Behind The Wish - Robyn Moore
Meet Robyn Moore - Make-A-Wish National Patron, long-time volunteer and everyday superhero who has been adding a dash of extraordinary to wishes for more than 30 years.
We dive deeper into the journey of Robyn: the voice behind the animated koala Blinky Bill, and the human behind the inspirational wishes granted, and lives changed.
Behind The Wish is our series of inspirational reads diving into the everyday superheroes involved in creating life-changing wishes.
A warrior girl
I was born in Tassie. My mum and dad were adventurers. Dad ran away from home at 13 to become a stockman, drover, shearer, chef and wool bailer. My mum seized freedom after a trapped childhood. They met as pen-pals, married and after I was born, they headed off into the big sky country, working on sheep and cattle stations around Australia. I had the most amazing childhood until the age of 9.
Growing up on properties in Victoria, New South Wales and as far out as Torrens Creek in the gulf country of Queensland, was a gift. At "Tiree" station Queensland, I was the only child there for most of the time, so became a little "Warrior Girl". The soles of my feet were like leather, (from no shoes) and the people I heard on the wireless (now called radio) became my "friends".
I listened to all the radio serials like "Smoky Dawson" and "Superman" and literally saw the world through my ears! Imaginative play became my way of BEING. From age 4 my school lessons would arrive every week via the mail-truck. Mum was my teacher, so I would study my lessons until noon and then I'd just play, make-believe, explore the Blacksmith's Shop, visit the Shearing Sheds, swim in the creek. I had total freedom.
I made a switchboard out of an apple box and tried to talk to the world. "Hello New York, Hello New York, can you hear me?" All my toys had voices and I'd sit them in a circle and ask them questions. They would answer me with funny voices. If the answer was wrong, I would smash them with a ruler! Teaching was obviously in my blood.
We moved back to Tassie when I was 7 after my Dad had his spine crushed, when a horse was spooked in a thunderstorm and fell on top of him. I remember creating my first charity event at age 9 after seeing a Red Cross film about all the people starving in Africa. This deeply affected me, so I put on a concert involving other children.
Tickets were threepence and so many students turned up, the other acts were terrified and squibbed out, so that just left me on the program! My dad had taught me one joke and a cowboy song for the concert. I delivered the material and said, "That’s it!" and the audience revolted and were calling me names. Normally that would really have affected me, but when I look back at that memory, I really didn’t care! This was for the people who were starving and all the coins went to Red Cross.
'To be an irresistible invitation to fully participate in life'
It’s fascinating to notice where your character and bliss is shaped in childhood ... ready for future pursuits. I became a teacher, a voiceover artist and a speaker. All passions born from my childhood.
I have a very fulfilled life now and have been able to be truly self-expressed. Not thwarted. I am blessed to have been married to my amazing husband Hal for 51 years. He gets my passion, my gifts and talents, and he’s never stopped me and always encouraged me. I have been able to pass my enthusiasm onto our two sons, who are growing big, beautiful lives.
Toby’s a highly regarded actor in New York – he’s a star in many International TV Series including "Billions", "Daredevil" and the Upcoming "Bay of Fires".
Our younger son Daniel just won the 2022 "Australian Emerging Architect of The Year" Award. They are both married to amazingly talented women and I adore my daughters-in-law.
People say "you must be so proud" but proud isn’t the word I'd use. I'm in awe and deeply satisfied that they’ve all followed their bliss and utilised all the experiences they had growing up, which have enabled them to be fully self-expressed.
I hope I am just real. What you see is what you get. The lovely thing about being 72 is that I am more comfortable in my skin and with my shortcomings. I am happy that I'm able to be true to my values and live my purpose.
I just shared this at a Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast with 470 people including the Governor, the Premier and 22 politicians. I said that every day I dress myself in my purpose. My purpose is contained within 10 words: "To be an irresistible invitation to fully participate in life" so that every conversation leaves people feeling better than when they arrived.
The pandemic has been challenging for everyone including me and has occasionally tested this noble intent. The lovely thing about being a speaker, is I have to be authentic, grounded and recollected before I step in front of an audience otherwise I'd be a fraud and only delivering a "performance".
In order to get people to re-engage in their lives and take action, I too have to grow and have congruency in my own life. We grow our character often during challenges. When you grow through a crisis you become real and authentic.
