TND’s Newsmakers of the Year, No.21 to No.12

Melissa Leong, King Charles and Ange Postecoglou all made headlines in 2023.

Melissa Leong, King Charles and Ange Postecoglou all made headlines in 2023. Photo: TND/Getty

Over the course of this year, The New Daily covered hundreds of big stories and wrote about thousands of people.

Australia had a hotly debated Voice referendum, watched wars waged overseas, struggled with rising cost of living and settled further into the post-pandemic new normal.

Through it all, we turned to our entertainers, artists and sporting heroes for comfort – and they brought their own share of controversy and chaos.

But who were the biggest newsmakers?

In the realms of politics, entertainment, sport, health and culture, there were plenty of figures who got people talking. The disrupters, the movers and shakers, the people who made us angry, the people who made us cry, the people who made us proud.

Narrowing the list wasn’t easy. But we managed, and over the next few days we’ll tell you who made the list and why.

Love them or loathe them, these are the people who got us all talking.

Below, we introduce to you our picks from No.21 down to No.12. Stay tuned tomorrow for No.11 to No.2.


Brittany Higgins arrives at Federal Court to testify in Bruce Lehrmann’s legal battle. Photo: AAP

Higgins’ legal battle against her alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann ended last year, but her life continued to be held up for public scrutiny in 2023.

She saw her private diary contents and text messages between herself and partner David Sharaz leaked to media outlets early in the year.

While she’s stayed largely quiet on social media, Higgins called out former boss Senator Linda Reynolds for continuing to “harass” her through the media and Parliament.

In July, Higgins revealed she had scored an internship at the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In December, she returned to the witness box to give testimony during Lehrmann’s defamation hearing against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson before returning overseas to start a new life in France with partner David Sharaz.

King Charles in full regalia in the Throne Room. Photo: Twitter/ @RoyalFamily

The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September last year saw her first-born child thrust into the role he had been preparing for his whole life.

Although his initial days in power were marred by malfunctioning stationery, the king appears to have settled into the role with relative ease, attending flower shows and keeping mum on his political views.

He was crowned this year in front of about 2000 people in a tradition-steeped ceremony televised live to millions around the world – which also renewed debate about the possibility of Australia becoming a republic,

In October, the Royal Australian Mint revealed coins bearing the King’s image, with the $1 coin to start circulating before Christmas, and other denominations set to be rolled out progressively throughout 2024.

The disgraced soldier is being forced to pay big after losing a defamation suit against media outlets. Photo: Getty

The downfall of Australia’s most decorated living soldier continued to make headlines this year, courtesy of his defamation case against The AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald, and The Canberra Times and three journalists over their reporting of his war crimes.

He lost, with Justice Anthony Besanko finding Roberts-Smith was “not an honest and reliable witness” who lied about his involvement in war crimes to gain financially from his now-failed defamation action.

Justice Besanko found claims that Roberts-Smith had killed an unarmed, handcuffed man in Afghanistan, encouraged the murder of another unarmed Afghan prisoner, bullied fellow soldiers, and assaulted prisoners were likely true.

Roberts-Smith appealed against the decision, but has been ordered to pay the legal costs of the media outlets he’d sued, estimated to be more than $25 million.

The Australian-raised football coach is making waves overseas. Photo: AAP

Postecoglou became the first Australian coach to manage in the Premier League after inking a four-year deal with Tottenham Hotspur in June.

The former Socceroos head coach left Scottish champions Celtic after a trophy-laden stint in Glasgow over the past two seasons.

His August debut match as Tottenham coach ended in a draw, and the rest of the season has not been all sunshine and flowers; a loss to Aston Villa in late November marked Tottenham’s third straight league loss, leaving it fifth on the table.

Spurs moved into the Premier League’s top four teams thanks to a win against Everton ahead of Christmas.

“Some of the goals we could have scored would have ended up being show reels for us in the way we want to play our football, so for me the positives definitely outweigh the negative of the result,” Postecoglou said after the game.

Television presenter and chef Jock Zonfrillo died suddenly in Melbourne. Photo: AAP/Gas Bag PR

Zonfrillo’s death at age 46 shocked Australia, and drew an instant wave of tributes from colleagues, fans, friends and family.

The Melbourne-based, Scottish-born chef was found unresponsive in a Melbourne hotel room on the eve of debut episode of MasterChef Australia season 15.

