Tonight ‘A Current Affair’ will air an interview with local showbiz royalty Bert and Patti Newton regarding the recent revelations about their son, Matthew Newton, involving his substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence charges. The decision to speak directly to media about their son’s serious personal issues – let alone a program with the reputation of ACA – seems a genuinely questionable move by Bert and Patti, especially considering Matthew only recently begun treatment.
Last week Channel Seven aired their high rating documentary ‘Ben Cousins: Such Is Life’ that chronicled the successful footballer’s descent into drug addiction and his turbulent recovery period. The two-part documentary seemed to be full of contradictions: Ben Cousins the hapless victim of fame and expectation versus Ben Cousins the self-destructive fuck up; a portrait of the debilitating evils of substance abuse versus an emotional tribute to a sporting hero…
Regardless of Cousins’ motivation behind making the documentary, there have been several positive payoffs. Following his numerous indiscretions no group was more disapproving than the football community he was a part of – but at his final football match on the weekend he was given a rousing reception and standing ovation as he ran a lap of honour at the end of the game. It seems as though the documentary contributed in some way to putting Ben Cousins back into good graces with his fans. The doco also gave him the opportunity to give the public an educational message about the nature of drug addiction from the perspective of a recovering addict. In that respects, ‘Ben Cousins: Such Is Life’ had some positive purpose in airing – however tenuous.
Unlike Ben Cousins, Matthew Newton is not in the remission process of his problems (and it would be remiss of us to even compare the situations of the two public figures, Newton having twice admitted to beating his partner) and he doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight and coming to terms with his issues to reference. With that in mind, it seems a strange move by Patti and Bert to take their story to primetime television. Based on quotes taken from the transcript of the interview, Patti and Bert sound as though they weren’t aware of the extent to which their son was in trouble:
Bert: “A lot of things that have unfolded in recent times, the great majority of those things we’ve learned about them through the media. People might have had the impression that whatever happened, and whatever was done, we condoned it, and when a situation like this comes along, you don’t.
“A lot of people don’t have the experience, but when it concerns your child you say ‘well, of course we love him and we support him’. I think I made an error in saying that because I do love him and I do support him, but I don’t support or condone any of the things that have happened.
“We should have seen the signs … but we didn’t.”
Patti: “His biggest problem is the fact that it’s not a drug, it’s not an alcohol problem as much as it’s a mental health issue. He’s always had a bit of a problem with his temper, even as a kid, but I do think it’s accelerated. We don’t know how to handle it.”
I hope the Newton family haven’t done the interview in order to re-position the responsibility of their son’s actions from his own hands to mental illness. Despite increasing prominence in the media, Mental Health is still an issue widely considered a taboo topic and wherever there’s a chance to shed some light on the impacts it can have on people it is a positive step; however, a statistically significant number of the Australian population suffer from mental illness like depression or anxiety and addiction – the difference is that most of these people refrain from beating the shit out of their loved ones.
I’ll be watching A Current Affair tonight and I hope what we are presented with isn’t a plug for sympathy, a collection of excuses or an apology on their son’s behalf. Let him make his own apology.
Matthew Newton is currently receiving treatment in Wentworthville’s Northside West Clinic.
The interview will screen tonight at 6.30pm on the Nine Network.