An emotional Leigh Sales has signed off at 7.30 for the last time after almost 12 years in the role.
The long-time host of ABC’s top current affairs program will take six months off to spend quality time with her two young sons after announcing her shock departure earlier this year.
Sales’ farewell coincided with ABC’s 90th birthday celebrations on the same night.
Her last day began with a Krispy Kreme donut and coffee from 7-11 before spending several hours in the hair and make-up chair.
She was seen celebrating with friends, family and colleagues at ABC’s Sydney headquarters before the show and stepped outside briefly to greet and embrace her sons.
It was business as usual for a composed Sales at the start of Thursday’s night’s show as she got straight into introducing the first segment about 1994 fatal bombing of the National Crime Authority’s Adelaide headquarters.
There was no mention of her departure until the three few minutes of the program when she struggled to maintain her composure and choked back tears.
Leigh Sales was all smiles for the cameras before her last episode of 7:30 on Thursday night
‘Tonight is my final episode of 7:30 as anchor,’ Sales began.
‘Tomorrow night there is a special edition of 7:30 looking back over the many, many years.
‘I’ve loved every minute. It’s been an absolute privilege.’
‘Thanks for your company, goodnight.’
Sales opted to not wear Member of the Order of Australia badge on her lapel, which she has worn for big interviews and occasions, including her bombshell resignation and final interview with former prime minister Scott Morrison before the recent election.
A select group of Sales’ friends, colleagues and family gathered at ABC’s Ultimo studios Thursday night for a farewell party to kick off when the cameras stop rolling as some of her interviewees paid tribute.
Leigh Sales choked back tears as she signed off on the program she has hosted since 2011
Leigh Sales quit the job to spend more time with her sons, who were there for her farewell
‘Leigh Sales is a formidable journalist – smart, thorough, compassionate, and relentless. Thank you Leigh for your many years of tough interviews on 70, – your pursuit of the truth has helped Australians better understand our country + our world. All the best for what’s next,’ federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek tweeted.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers added: ‘For a dozen years on @730 and before that on Lateline, Leigh Sales has been a fierce, formidable and classy inquisitor. It was a big deal to be interviewed by her (and often a relief when it was over!). A complete professional and an absolute legend. All the best, Leigh.’
Colleagues from the media industry also paid tribute.
‘Farewell to Leigh Sales. Always a class act and a true professional,’ journalist Kate McClymont tweeted.
Some viewers were left disappointed with Sales’ low-key sign-off from the show.
‘Very poor send-off for Leigh Sales on 7.30. Not even flowers
Sales documented her last day on Instagram, which began casually dressed and make-up free while buying an early morning donut and coffee from 7-11, ‘because nothing exciting ever happens on your last day’.
A make-up free Leigh Sales documented her day, which began with a donut and coffee
Leigh Sales later spent several hours in the chair getting her hair and make-up done
She later uploaded a photo of her bright orange dress hanging in the wardrobe and several clips bantering with her trusted stylist and make-up artist of four years Christopher Sall while having her hair done.
‘We’re trying to act while today is just another day aren’t we,’ she says.
In fact, we were channelling messages you used to hear years ago like ‘don’t make a spectacle of yourself’
‘It’s funny, because no one care about making a spectacle these days. Look at us right now, we’re making a spectacle of ourselves already.’
‘We’ve had a few laughs talking about nonsense as we always do
Presenting ABC’s 7:30, formerly The 7:30 Report, is considered one of the most demanding and high-profile roles in Australian television.
The long-time host shocked viewers earlier this year with the bombshell news that she was quitting the role, saying her decision came down to her ‘two beautiful little boys’ wanting to see more of their mum.
Now aged eight and 11, sons James and Daniel have always known their mum to work four nights a week.
‘I was appointed to the job on December 3, 2010. This is my 12th year in the seat. That was five Prime Ministers ago. It was so long ago that Donald Trump was just a guy with a bad orange hair-do hosting The Apprentice,’ Sales told viewers at the time.
‘There’s nothing wrong other than I just feel a strong sense of it being time to pass the baton to the next runner in the race and to take a break. At the end of an election cycle feels like a good time to move on to something new at the ABC.’
‘When I first started I didn’t have children. And now I have two boys aged 10 and eight. And they’ve only ever known their mum at work four nights a week.
‘They want me home with them before 8.30pm and I don’t think that’s too much for two little boys to ask and they’re two beautiful little boys.
‘She explained she had ‘tried to shut down and call out bull****, hold powerful people to account, expose lies, incompetence and exaggeration in all political parties and all issues and present facts even when they’re unpopular or inconvenient’.
A special dedicated to Sales will air on the ABC on Friday night.
Leigh Sales announced earlier this year she was quitting the program to spend more time with her young sons, now aged 8 and 11 (pictured)