As a journalist, Narelda Jacobs isn’t one to wave flags or to shout about political issues. But the Perth newsreader will always speak up when she feels it’s truly needed. 2017 was one of those times.
As Australians debated proposed marriage equality legislation, Narelda, the first queer Indigenous woman to anchor a commercial news bulletin, lent her profile as a prominent Channel 10 personality to advocate for the ‘Yes’ vote, compelled by the discord within her own family. Her own mother, a former church pastor, was firmly on the ‘No’ side.
“I wasn’t making a political statement. It was a personal statement,” she told Mamamia. “I wanted to be given the chance to marry the woman of my dreams, just as much as a heterosexual couple would. And what was interesting was that in my own family, it was a situation that was getting played out across Australia, where you had division [on the issue]. People weren’t speaking to each other, because one was a ‘Yes’ voter and one was a ‘No’ voter.
“Of course, in the end the ‘Yes’ vote got up. So in the end, it didn’t matter that my mum voted ‘No’. It wasn’t a relationship that I wanted to destroy, because I knew that we would never be able to persuade each other for each other’s camp.”
Mamamia OutLoud look back down the long road to marriage equality…
Though she may not have persuaded her mother, Narelda was intent on challenging, questioning, the motivations of ‘No’ campaign. After all, many of those who crowed about the ‘threat to the sanctity of marriage’, were driven by the same conservative ideology that steered her into an unhappy one two decades earlier.
At the age of 18, Narelda had fallen pregnant to her then-boyfriend.
“As an impressionable and pregnant teenager, there was a bit of pressure to get married to save face for the family and for myself, to be a ‘respectable’ mother,” she said. “My parents came from a position of good faith, and for purely innocent reasons they wanted the child to be brought into what they saw as a family unit.
“That marriage, of course, didn’t last for very long – six months. So 20 years down the track, at a time when I would like to be given the same right to enter into a legal relationship with someone that I would want to spend the rest of my life with, to be told ‘you can’t do it’… It’s just incredible to think that level of discrimination was happening in Australia in current times.”
This weekend, rainbow flags will wave in the face of that kind of prejudice for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. And Narelda will be co-hosting SBS’s Sunday night broadcast alongside comedians Joel Creasy and Zoë Coombs-Marr, and The Feed’s Patrick Abboud.