My hope is that everything I do and all the stories I share will live on in others after I'm dead, so they have the tools to find the best of themselves. It's a never-ending story.
Talking the walk
I get excited before a talk because I can taste the "insights" I have woven into each talk and I know from years of experience, the difference the new points of view will make in peoples' lives.
As a teacher, I care about outcomes, so all my talks are tailored to my client’s brief. The first question on my brief is, "What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference?"
My clients give me their "Wishlist" and then I can design the presentation with the philosophical distinctions required to fulfil the brief by taking people on a journey into their lives and their behaviours.
I embed the distinctions with stories that are relevant to their sector. The stories evoke emotional responses which might make them laugh or cry, may challenge or shock them and in that moment, you move the distinction from the intellect down into their guts, souls, their spirits, where it becomes an "unforgettable insight".
That skill has been built up being a voice-over artist for 50 years where I've had 30 seconds in ads to sell millions of dollars’ worth of products.
With this skill and many years of self-discovery, I've been selling people back to themselves for 30 years. After each presentation, people have a new point of view around their work, family, relationship, purpose, health, future, life!
Although Voice-Actors on radio created the "soundtrack" of my early years, they were REAL for me. I didn’t know there was a career for voice-actors! In my first year out teaching in 1972,
I was also doing musical theatre work, including the musical "Oliver" in which I played Nancy. The producer/director Di Drew, worked at ABC Hobart on the educational radio programs which were mailed out to Australian classrooms on cassette.
Most Aussie children in the 1970s would have listened to these broadcasts including the class I taught. I had no idea they were recorded in Hobart.
Di asked if I'd ever considered doing voice-overs. That question changed my life.
At my audition, I stood in front of the microphone and thought, "This is a window to the world" and fell in love with this possibility.
I was cast in hundreds of educational programs and recorded at night, taught in the day and sang in bands at night and did theatre. I had many strings to my bow.
After five years of teaching, I had an epiphany and knew I had to go to Sydney to pursue my passion for voice-overs. I said to my husband, "I have to go to Sydney, there’s some things I have to do".
My darling husband said, "Well, we'd better listen to that". So, in 1976 we packed up our Kombi van and had enough money to live for about six weeks. Hal went up early to Sydney to find me a voice-over agent. He walked into one agent’s office, threw down my cassette demo tape and said, "I want you to represent my wife".
They said, "We don't know if she's any good". He said, "I know she’s good, I want to see if you’re good enough to represent her". They took me on and I am still with that agency! We stayed in Sydney for 17 years.
That was the birth of my voiceover career in Sydney which skyrocketed. The Australian film industry had started to take off and all the other actresses went into film, leaving space for me to explore my love of voice-overs.
Those 17 years were so exciting, doing six sessions a day and working with all my voice-over heroes like Keith Scott, Kev Golsby and Ross Higgins.
I voiced the iconic "Spray 'n Wipe" ads and created all the female voices in multiple radio comedy series, including the award-winning satire "How Green Was My Cactus" in 7500 episodes, heard all around Australia for 33 years.
In 1983 Yoram Gross (the father of Australian animation) asked me to do the female voices on seven of the International "Dot" movies.
Then my life changed when Yoram bought the rights for Blinky Bill and asked me to create a voice for Blinky.
I based Blinky's voice on one of my favourite Grade 4 students (Scott) who was like a little Steve Irwin, a mischievous little fellow. I brought Scott's larrikin spirit into every Blinky Bill line and from 1992, Blinky became iconic for millions of children around Australia and the world.
We moved back to Hobart in 1992 so our two sons would have the Tassie lifestyle my husband and I loved.
To maintain my business, I created the routine of two days a week recording in Sydney (for 49 weeks of the year) and five days a week being Mum at home.
My Mum would have devised a similar plan to balance work and home.
Ansett Airlines was my carrier and had been supporting me with my weekly commutes. They had a staff training day, and I donated a thank you talk to the staff.
They said afterwards: "You should be doing this. We can't remember what the other speakers were talking about, but your talk changed our lives".
I still have the card with their comments as a reminder of that cathartic moment. So, thanks to Ansett, speaking is the final love of my life. It brings together all the skills from teaching, the voiceover skills, the storytelling, everything I love about the power of the word, which was embedded in the early years.
