In Australia, the death of Olivia Newton-John has been dismayed. The British-Australian actress and singer died at the age of 73 in her California home in front of her family. The news on Australian radio, television and live blogs has been dominated since yesterday by the death of the pop star who was once called “the Queen of Australia” by Bono.
She wasn‘t queen, but Olivia Newton-John did get close to royalty when she was knighted in 2019 by Queen Elizabeth, who is also head of state of Australia. She was praised for her commitment to charities, her contribution to cancer research and her career as a singer and actress.
Newton-John was much loved by Australians, such as Hugh Jackman. “Olivia Newton-John was my first love,” the actor wrote on Instagram. The Wolverine actor had a poster of Newton-John hanging on the wall as a teenager that he kissed every night before bedtime.
Although she wasn’t born down under, Newton-John was an icon of Australia. “She embodied Australia as we like to be seen,” says friend and former foreign minister Julie Bishop. “Due to her radiant appearance and ‘girl next door’ appearance, she stood for everything that is good and beautiful about our country.”
Newton-John was born in 1948 in Cambridge, England and came to Melbourne as a six-year-old girl. There she spent her childhood and took her first steps into the music world at the age of 21.
The tribute comes from all corners of Australian society. “She brought light and joy to the lives of Australians. Her voice was a big part of the Australian sound,” said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles said Newton-John left the world “a little army” by her death. The state prime minister of Victoria, where Melbourne is located and where Newton-John grew up, has proposed that she be given a state funeral.
Newton-John is also known in Australia for her many years of contribution to cancer research and other charities. In 1992, the then 44-year-old actress was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. She then set up an institute to conduct research into the treatment of cancer. Adam Horsburgh, CEO of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre, told Australian public radio station ABC that she was hugely involved with the centre. “She has been a symbol of hope for people with cancer,” he said.
“Hope I‘ve made a difference”
Newton-John was committed to a holistic approach to cancer treatment, with attention to both body and mind. Her center therefore offers yoga, massage, nutritional advice and music and art therapy in addition to medical treatment. “She has really changed the way we look at cancer treatments,” Horsburgh said.
In 2013 and 2017, the cancer came back again, this time also spread to her vertebra. It would end up being fatal to her. In one of her latest interviews for Japanese broadcaster NHK World, Newton-John was asked what she hoped her legacy would be. “I hope people think I made a difference by helping people with cancer heal,” said the pop star.
Take a look back at Newton-John’s career here: