As she watched the Black Saturday bushfires rage across Victoria, Magdalena Roze felt a sense of powerlessness.
"I was working for The Weather Channel and we were among the first to see the fires coming," says the meteorologist, food blogger, cookbook author and mother-of-two.
"We were playing a waiting game, hoping it would not get worse and worse, but feeling sick to the stomach as we saw the devastation."
At the end of the 2009 disaster, 173 people would have lost their lives and 2000 homes been destroyed.
Also catastrophic was the amount of flora and fauna lost, says Magdalena, who is an ambassador for Byron Bay Animal Hospital, an initiative providing urgent care to injured animals by wildlife veterinarians in a customised semi-trailer.
Up to a million wild and domesticated animals died in the Black Saturday fires and others, including kangaroos, birds, possums and koalas were severely burnt, she says.
While Magdalena would receive an ASTRA Award for Best News Coverage of the bushfires, the impact of the event has never left her.
"I have always had a real love of nature and animals. At school, I was the president of the Conservation Club."
Voice for the environment
Today, on the Northern Rivers, she is able to do something concrete about her concern for wildlife.
Magdalena fronts fundraising events and spreads the word about the animal hospital's vital work among her friends and 45.8K Instagram followers.
"The hospital treats so many different species it is quite humbling to see their work," she says.
"It might be a turtle who has been hit by a propeller, a bird with a cold, or a frog who is having problems with his toes."
Says Russell Mills, part of the hospital team led by veterinarian Dr Stephen Van Mil: "Magdalena has been a great supporter from the start. We love Mags."
It would be difficult not to warm to Magdalena, one of two daughters born to Polish immigrants who came to Australia and settled in western Sydney when she was six-weeks-old.
Naturally photogenic, she has a calm and friendly presence that makes it easy for an audience of one, or a million, to connect with her. She combines this with a genuine interest in, and concern for, environmental conservatism, employing the principle think global, act local.
As well as helping the animal hospital, she has been an ambassador for Redkite, Earth Hour WWF Australia and Set a Sister Free RSPCA NSW.
"My parents were always about giving back and I have a genuine interest in promoting a healthier, more connected, more compassionate community," says Magdalena.
"My parents were always about giving back and I have a genuine interest in promoting a healthier, more connected, more compassionate community."Magdalena Roze
After the fires, she returned to Macquarie University to add a Graduate Diploma in Atmospheric Science to her Bachelor of Arts degree because, she says, she simply wanted to know more about what is happening to our world.
As a television presenter and meteorologist, Magdalena spent 10 years co-hosting Network Ten's The Project, covering two Olympic Games and reading news and weather on both breakfast and prime-time bulletins for The Weather Channel and Network Ten, as well as worked for the National Geographic Channel.
A taste of Byron
It was in 2014 that Magdalena's partner, one of the Three Blue Ducks, chef Darren Robertson, received an offer to open a restaurant at The Farm and the couple moved to Byron Bay.
It was a major identity shift after her television career.
"I had a moment of wondering what I'd done," she says.
"Then I realised I had to diversify my life and do what I have always loved - being involved in community, food and wellness."
She started a blog focussed on creativity and health and included "simple, bulletproof" recipes based on real not processed food, among them her mum's potato salad and cabbage rolls.
It led to her cookbook Happy and Whole (Pan Macmillan), with Magdalena since shared her recipes through cooking demonstrations, food festivals and social media.
"I'm dying to do another book but everything I take on is time away from my family," says the mother of Archie, 5 and Charlie 3. "So, I'm doing little things..."
Well, maybe, but creating a yeast spread made from 100 per cent natural ingredients, Oomite, in 2020 with her foodie friend Katie Graham; a new cultured butter and Oomite mix about to be launched; being an ambassador for the animal hospital; helping Darren with social media content when needed; as well as raising two toddlers, isn't that little.
Magdalena has also squeezed in food reviewing for guides including The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, and interviewed chefs such as Nigella Lawson, Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal as the co-founder and host of food podcast The Pass.
Although coronavirus has clipped everyone's wings, she and Darren love travelling, especially if it involves food.
"It's always about where we will eat, whether that's about meeting producers, or discovering cheesemakers or wineries," says Magdalena.
Investing in community
Life is simpler on the Northern Rivers than in Sydney, she says. Beach walks, family time, and surfing are interspersed with travel, spending time with friends, organising dinners at The Three Blue Ducks' second restaurant in Byron, Oma, and fundraisers.
At home it's about tending a veggie garden, beehives, banana trees, panama berries, and all types of citrus, as well as shared family meals.
The sustainable aspect of her home life is in keeping with her commitment to a circular economy, an idea both she and Darren are invested in for the future of their children, nature and the world, she says.
But in other ways, the idea applies to her view of community - giving back creates good karma that circulates.
While, initially, she may have wondered if Byron was, indeed, her "home", Magdelena says: "I have now put down deep roots."
Favourite date night restaurant
Oma - I may be a little biased but the food by Mark Hannell is delicious with a strong focus on local produce and the wine list by Mem Hemmings is all natural and made up of all female winemakers.
Favourite coffee place
The Branches in Mullumbimby.
Favourite surf break
The Pass in the late afternoon. Gentle rolling waves, that golden sun and dolphins, it's one of our favourite date spots before an early dinner.
The Lennox Head board walk is perfect as the kids can ride their bikes while we soak up the stunning views.
Favourite Byron brand
How do you choose your favourite child?! Little Company does a gorgeous facial, I love Chow Cacao chocolate, and Oak Meadow make beautiful, feminine dresses.
Brookie's Gin (mother's medicine!), Jilly wine and Seven Mile Brewery's Sea Turtle Stout as proceeds go to the Wildlife Hospital.