"We’ve always been soulmates": The woman who has stood by Don Burke for more than 50 years.

The only thing anyone is talking about today is Don Burke.

A joint ABC and Fairfax investigation published today has unveiled allegations that the former gardening TV legend was a “psychotic bully”, a “misogynist” and a “sexual predator”, according to claims made by more than 50 people who worked with him in the late 1980s and 1990s.

It is alleged he sexually harassed and bullied a number of female employees, many of whom who have shared their stories with the investigation. You can read the full investigation here.

Don Burke
Image via AAP.

Aside from the brave victims who have spoken out about the 70-year-old's alleged behaviour, there's another woman everyone is thinking about. His wife.

Despite her husband's nationally recognisable face, thanks to his two-decade stint starring on Burke's Backyard and producing Backyard Blitz, Marea Burke has always been notoriously private.

In fact, she'd never spoken to the media until a 2015 interview with Tracey Grimshaw on A Current Affair to speak about her health battles over the previous 15 years. That was more than a decade after Burke's Backyard was cancelled in 2004.

"[I] never ever, never wanted to [do interviews], I'm feeling pretty scared about the whole thing, but hey you've got to get out of your comfort zone sometime," she told Grimshaw.

Image: A Current Affair/Channel 9

On the episode, Marea acknowledged feeling the impact of her husband's star factor.

"We have a show pony here [gestures to husband Don] so there was no need... no, he's great," she said.

"So I was more than happy to stay here [behind the scenes] and keep the office running. The outside might look confident but the inside is wishing I was anywhere but here."

At the height of Burke's career, Marea recalled bus loads of fans who would come to their house with gardening questions or hoping to meet the man himself.

"They would ask to see Don and I would say 'he's not here' and then they'd ask to see his wife and I would respond 'oh no, she's not here either," she told A Current Affair.

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Because no one really knew who Marea was or what she looked like, they would believe her.

In the 2015 interview, Burke described his wife as his "soulmate".


"When I met Marea I thought 'This is for keeps'," he recalled.

The pair met 49 years ago at the time of interview, when they were both "bright-eyed" university students.

"I was with a group of friends and we were involved in debating and the first one we went to, he was the adjudicator, if you can believe it," Marea told Grimshaw.

"Luckily the two guys I was with were excellent and we progressed. I was wearing white and he [Don] told me I looked like a nun."

"I wasn't far off... her sister is nun!" he responded.

He went on to say Marea was "unlike other girls" he'd met.

"A lot of the girls I'd met, it was difficult to have a good conversation with them because we didn't have a lot in common, whereas the moment Marea and I met, we were on the same level," he said.

"She had the same sort of world view and all the rest of it and an interest in all sorts of subjects and I thought 'Thank God, I've met a girl you can make your best friend'."

Despite resistance from Marea's mum, the pair soon married and began a family.

Image: A Current Affair/Channel 9

"My mother was saying, because we were young, 'No. no, no, don't you get caught up with anyone, go overseas or something, but he's not for you at this point in time'.. she didn't say she didn't like him but I think she thought it wouldn't last," she said.

The pair have two children, son Sean and daughter Chris, who eventually joined the family business as a producer.

Even though Marea kept out of the spotlight that Burke enjoyed, she was responsible for much of his success behind the scenes.

"She was the CEO of the production company CTC Productions, she organised the whole thing, dealt with the staff, turned vague ideas into reality, it was a huge job she was doing," Burke told A Current Affair.


In 2000, at the height of Burke's Backyard success, Marea started having trouble with her eyesight, experiencing double vision.

She was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), which results from an abnormal collection of blood vessels, like varicose veins, sitting on top of her brain.

Don was in Hawaii with daughter Chris filming a segment for their show when he received the phone call, which he said was "absolutely catastrophic".

The couple in 2014. Image: Getty

After a nine-hour surgery and weeks in intensive care, she recovered only to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She was booked to undergo a mastectomy within a week.

"My world just fell apart in that moment, what we've been through is the worst of times but in a way it's also been the best of times. Sometimes the worst times are good for you," Don told A Current Affair.

"All the dreadful times we've been through I think have brought us closer together. For us, it really did bring us a lot closer together and made us realise, at least from my side, how important your time is together."

There is absolutely no indication or suggestion that Marea had any idea about her husband's alleged behaviour. But like an increasing number of women before her, the notoriously private wife and mother now finds herself involuntarily linked to a story and a secret that is no doubt shaking her world and life as she knew it to the core.

Don Burke Ch 9
Image via Channel 9.

After allegations initially came out about disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein in the US, his wife of 10 years Georgina Chapman announced their separation on a statement after sources initially claimed she would stand by him.

"My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” Chapman said in a statement to People magazine released on October 10, five days after the original New York Times story was published.

“I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

She was reportedly unaware of the sexual misconduct her husband allegedly engaged in both before and during their marriage.

Weinstein and wife Georgina Chapman. Image: Getty

While the victims are of course front of mind, these cases often leave other people traumatised in their trail - the perpetrator's wife, girlfriend or fiancee and of course, children.

Marea Burke has not yet commented, nor has she been mention in any of Burke's statements refuting allegations so far.

Given her private nature, she may choose to keep it that way.