Sarah Monahan talks to Mia about abuse, survival and cheque-book journalism.

Sarah Monahan is talking.

After decades and decades of staying quiet, she is finally free to say what she wants.

And what she wants to say is: Protect your children. Protect them from an adult world where they don’t belong. Protect them from predators.

Who was protecting Sarah when she played pig-tailed Jenny Kelly on Channel Seven’s hit sitcom Hey Dad! in the 80s and 90s?

That’s a matter of opinion.

Australia watched her grow-up, we watched her change from a little girl into a teenager until the show finished in 1993. But there was a lot we didn’t see.

Mia Freedman and Sarah Monahan in the Mamamia podcast studio.

We didn’t see that behind the scenes, there was an abuser hiding in plain sight.

A man who has now been convicted of 10 charges relating to sexual and indecent acts perpetrated on four young girls in the 1980s and 1990s.

That man, as Australia now knows, is Robert Hughes who played Sarah’s father on the hit Australian sitcom Hey Dad!. And Sarah, who was repeatedly told by adults she trusted to “simmer down”, to “stay quiet”, is not going to stop talking about him.

She’s talking about him in her newly-released memoir, Allegedly, and she’s talking about him to Mia Freedman on this latest episode of No Filter:

You can listen to her talking about the perception she had made up her story for money, here: 

Robert Hughes appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal in NSW, and his appeal was dismissed. He has now petitioned the High Court to overturn his conviction.

But Sarah has already lost too much by speaking out to ever be silenced again.


Like her relationship with her mother:

“(My mum) disowned me when I went public,” Sarah told Mia. “Apparently she resented me because as a kid she would have liked to go back to work, and because I was working she had to drive me around and then apparently when I went public I made her look bad.”

“I let it go. I push it back on her because she didn’t talk to her own mother for 15 years, so she had an issue, not me, so I just let her have her own issues.”

It’s a relationship that has tainted the way Sarah sees parenting, and the reason why, despite being happily married to Matt Morris for years, she has no desire to become a mother.

“I’ve had [my husband] fixed now,” she says. “He had a double snip. Because I wasn’t close to my mother and my mother wasn’t close to her mother, you don’t really need to repeat that again.

“I don’t need to have a human child to feel fulfilled.”

But after staying quiet for decades, it was an encounter with another mother that made Sarah want to finally tell her story about Robert Hughes, Hey Dad! and the reality of a child working in an adult world.

Sarah before she became a child actress.

Sarah had been approached by a journalist who claimed they knew about what had ‘really happened’ on the Hey Dad! set. But she had refused to talk.

“I didn’t want that label on me,” she says. “I was highly offended.”

But then… she was living in America and teaching acting to children when the mother of a talented child asked her about concerns she had about ‘things’ that were happening to her young daughter on set.


“There was an instance with a mother who came to me and said, ‘This stuff’s happening, she said the agent told her, ‘That’s just the way the industry is,’ and I said, ‘It is. But it shouldn’t be.’ And so she said this thing had happened… and she literally pulled this child off this modelling set. And this agent said, ‘Your daughter was too fat to model anyway.’

Listen to the full podcast here:

“And I heard it, and I just, like… it was my trigger. And I went insane. And I came home and… something had snapped inside of me, and I’d completely changed personality, and it all came boiling up to the surface and I was like, nuts.

“And I said, if that guy calls me again and asks me to do that story, we are on. And he happened to call a month later.”

After Sarah did tell her story to Woman’s Day, some corners accused her of making it up for money.

“[The magazine is] making million of dollars off the interview, so why shouldn’t you get paid to sell their magazine?…

“And then other news stations who were upset they didn’t get the story started adding zeros… I was like ‘dude, I wish I made that much money because then the next four years when I couldn’t work would have been okay…’

“Apparently, I’d saved [my story] up for 17 years on the offchance I could make $14,000 one day.”

You can read Sarah’s full account of the ordeal in her book, Allegedly.

Allegedly by Sarah Monahan, is published by New Holland Publishers and is available now, for $29.99.