Sobering, grounding and sweet serendipity
My health battle was just like a mosquito bite next to the challenges of our Wish Children. I'd had some other battles growing up.
For example, I was the first child in my primary school to have divorced parents in 1959, and my Mum married three alcoholics.
The major health battle in my adult years was breast cancer. I always say, when I’m speaking at Breast Cancer Events, that I’m one of the fortunate ones, because my amazing doctor at Breast Screen Tas, found the lump early.
The whole process was seamless, just a Lumpectomy and 38 radiation treatments.
I was determined to be grateful for every part of the treatment and still have photos of my "friend”, the radiation machine.
There’s always a silver lining, and being inside a critical Illness story myself, made me really appreciate our wish children and their families even more!
The whole experience was very sobering and grounding and throughout my treatment our Wish Childrens' stories gave me inspiration.
There are many examples of this.
We were doing a Make-A-Wish workshop with Deloitte's staff in Melbourne and one of our Wish dads shared about his daughter’s treatment. I carry a copy of her Treatment List in my handbag.
In 2073 days, this is what Emily endured: 25 MRIs, 45 anaesthetics, 7 lumbar punches, 21 blood transfusions, 90 injections, stem cell retrieval, two brain operations, port line operation, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, quarterly visits to endocrinology for blood tests, ongoing MRIs every six months. How old was Emily? 5 years of age. If that doesn’t slap you across the face with a wet fish, nothing will.
That’s what many of our children endure. I only had to have 38 radiation treatments, so during each one I used to remember the children, appreciate my treatment, stay focused and be present to every second.
Here's the reward: when you are present to life, miracles show up. I was at my 9th annual breast-check with my beautiful Doctor Lee and she said, "All clear, nothing to worry about". And I asked her how she was. She replied, "Oh I am terrible, my daughter has leukaemia!"
We talked and shared and I asked if she'd ever thought of ringing Make-A-Wish, because it makes such a difference for children during their treatment to be looking forward to their Wish.
She said, "Oh yes, I rang Make-A-Wish and they were supposed to do a visit two weeks ago but Grace was rushed to hospital".
I suddenly said, "Hang on Lee, I was supposed to visit a little girl called Grace two weeks ago and it was called off". I suddenly realised my doctor had kept her maiden name and that my new Wish Child Grace was her daughter!
What sweet serendipity. I was with the doctor who saved my life and I have been mysteriously assigned to her child’s Wish Team.
I have been with Grace for almost 3 years now, because her travel Wish has been delayed by COVID and the floods. Soon she will go glamping at Dubbo Zoo, feed a giraffe, have a special meerkat experience and drink chocolate milk. And I have an extra special relationship with my doctor and her beautiful family.
'Why have I stayed for 30 years? Because I can’t leave!'
It was 1993 when I joined Make-A-Wish.
I received a phone call from the Hobart Branch President Sylvia Rouleston asking whether I would walk in the Make-A-Wish Walk. I asked her why she'd "cold-called" me? Sylvia said she knew I was the voice of Blinky Bill.
I explained that I didn't dress up in the suit, I just created the voice, so suggested I record an ad as Blinky Bill and ask my friends in radio to give it free Airplay. They agreed and way back then, we raised $14,000.
That’s how I found out about Make-A-Wish. Sylvia then asked me to emcee the fundraising balls and to participate in any way I could. Very quickly I fell in love with Make-A-Wish and became a volunteer. Sylvia was an amazing President of our Hobart Branch for 16 years. She’s been a huge influence in my life.
Why have I stayed for 30 years? Because I can’t leave! If I took Make-A-Wish out of my life, it would leave a huge hole!
It's natural for volunteers to have ebbs and flows with our enthusiasm, especially during frantic fundraising events, or endless Zooms during the pandemic, however Make-A-Wish keeps me on track regarding the big questions in life: meaning, purpose, virtue, family, community. If I didn’t have Make-A-Wish, I would get lazy and my focus on these fundamentally important things would be diminished.
I think Make-A-Wish pulls out the best in you, because you have to find your best self to grant wishes for children facing critical illnesses. I have learned from our Wish Children to "live with urgency before the emergency".
You never know when you're going to be called on to live this!
