• Alyce Collett

Australians of Eurovision: Julia Zemiro


During her time as one of SBS's Eurovision commentators, Julia Zemiro oversaw quite a bit of transformation to Australia’s role at the Eurovision Song Contest.


Her on-air partnership with Sam Pang witnessed Australia go from not having commentators on the ground at the Contest, to becoming a participating country that almost won the whole thing.

But just how did Zemiro become the face of Eurovision Down Under?


Before Eurovision


Julia Zemiro was originally born in Aix-en-Provence, France, and moved to Australia when she was two. Little did she know then her French language background would prove invaluable as a member of Australia's Eurovision broadcast team. The Victorian College of the Arts graduate cut her performance teeth at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney, and in regular appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.


Her ties to Eurovision were foreshadowed with roles in several stage productions inspired by the contest, including ‘Eurovision: The Musical’, ‘Euromax 7: The Musical’ and ‘Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision’.


But she's perhaps best known in Australia for hosting SBS TV show 'RocKwiz' which ended in 2016 after 14 seasons on air. The quiz show saw Zemiro present the show with Brian Nankervis who is an Australian writer, actor, radio host, TV producer and comedian. They rubbed shoulders with some of Australia's best rock musicians.



Eurovision commentary


Although Zemiro didn’t officially start as one of our Eurovision commentators until 2009, she first appeared on the SBS broadcast the year before, introducing the coverage (via the BBC) that would follow as well as chipping in during breaks with segments of quick commentary.



When British commentator Sir Terry Wogan retired after the 2008 Contest, SBS decided to send their own commentators to Moscow the following year.


That's when Zemiro teamed up with comedian Sam Pang who complemented each other well.


On the one hand there was Zemiro, who had a genuine passion for and knowledge about Eurovision (and who could speak French), and on the other hand there was the irreverent Pang, who poked fun (with some love) at the Contest.


Their chemistry worked wonders.


From 2009 to 2011, Zemiro and Pang gained backstage access to artists. Viewership grew accordingly and, by the time the 2012 contest rolled around, Australia had its own commentary booth inside the auditorium.


2012 also saw Zemiro star in a Eurovision special called ‘The Road to Eurovision’, which featured her travelling around Europe interviewing past and present contestants as she made her way to Baku.


Australia’s presence at the Contest continued to grow, and during one of the semi-finals of the 2013 Contest, Australia was offered the opportunity to broadcast a segment celebrating 30 years of SBS broadcasting Eurovision called ‘Greetings from Australia’. Julia Zemiro was the host of that segment.


She also played a starring role in the 2014 interval act all about Australia. The, at times, whimsical segment highlighted different facets of Australian culture and culminated in a performance from Jessica Mauboy singing her song ‘Sea of Flags’.



When it was announced that Australia would actually be competing at the Contest in 2015, it was Zemiro and Pang who broke the news.




Life after Eurovision


After the 2016 Contest, it was announced that Zemiro and Pang would be leaving their roles being replaced by Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey the following year.


The official reason given for their departure was clashes with other work (which for Julia was in TV and film), but she later admitted that Australia’s participation changed her perspective on the Contest.


"I wasn’t a big fan of us (Australia) being a contestant," she told Domain Review in 2018.


"Once we were in it I felt like sometimes we were having to change how we commentated."


Post her commentary gig, Zemiro has had a number of hosting roles including 'All Together Now' (a musical competition show where contestants try and win over a panel of 100 music professionals), 'Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery' (which sees Zemiro escort celebrities like Casey Donovan and Lee Lin Chin back to their hometowns), and televised musical event 'Australia’s Biggest Singalong'.



In terms of acting credits, Zemiro has starred in the ABC TV show 'Fisk', the first season of which aired in 2021.


As recent as June 2021 Zemiro and Brian Nankervis reunited to host a one off RocKwiz Eurovision themed reunion called ‘RocKwiz Salutes Eurovision’ for the Adelaide Fringe Festival. They were joined by Scottish-American actor Alan Cumming, the famous “Berlin-born” Accordion Hans and Australia's Eurovision 2021 representative Montaigne who got to perform 'Technicolour'. Zemiro stole the show with her immense knowledge of the Contest and her sparkling outfit to go with her “Kate Miller-Heidke ‘Zero Gravity’” inspired headpiece!


Although Julia Zemiro may have moved on from her Eurovision role, she is still remembered fondly by many Australian Eurovision fans.


You can check out our other Australians of Eurovision profiles here: