The unlikely rise of journalist Tom Tilley as he joins The Project

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If there is a star on Australia's youth broadcaster Triple J, you'd have to say his name is Tom Tilley. 

Tilley's style is direct and at times confrontational, but there's passion in his journalism, and he possesses that uncanny ability to boil down complex arguments into digestible and engaging radio. 

He's also never been afraid to challenge his listeners, which has sometimes resulted in controversy. 

Tom Tilley has revealed how he went from the Centrelink dole queue to being one of Australia's most celebrated journalists, as he departs Triple J Hack to join Channel 10's The Project

Tom Tilley has revealed how he went from the Centrelink dole queue to being one of Australia's most celebrated journalists, as he departs Triple J Hack to join Channel 10's The Project 

In 2017 he interviewed the neo-Nazi behind the deadly far-right March in the American city of Charlottesville and was slammed for broadcasting the views of a racist without doing enough to challenge him. 

The ABC stood by Tilley, pointing out it was his job to hear all viewpoints at the rally, which was in keeping with the public broadcaster's 'commitment to fundamental democratic principles including freedom of speech'. 

Tilley's passion and talent for journalism gives him the best chance of now forging a successful career in commercial media as he departs Triple J and joins the panel of Channel 10's 'The Project'.

Unlikely start: The 39-year-old said his roots in Mudgee, 260km north west of Sydney, and early life in a fundamentalist church helped shape his career as an investigative reporter

Unlikely start: The 39-year-old said his roots in Mudgee, 260km north west of Sydney, and early life in a fundamentalist church helped shape his career as an investigative reporter

But the Tom Tilley story starts far from the cool of Triple J or the glamour of television.  

It begins in Mudgee, in the central west of NSW, where he was entrenched in the bosom of a fundamentalist Christian church from a young age.  

The bush and church 'made him who he is', the now 39-year-old told Daily Mail Australia. 

Determined: Before pursuing a media career, Tom was forced to leave his family's 'strange' church and even spent several months on the dole

Determined: Before pursuing a media career, Tom was forced to leave his family's 'strange' church and even spent several months on the dole

Tilley says his rural upbringing allowed him to escape the 'group-think' many young people fall for in Australia's far more diverse cities. 

'You have to get on with people even though you have really different views,' he said of the difference between growing up in Mudgee compared to Sydney or Melbourne. 

'In the city, it's easier to surround yourself with people you agree with and retreat into your comfortable echo chamber,' he added.   

Moving on: He eventually 'quit Centrelink' after 'the guy running it was a failed musician and he tried to convince me to give up on my media dream'

Moving on: He eventually 'quit Centrelink' after 'the guy running it was a failed musician and he tried to convince me to give up on my media dream'

Another character-shaping moment for Tilley came when he left the Pentecostal Revival Centres Church when he was 21.

The church's opponents say it's a strict organisation where hierarchy is king, the end of the world is emphasised and people who've been excommunicated are completely cut off from contact with current members.  

'It was a strange church that was obsessed with the spiritual experience of speaking in tongues,' Tilley recalled. 

'I had doubts all through my childhood, but was too scared to voice them.  Eventually, I couldn't drown out the doubts and had to go head-to-head with the leaders and my family. I left. 

Success! After 'quitting Centrelink', Tom (pictured with girlfriend Amanda) went on to study a postgraduate degree before landing his first full-time job at Triple J in 2007

Success! After 'quitting Centrelink', Tom (pictured with girlfriend Amanda) went on to study a postgraduate degree before landing his first full-time job at Triple J in 2007

'It was hard but it made me who I am.' 

Tilley faced another obstacle recently, when a motocross accident had 'devastating consequences' for the rising star. 

'My crash two years ago was one of the

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