Bernadine Oliver-Kerby opens up about her new career in music radio: ‘I’ve still got my L plates on!’

At 47, life for the radio co-host is by no means the same old song. Bernadine tells NEXT about her career 'leap of faith'.

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby is a hoot, laughing and chatting over a flat white at a bustling café across the road from her office. Her bubbly energy must be contagious, the volume in the room getting louder and louder around us as she talks.

Up since 4am, this is Bernie’s third – or is it fourth? – coffee of the day; she has a much-loved, much-used Nespresso machine sitting on her desk, a gift from husband Mark.

“Not many people wash their hair at 4am,” she jokes of her routine, “but I managed to this morning!”

The popular broadcaster has been a mainstay of New Zealand screen and radio for years, but in January began a new role that has seen her focus on having a bit more fun, moving from news to music as the breakfast co-host on radio station Coast. Seven months in, she admits – despite her years of experience – she’s still learning loads.

“I’ve got my L-plates firmly fixed on, and they won’t be coming off for a long time. In fact, I’m not even close to getting my restricted!”

She’s joking, with that classic Kiwi self-deprecating humour and attitude that have made her so beloved – but for Bernadine, there is also genuine pleasure in the novelty of a fresh challenge. The 47-year-old is watching, learning, and loving it.

As a long-time presenter with TVNZ and newsreader at Newstalk ZB, Bernadine was accustomed to being in complete control and knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. She could have done it all with her eyes closed. But that, she admits, was a major reason she knew it was time to make a change.

“It’s like having a baby or getting married: there’s never a good time. You’ve just got to take the leap of faith,” she says.”It’s about bettering yourself and up-skilling. I’m only in my 40s; I’m not retired yet!”

Bernadine finished up at TVNZ last year (she’d worked with the state broadcaster for 25 years), and said farewell to her morning news colleagues at ZB in January after 13 years – making the move downstairs in the same building to Coast, where she works alongside co-host Jason Reeves.

“It was time for a new challenge, simple as that,” she says. “You’re always learning. But I think it got to the point at ZB where, while I loved the job and loved the people, I was starting to get a bit stale, or bored,” reflects Bernadine.

“There was nothing wrong with the role, but after 13 years, you don’t want be reading news bulletins and doing your shopping list in your head, thinking, ‘bread, milk, eggs, butter’. You need to keep challenging yourself.”

Her mantra for 2018 has been Richard Branson’s advice that no one learned anything by hearing themselves speak – something she knows is perhaps contradictory to her role and career.

“It’s almost the opposite: your job is to talk but you learn a lot more from listening. That’s something I have to tweak and adjust,” she admits.

It’s all part of pushing herself and “flipping into a different mindset”; taking her out of her comfort zone.

“I don’t like not feeling totally comfortable, the fact that I’m being led rather than the leader,” she admits. “But I’m in such great hands [with co-host Jason]. You like to have your hands on the control, but I accept that the reason I’ve done it is to learn a new skill and make the next step.”

Pick up the August issue of NEXT magazine to read more about Bernie, and why her next phase in life is all about family and fun.

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