He is survived by four children and his wife, Lauren Fried.

Fried told Instagram followers while Zonfrillo’s family does plan to watch his final season of MasterChef Australia, they are yet to do so – and fans can expect more Zonfrillo content to come out in the future.

“This is something that he [Zonfrillo] loved doing, and this is not the end of the line for Jock at all,” she said.

Leong will be staying on TV screens for the foreseeable future. Photo: Ten

Leong debuted alongside Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen as the second generation of MasterChef Australia judges in 2019, after Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston stepped down over pay disputes.

Her empathetic touch with contestants proved popular with viewers, but news broke in October that she would not be returning to the show in 2024.

French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli and former MasterChef Australia contestant and frequent guest judge Poh Ling Yeow have been tapped to replace Leong and Zonfrillo as judges going forward.

As rumours swirled around the surprise change, Leong told her Instagram followers that she was embracing the change with joy.

She will continue on as a judge on MasterChef Australia spin-off, Dessert Masters.

kathleen folbigg

An elated Kathleen Folbigg after she was released from jail this year. Photo: 9News

The convicted serial child killer was exonerated this year after new genetic evidence had experts calling for a pardon.

In 2003, Folbigg was convicted for the manslaughter of her son Caleb, and the murder of her other son Patrick and two daughters Sarah and Laura between 1989 and 1999.

After serving 20 years in jail, Folbigg was pardoned by New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley in June as the preliminary findings of a second judicial inquiry found there was reasonable doubt regarding Folbigg’s guilt.

Researchers found her two daughters had a mutation in the CALM2 gene, which is associated with sudden infant death; one of her sons may have had an underlying neurological condition that could have caused his death; and doubt over the deaths of the three siblings undermined the reasoning used in the case of the other son’s death.

“For almost a quarter of a century, I faced disbelief and hostility,” Folbigg said after she was officially acquitted in December.

“The system preferred to blame me rather than accept that sometimes children die suddenly, unexpectedly and heartbreakingly.

“My children are here with me today and they will be close to my heart for the rest of my life.”

Lachlan Murdoch is set to follow in his father’s footsteps. Photo: Getty

Rupert Murdoch stepped down as the head of his news media empire in September, leaving it in the hands of his eldest son.

The elder Murdoch has long been criticised for exerting considerable influence of reporting from News Corp and Fox Corp outlets  – damaging democracy in the process – but his heir has been described as “considerably more brutal”.

In 2022, Lachlan offered a glimpse into the worldview that will now drive some of the most influential media outlets.

“How can we expect people to defend the values, interests and sovereignty of this nation if we teach our children only our faults, and none of our virtues?” he said at a Sydney event.

“But our national identity and culture are weathering constant attempts to recast Australia as something it isn’t.”

Prior to stepping into his father’s role, Murdoch made headlines for his defamation suit against Crikey, which he ended early, and paid more than $1.3 million to the outlet’s publisher for legal costs.

Mollie O’Callaghan is already adding to Australia’s extensive collection of swimming wins. Photo: AAP

If you’re looking for proof that the future of Australia swimming is bright, O’Callaghan is among the young guns providing it in heaps.

The 19-year-old already has three Olympic medals (two gold and one bronze from Tokyo 2020) under her belt, and in July she broke the longest-standing women’s swimming record thanks to a 200m freestyle win clocking in at 1 minute 52.85 seconds.

This was 0.13 seconds faster than the previous benchmark in the event set by Italian Federica Pellegrini in 2009.

“To come out with the world record was really unexpected,” O’Callaghan said.

“There was tears, there was happiness, very mixed emotions.”

Danielle Laidley finally told her story on her own terms. Photo: Stan

The former AFL player and coach, and possibly the most high-profile transgender woman in Australia, returned to the spotlight in September as she opened up about her life in a documentary, Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes.

Using personal archival material and re-enactments, Laidley took viewers on an emotional journey about everything she’s experienced on and off the field.

Her private battle with her identity culminated in a meth-fuelled bender that resulted in her arrest in 2020, during which police officers took and distributed photos of her, outing her as transgender.

“When we sat down with [JAM TV], we thought if we’re going to do this, we need to be brutally honest … to show the good, the bad and the indifferent … tell the whole story,” she told TND before the premiere.

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