bmag Person of the Year Candidate Michael Beatty has seen things in his line of work as RSPCA Queensland’s media and communications manager that most of us would not cope with – animal attacks that seem unfathomable and perpetrators who walk away with a slap on the wrist.
At 64-years-of-age, he has fought vigorously for animal protection and awakes each morning renewed and ready to continue, his phone on 24/7 to work with the media.
Yet while he is one of Queensland’s most recognised faces after decades in the media, he believes this role, is his most enriching role to date.
Nine years ago Beatty was approached to do a six-week stint at the RSPCA, after that he had planned to move to China for a contract with a television station. That was until fate intervened and the deadly SARS broke out and well, then his career went to the dogs and all other creatures great and small, and I say that with the upmost respect because China’s loss was the RSPCA’s gain.
“When I first started [at the RSPCA] there were three main things I wanted to achieve for the organisation,” Beatty says.
“I wanted the RSPCA to be the first port of call for all media about animals. If we didn’t know the answer, it was my job to find someone who did.
“Then, I wanted to get through to the staff and volunteers what made a good story – to teach them to see the story. For example a volunteer once had a Great Dane who had fostered some tiny Chiwawa (also known as Chihuahua) puppies, she didn’t think it was enough of a story, but I did and that photo went all around the world!
“And I always wanted to be available to media inquiries; nothing annoys people more if you can’t get a hold of them.”
True to his word his phone is never far from hand, regularly checked and ready to answer even if it’s an ungodly hour. It explains why with his passion, networks and experience, the RSPCA QLD has achieved a high profile.
Mark Townend, RSPCA Qld’s CEO since 2000, says Beatty’s input into the organisation has made a huge difference.
“When the public think animals in Queensland they think Michael Beatty, sometimes they even assume he is the CEO,” he says.
“He puts a lot more in than he gets paid for because he believes in the cause,” Townend says with genuine respect in his voice.
“Media is so important because we have animals to place, our products are living things, we need the public aware of us all the time. We can’t afford advertising, so we need Michael to help us save lives and he does.
“We have saved more animals in Queensland than any other organisation in the Southern Hemisphere,” Townend says.
It’s a far cry from Beatty’s days as a reporter on Today Tonight, or growing up with a film star father (Robert Beatty) and interviewing stars like Jimmy Hendricks and BB King, touring with Elton John, presenting alongside Olivia Newton-John, coming under fire on the Thai-Burmese border and being stoned and knifed in London’s Brixton riots.
So what inspires a man scoffing at retirement to continue working 24/7?
“I can’t afford too,” Beatty laughs. “I’m the only person I know who has successfully lost money on the property market, and besides, I’d get bored.” But it is more than that, Beatty confirms. “It’s everyone who works here. From the vets through to the volunteers…I want to always do the right thing by them and portray their hard work correctly.”