Lisa Wilkinson has resigned from Network 10’s current affairs program The Project, effective immediately, telling viewers the last six months of “toxicity” from the media has played its toll.
“I have decide that it’s time to reprioritise a few things in my life. I’m looking at how I want the coming years to play out, both professionally and personally. And so from tonight, I’m stepping back from hosting the show,” she said on Sunday night’s program.
“To be clear, I’m not leaving 10, and we’re looking at some exciting work ideas ahead, but I also have to be honest with you.
“The last six months have not been easy, and the relentless, targeted toxicity by some sections of the media has taken a toll. Not just on me, but on people I love.”
Wilkinson came under intense scrutiny earlier this year after her acceptance speech at the 2022 Logies, where she picked up the award for outstanding news coverage for her interview with Brittany Higgins. Wilkinson’s comments caused the Bruce Lehrmann trial to be postponed by several months (it ultimately ended in a mistrial).
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above criticism, far from it,” Wilkinson said. “I’m human, and I don’t always get it right. None of us do. But by god I’ve tried. I’ve given this job everything I have and I hope you at home know that.”
Wilkinson had been hosting The Project for five years, since she sensationally departed Nine’s Today show for Network 10 in 2017, over reported pay disparities between herself and her co-host of more than 10 years, Karl Stefanovic.
She joins a growing number of high profile female journalists stepping down from their roles, a point she ended her monologue on.
“And finally, to Leigh Sales, Tracey Grimsahw and Carrie Bickmore, if you guys are up for a drink, I’ll see you at the bar, because the margaritas are on me.”
Beverley McGarvey, executive vice president and chief content office of Paramount Australia and New Zealand (which owns Network 10) thanked Wilkinson for her time on the show.
“For five years now Lisa has brought experience and professionalism, as well as her signature warmth, compassion and integrity to both shows,” she said in a statement.
“I know she will be sorely missed both by our audience, and the entire Project team, and whilst we are saddened that Lisa will no longer be on The Project, we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Lisa into 2023 and beyond.”
It’s not yet known what Wilkinson’s future projects will be — or who will replace her on the desk. The Project is already looking to replace Bickmore, who finished up this November after 13 years with the program.
“It’s time for a new challenge. It is time for my next chapter,” Bickmore said said at the time.
“I started the show when Ollie, my son, was one, and he’s now 15, which is crazy. I want to spend more time at home; I want to have more family dinners.”
“I Know Everyone Will Be Shocked By This”: How Lisa Wilkinson’s Colleagues & Family Are Reacting
Lisa Wilkinson’s The Project colleagues paid tribute to her on the show. “Obviously we can’t let you go without saying a few words,” Hamish Macdonald said.
“I think we are all still digesting this, but I know from being your colleague and your friend for some years now that this is 100 per cent the right decision for you and your family at this point in time.
“There have been days this year, particularly in the last six months, where I think you’ve taught us all a lesson here in what resolve and tenacity is, and you’ve turned up on camera even on days when it’s been tough. So I understand how we ended up here.
“I know everyone here is a bit shocked by this. And there are many colleagues that will want to send you off with their love. They’re probably learning about this right now, along with all of you at home.
“And so I want to say, from all of us here at The Project and 10, thank you very much. Because you have put all that you have into this. You work like a bloody horse, it’s unbelievable.”
Wilkinson’s daughter Billi FitzSimons paid tribute to her mum online, sharing a video of her resignation and adding that she was “so proud”.
Wilkinson’s husband, journalist Peter FitzSimons, hasn’t made a public comment yet, but did retweet her Network 10 colleague Kate Doak.
“While I’ve never met her in person, Lisa Wilkinson is someone at 10 whom I respect immensly,” Doak said. “Her words about [The Project news boss] Peter Meakin are spot on too – he’s brilliant. I can’t wait to hear what your next production is, Lisa!”
Who will replace Lisa Wilkinson and Carrie Bickmore?
The Project is now looking for not one but two star female replacements — and there may be more to come.
“There will be more ‘shock resignations’ in the next two weeks,” entertainment reporter Peter Ford tweeted on Sunday night. “How coincidental so many people all decide at same time they ‘need a change’.”
Some names that have been thrown around as a potential replacement for Bickmore include Chrissie Swan, Jan Fran, Georgie Tunny, Susie Youssef and Abbie Chatfield, none of whom are strangers to The Project desk. It’s one of the most covetable jobs in Australian television, so no doubt many presenters are vying for the role(s).