Leigh Sales delivered her final program as host of ABC’s 7:30 on Thursday night before walking away to spend more time with her family.
Sales barely held back tears as she signed off for a final time.
“It has been an absolute privilege. Thank you for having me, goodnight,” she said.
The cameras caught Sales wiping her eye as the show’s credits rolled.
The Walkley-winning journalist announced earlier this year she would leave the program after more than a decade as host.
She explained the decision to leave felt right and allowed her to spend more time with her two young sons.
High ranking government ministers who have found themselves in the firing line of Sales’ difficult questions delivered tributes on Twitter.
Veteran Labor minister Tanya Plibersek called her a “formidable journalist – smart, thorough, compassionate and relentless.
“Your pursuit of the truth has helped Australians better understand our country and our world,” Ms Plibersek said.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers described Sales as 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,” he said.
A special edition of 7:30 will air on Friday looking back over the years Sales spent as anchor.
Sales presented most of her final program with practised professionalism – introducing reports on the war in Ukraine and guilty verdict for National Crime Authority bomber Domenic Perre.
She gave her final studio interview with three experts on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and an Indigenous voice to parliament, on which Australia will hold a referendum in the coming years.
In over a decade in the role, Sales has interviewed everyone from prime ministers to country music stars and brought the biggest global events to Aussie living rooms.
Among the many world leaders, artists and cultural icons were Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Paul McCartney, Patti Smith and Salman Rushdie.
Sales joined the ABC in 1995 and has acted as NSW state political reporter, national security correspondent, Washington correspondent and host of Lateline.
Sales said she was looking forward to new challenges in the field and the opportunity to put her family first.
“My boys really want me to be home more in the evening. When they were little it was fine, because I could hang out with them in the morning,” she told 2GB on Thursday.
“But now they’re at school, I don’t really get much time with them in the morning and then when I get home, I’m often really tired but then because they haven’t seen me they want to talk.
“I feel bad if I’m kind of exhausted and wanting them to go to bed because I think that’s not fair.”
She referenced some of the larger than life characters in Australian politics as posing the most difficult interviews.
“The trickiest ones tend to be the ones that you ask a question based on reason and logic and they answer not in a logical way,” she said.
“So Clive Palmer, Bob Katter, where they kind of go off on tangents and if you’re trying to follow them it’s really difficult.”