn Base Hospital. I’d like to think that, you know, my sister and I turned out alright and we’re Goulburn girls, so it puts us in good stead.”
But there’s more work to be done first, she tells us, although just what that will be remains a closely guarded secret. Stay tuned for a big new project in 2012.
“I think next year’s going to be a busy year, but at this stage I can’t actually tell you what’s happening. But I’m looking forward to the New Year, because I’m sure that there’s lots of exciting things on the horizon.”
And how about Goulburn? Does she ever stop by for a trip down memory lane? Well, yes actually. And it usually involves a stop at Bryant’s Bakery on Auburn Street.
“The last time my husband and I drove through Goulburn we had to stop at- there’s a bakery in the main street that does amazing pineapple tarts, I can’t remember what it’s called- but we always have to stop and have one and stock up for my dad, who absolutely loves them. My dad still misses those pineapple tarts.”