Brent Rees
Mon, April 25, 2011 at 15:22
Stephanie Hunt in Advocate, Brent Rees, Coffs, Coffs Harbour, Interesting, People

The editor of the local newspaper must have some interesting stories to tell.  That's what I thought as I hunted Brent Rees down and asked if he would help to kick off The Most Interesting Person I Know.  He turned out to be a great choice: relaxed, a great storyteller and well...the most interesting person I have met since moving to Coffs.


The editor of The Coffs Coast Advocate has a journalist’s restless soul

Brent Rees strides energetically down the stairs to the Advocate reception.  “Good timing”, he says, “I really need a coffee.”  On the way to his shot of caffeine, Brent explains that it’s been a stressful morning.  He had to attend the first ever Meet-the-Editor event for the Coff’s Advocate newspaper which he has been editing for the last 18 months.  People in Coffs are forensically across what the Advocate prints, he explains, and he’s always nervous that a public outing will be rife with complaint.  As it turns out the event went off without a hitch, but he’d clearly felt the stress.

Journalism is a pressure cooker, and Brent says the pressures exist wherever you are - Sydney, Paris,  Northern Ireland or Coffs Harbour.  “They’re just very different pressures in Coffs.”  That suits Brent just fine, because he has the soul of a journalist: restless, curious and seeking new challenges.  Pressure is second nature to him.

It’s possible that Brent’s restlessness comes from his Dad.  Born in Ballarat, Victoria, Brent’s family moved to Frankston when he was 10.  “My Dad said enough of the cold winters and boiling hot summers, we’re moving to the seaside.”  Then eight years later his father announced, “I haven’t told you guys, but in 2 weeks we’re moving to Queensland.”  Which is how at 18, Brent found himself on the Gold Coast where he enrolled in communications studies at Griffith University.

Brent’s nature may be inherited, but his career has been about following his own dreams.  His interest in journalism was sparked by a career councillor in high school who asked Brent to “imagine the best thing you could possibly do in your life.”  Being a sports nut, Brent said he’d like to be a sports journalist.  No surprises here.  Brent’s first job out of Uni was on the sports desk at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, covering the Sydney Swans.

Having achieved his initial goal, Brent continued to seek new challenges in his career, doing so with a confidence that seems part of this man’s nature.  “I’m the sort of person that backs my own abilityand therefore I take on positions that I’m not really qualified for.”  After 5 years with the Telegraph in various sections, Brent moved across to Channel 7 television where he started ‘on-camera’ before finally moving into production roles.  “My passion was in story telling, rather than reporting and there is a distinct difference.  So I moved off-camera in the last couple of years at 7 and transitioned myself into documentary making.”  Finally Brent decided to ‘go it alone’ as a documentary maker.

 “I had a contract to produce 4 documentaries a year for 3 years with Channel 7.  It was a really great brief, travelling all over to produce ‘world around us’ programs.”  And travel he did, much of the time with his wife, Jennifer acting as production manager while Brent directed. (A working partnership they’ve vowed never to repeat, but that’s another story.)  They would spend 3 months living in one place.  “We would get to know the people, see how the place worked from a local’s point of view.”  Brent talks about standing in line at the patisserie in Paris for his daily baguette, the wonder of waking up on a Russian Icebreaker to see his first iceberg off the coast of Antartica, the complexity of the situation in northern Ireland and the warmth of the Irish people, the magnificent beauty of Cinque Terre on the coast of Italy.

There’s no question that Brent has some great yarns to tell from this stage of his life.  But he believes that travel has made him a better person, as well as giving him some enviable experiences.  “You almost need a tax break for travel”, says Brent.  He believes that experiences beyond our shores have made him a more tolerant and empathetic person, giving him a greater understanding of global social issues.  Something he hopes to pass on to his daughters, Teal and Eden. 

It was his girls and the challenge of raising a family that led this mercurial soul away from the fast lane to quiet, conservative Coffs Harbour.  “We’d fallen in love with this area and we actually bought a house while we were still living in Sydney on the bizarre pretence that it was a weekender.”  The family would come up for a few days at a time, and then a week.  Their lives became increasingly fragmented.  Brent merged with two others to form a much larger production company doing prime time television, which allowed him to work more remotely.  But, when Teal and Eden started to go to school in Coffs Harbour, commuting to and from Sydney became too stressful and threatened family life.  The job as Editor of the Advocate came up at a perfect time, and Brent leapt toward the next challenge.

Brent brings his cosmopolitan, impatient viewpoint to his new job.  He can’t believe the lack of action on the Urunga section of the Pacific Highway.  “Imagine if 25 people in 5 years died on George Streetin Sydney…well, it wouldn’t get to that.  I write very stinging editorials to the road minister constantly.”  He worries about the high youth crime rate in Coffs and wants to see people taking more responsibility for the problem.  “It’s easy to say ‘they’, the government, should do something about it, but at some point I guess it’s the ‘we’ part that’s missing.”

Brent looks at his watch.  Time’s up; this restless soul needs to keep moving.  One is left to wonder what will be the next challenge.



The most interesting person Brent has met on the Coffs Coast is Alison Page.  A local indigenous woman, Alison is a designer by trade, a TV presenter on the New Inventors and the founder of the Saltwater Freshwater festival.  It is the festival that brought Alison to Brent’s attention.  “I don’t know of another festival that has brought black and white Australia together in such a way,” he says.  “And she’s a dynamo, absolutely fantastic and with a great story to tell.”  Hmmm, this sounds interesting!


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By Stephanie Hunt                                          



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