Cleo was the considered to be the ‘thought child’ of Kerry Packer and Ita Buttrose, releasing its first issue in 1972. Since its inception, it broke barriers by being the first Australian magazine to sport a nude male centrefold, as well as having a frank discussion with women about sex. Cleo became a resource for women. It was different to other conservative magazines targeted to women that were mainly filled with recipes and news on the royal family. Cleo treated its readers like the intelligent and modern women they were, and has continued to do so ever since.
It is heartbreaking for me, as a lover of the magazine, and an aspiring journalist that this inspiring beacon of women’s journalism is no more. In what seems to be a downsizing of Bauer Media Group, we are possibly losing an icon in the process. What Ita and Kerry created back in 1972, as a response to being denied the rights to the American magazine, Cosmopolitan, was legendary. Cleo was made for young women. It was a voice for young women. Young women who often felt trapped in the often patriarchal society, who had no other outlet to learn about their bodies, their rights, and who they could be as equal members of society.
Aside from its cultural significance, it has skyrocketed the careers of some amazing Australian women in journalism. Ita Buttrose has been named editor of countless publications following Cleo, and Lisa Wilkinson, after becoming editor of Dolly at just 21, the youngest editor to date, and at only 25 became the editor of Cleo, a position she held for 10 years, before becoming Editor in Chief of the magazine, both the Australian and international editions, making it the highest selling magazine per capita in the world.
Cleo has been a credit to Australian women in journalism, it has been responsible for the sexual awakening of Australian women for the past four decades and is an original champion of feminism and women’s equality in Australia.
The final issue, published March 2016, was a nostalgic nod to the very first issue ever published, featured Jacinta Campbell, sporting a nearly identical white dress and hairstyle worn by the first cover model, 44 years ago to the month. I was in tears reading it. Reading statements from editors past and current writers. Women who inspire me to this day.
It has been wonderful knowing you Cleo, I am truly saddened, knowing I will now never walk your halls as one of your journalists some day. But thank you, for being an inspiration for women’s journalism, and for giving me an industry to enter.