A WISH TO REMEMBER
At the beginning of COVID in 2021, I received a phone call saying that little Claudia, who was 4, was at a Melbourne hospital and in palliative care.
This was an URGENT wish. Sometimes in this situation, we've picked up children on hospital rooftops in a helicopter and given them a ride across the city, but Claudia was too ill for that to happen.
The request from the Wish Design team was for me to write a story to make Claudia feel as though she was actually on her Wish.
Claudia is probably the most courageous wish child we’ve ever had. Her wish was to go on the world’s highest roller coaster ride, to jump out of a plane (for goodness sake!), to ride in a hot air balloon or go on a helicopter ride over the city.
We gleaned specific information from her auntie to pull together a story that would be real for her and then I wrote and recorded the story of "Super Claudia" in an hour. The experiential story was set up this way....
"Once upon a time there was a little girl called Super Claudia and she was Super because she had a special Super Power. She only had to think of something, and it became real. She only had to think Strawberry Milkshake and she could taste the strawberry flavour. One day she was thinking about riding on the world's highest roller-coaster and suddenly she could hear the safely bar locked into place...clunk...and the giggles of all her cousins in the train behind her..."
I used all my skills in radio and storytelling to pull together this story.
She rode the world's biggest Roller-Coaster. Some of her cousins were scared and threw up but not Claudia because she was so brave! Then into her helicopter ride, buzzing her school and seeing her teacher and friends waving. Then she flew over her backyard and spotted her little dog Apollo. Claudia finally landed after she'd had the ride of her life.
The Design Team sent the recording over to Claudia and her mum played it to her. Mum even blew the hairdryer into Claudia's face as the story was being told, to simulate the wind in her face.
That afternoon I had to go to the hairdressers and I suddenly thought it would be good to have a picture of that wish scenario to stick near Claudia's hospital bed.
We needed one of those conference artists who can draw instant cartoons on a whiteboard. I rang a conference organiser friend of mine, Paula, and asked if she knew one of those artists.
She had just walked into her office (closed due to COVID) and said there was only one card on her desk: Paul Telling, Conference Artist.
I cold-called Paul immediately and said, "Paul this is an outrageous phone call but these are the circumstances: we have a little girl and she’s in palliative care and she’s 4" and he said, "Oh my goodness I have a 4-year-old daughter too".
I sent him the recording and asked if he could do a quick drawing of the wish. In an hour, he sent one back. We sent that to the parents.
Claudia miraculously lived for another six days and she passed away on her fifth birthday. That’s what Make-A-Wish is about for me. I didn’t have time, that Wish wasn’t in my diary but Make-A-Wish calls you into your magnificence, it calls you into your generosity and I just had the profound privilege to contribute to a family as they farewelled their precious daughter. How could you leave Make-A-Wish?
Being honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia had been mentioned to me over the years but I didn't think it was appropriate as I thought public servants received these and I hadn't done enough etc.
But in 2021 I received the letter saying I had been nominated and this was to be awarded, if I accepted. It was such a moving and profound moment and I said yes.
I still don’t know the people behind the nomination or all those who wrote the testimonials; however, It took me about a month to answer all the congratulatory letters, emails, texts as people expressed the pleasure, delight and value they'd had over the years from shows like "How Green Was My Cactus’ to "Blinky Bill" and from all my thousands of talks.
I felt that whatever I was doing was landing in people’s hearts, minds and spirits.
It was so deeply moving and such an honour. At the investiture, our luncheon speaker said that these awards are from the People of Australia, and that's what I value most, that the award is an expression of all of us.
Next level lease on life
Coming up with a favourite wish is like asking who your favourite child is. There’s so many. The Lilah flying fairy wish we’ve just worked on is wonderful.
However, I just experienced the most satisfying culmination of my very first wish for 7-year-old Kayde.
When he was 3, Kayde received a transplant. His mum heard about Make-A-Wish and she would say to Kayde "If you could have anything, what would you wish for?'
For years Kayde would respond with "A goat!" Now Mum didn’t want a goat, so she didn’t ring Make-A-Wish until finally, at the age of 7, Kayde changed his wish to a quad bike.
I was invited on my first wish with the Hobart Branch President Sylvia (and husband Peter Rouleston) and everything was approved and scheduled for Kayde to receive his leather riding outfit and quadbike.
Then, on the news, came the story of a terrible fishing tragedy where three generations of the one family had drowned at White Beach. I thought please God, don’t let this be anyone Kayde knows, because Kayde lived at White Beach.
Tragically on that day, 7-year-old Kayde lost his grandfather, his father and his brother. We rang mum and said we’d hold back until she and Kayde were ready for his wish.
A few months later Mum rang, and we presented Kayde with his gear in Hobart. He was so excited in his leather jacket and pants, helmet and boots – and looked like a hero film star from "Grease"!
We told him it might take a little longer to get the quad bike and he happily went back to White Beach all decked out in the gear! That afternoon, the Wish Team and members of the "Wish Drive" in their crazy themed cars all tootled up Kayde's driveway with smoke machines, balloons and horns blazing – and with a bright, shiny, red quad bike on the back of a red ute.
After some safety instructions, this 7- year-old boy jumped onto the bike and rode it like a champion. He was just amazing! So, so confident.
At the end of a huge afternoon of riding, I was taking his photo facing up the hill and in one unforgettably beautiful moment, this little boy, who had lost his grandad, dad and his brother, said to me, "Aren’t you going to take a photo of the sunset?". He was watching the sunset behind me and wanted to capture this beauty in the photo too.
At the Hobart 30th Anniversary GALA recently, I was totally ambushed when they brought Kayde (the man) out onto the stage to surprise me.
He’s now a dad with two children and his little boy rides the quad bike. Kayde said it doesn’t go very fast now! It was just such a beautiful experience that night. I shared with the audience that in the face of all that had happened, Kayde's wish was granted, he rode his quadbike and was in the moment so as to appreciate the sunset, fully participating in life in spite of horrendous circumstances. That’s the power of a wish!
THE WISH EFFECT
A rollercoaster reaction
I first heard about the Wish Effect when I called Wish child Alicia. She was 5, had cystic fibrosis and was "drowning" in the fluids in her lungs.
I met her parents at the Adelaide Branch Ball – where I revealed in my speech, that I created the voice of Blinky Bill. They told me that Alicia loved Blinky Bill and asked if Blinky could phone her. I’d never thought of that as a possibility. So, I rang her the next day as Blinky and said:
"G’day Alicia I met your mum and dad and they love you to the moon and back and they told me you are extraordinary and she said, ‘I know!’. I said, I know things have been really hard and I’m sorry about that, but you know what, every day when you wake up, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and whisper ‘I am extraordinary’. Will you promise you’ll do that?" She said she would.
The next day I received an email from Mum saying that went to the doctor for Alicia's regular check-up and the doctor said, "What did you do, what did you change? I have never seen anything like this. Her lung function has increased dramatically!" Mum sheepishly said, "A koala rang her".
I have seen over many years, the physiological effect, when we bring wonderment, hope, joy into children’s lives. Blinky does it all the time with children.
I have also seen these effects with wishes over my 30 years as a volunteer. I’ve seen this effect on Surjen, the young Nepalese refugee, who wished to meet the Prime Minister of Australia to thank him for bringing his family to Australia and for his medical care!
The PM then happened to be Tony Abbott.
Tony arranged to get to Hobart and sat on the couch with Surjen, who threw himself at Tony, hugging him and then playing Tony a guitar piece.
Surjen’s face at the end of that meeting, was literally radiant. I have only seen two people in my life with radiance on their face: my stepmom before she died and Surjen. I said to him, "Surjen how do you feel?" and he said, "I feel like I’m flying".
This was an urgent wish for young teenager Surjen and now he’s 22. I rang (volunteers) Lyn and Paul, after I was interviewed for a magazine article last year.
The writer loved Surjen's story and wanted to know where he was now! Lyn and Paul tracked him down and I was thrilled to hear his voice on the phone. He sent me a recent photo which I showed at the Hobart Ball gala. He wanted to attend, but was too busy competing interstate in a representative sports event.
That’s the Wish Effect!
Making the impossible possible
I love representing Make-A-Wish. It’s a whole new domain, a different paradigm.
There’s life as we know it and then, you put on your Make-A-Wish Volunteer t-shirt and there’s "Make-A-Wish World". It’s like having a super-hero cape because as Wish Granters, we even make the impossible possible sometimes and live with urgency before the emergency.
