Olivia Newton-John: Australia mourns a national sweetheart

Olivia Newton-John was a UK-born, Australian-raised recording artist who shot to superstardom in the US.

It’s no wonder that Hollywood is mourning her and that tributes have come from her star friends from Britain as well.

But Australia has and will always claim her as its “darling” and “sweetheart”.

Obituary: Olivia Newton-John
This is where she started her musical career, even though she grew up wanting to be a vet and then a policewoman.

Newton-John formed a girl group with three other school friends at 14 and started performing in a café run by her sister’s boyfriend.

Australians grew up with a young Olivia Newton-John on their screens.

She appeared on many talent shows. She sang Summertime aged 15 on a televised talent competition and landed a role on the TV programme The Happy Show.

On Sing Sing Sing, another talent show in Sydney, she won top prize: a trip to England.

Even after she was catapulted to major Hollywood fame, starring opposite John Travolta as Sandy in Grease, Australia was proud of their “girl who made it”.

Australians are reminiscing over many memorable moments. One of them, of course, is when she sang for the Queen at the Sydney Opera House in 1980. She also performed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

This morning, as the country woke up to the news of her death, her name has dominated Australian social media and news programming.

Even when they went to other news of the day, Australia’s national broadcaster ABC had one ongoing ticker on the screen: “Olivia Newton-John dies – Tributes flood in following death of the Australian star”.

‘Every girl wanted to be Olivia’
“For all of us who grew up watching Grease, an era has ended,” said Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.

Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Newton-John had remained “relatable and loveable” despite global superstardom.

“Everybody wanted to be her friend. And I remember as a teenager at school when the first song or first big hit – If Not For You – came out, every girl wanted to be Olivia,” she said.

Tributes have also poured in from other Australian stars, including Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman and Delta Goodrem.