People might think a Prime Minister wouldn't come to West Moonah and visit a young refugee boy! Well, he did! Unicorns flying across the sky in Melbourne?
Sure. A child being the captain of the Australian Test Cricket Team? OK. We've made these wishes come true.
If you care deeply about children and if you want to do something that is out of the ordinary and unrecognisable, then enter the Make-A-Wish world of possibilities.
This is not a normal thing to do. Normal is wake up, go to work, do the shopping, cook dinner and go to bed.
Our to-do lists have entries like: Set up "Spider Man" to meet Braydon at the Airport; Book a High Tea for teenager Elise; Make a Blinky Bill phone call; Pick up the puppy for Louisa. I love the excuses we give as volunteers: "Sorry I can’t do that right now; we’re teaching Lilah how to be a real fairy and fly". It's magical.
Make-A-Wish has to be here.
Of course, if we could eradicate all critical illnesses in children, there'd be no need for it but for now, we have to have an organisation that brings hope and joy to children and their families facing uncertainty. We need Make-A-Wish.
We need Make-A-Wish stories reaching more people because they are life-altering. As we say at our balls, we don’t just want people to have a fabulous time, we want people to leave feeling enlivened, loving their children more and appreciating their family more.
The Hobart Branch started a couple of years before I became a volunteer.
It wasn’t an official branch for a while. Initially there was a Tasmania Branch, run out of Launceston. Paul and Lyn Shegog’s daughter Emma had her wish granted by volunteers in Launceston.
There was a small group of volunteers in Hobart raising funds, but the official Hobart Branch didn't come into existence until my lovely friend Sylvia saw an ad in the paper for volunteers.
She went along to her first meeting (which happened to be the AGM) and they voted her in as President!!! So, Sylvia Rouleston became the first Hobart President.
Her husband Peter was the Manager of the Wrest Point Convention Centre so we were given the boardroom free for our Branch meetings for 28 years and a discounted ballroom.
We have had six beautiful presidents in the Hobart Branch over our 30 years, all with unique leadership styles.
We are very blessed in Tasmania being an island state. We have a smaller population and “small is beautiful", because there's so many wonderful connections in our community. That's why Tasmania has always punched above its weight when it comes to generosity around charity.
Robyn honoured at Ball
The Hobart Make-A-Wish Ball is not just about raising money every five minutes. We actually give our guests a ball. It’s simply amazing for a group of volunteers to consistently have the ballroom look like a million dollars. I’m often at professional events and they look nothing like our Make-A-Wish balls. This year our 30th Anniversary GALA was at a new venue, the MY STATE ARENA, which is usually a basketball stadium.
The stadium was transformed into a magical wonderland and looked like a huge corporation had sponsored the night. We volunteers bring the same kind of thought, care and design to each ball, as we do to a beautifully curated wish. When the guests come into the ballroom, you can hear them gasp.
For our recent gala, I was on the ‘history team’ and we created a Walk of Wishes for our guests so they could experience 24 of our wishes as they walked towards the ballroom. Officeworks kindly donated the giant posters showing the joy on our Wish children’s faces. To create a childlike feel, we had fairy lights and big stars on the carpet to create a curved pathway. It was quite magical and some people were moved to tears looking at the photos!
The night was full of so many memorable moments like meeting my first wish child and hearing Kayde’s story on the night. People are not going to be same after that. Volunteers said at their tables, men were crying listening to his Wish story. We also premiered Lilah's wish film where she became a real fairy and learned how to fly.
We had three or four ways of raising money on the night, so people had enough time to talk, dance, connect and have a ball. My surprise ambush (recognising my 30 years of volunteering) was completely unexpected.
I knew nothing about reconnecting with Kayde (pictured) and Sophie, another Wish child from years ago, or my whole family from interstate being brought out on stage!
My older son asked afterwards, "Are you sure you didn’t know about the surprise?" I said, "Go and have a look in the crouton jar at home, it's empty!"
Toby loves my croutons! If I had known he was going to surprise me in Hobart, that jar would have been full.
It was a night I will never forget and I had the rare gift of feeling just like a Wish child. The best feeling EVER!
Robyn has been proudly volunteering since 1993