Fran Kelly says marriage equality debate was toughest ever interview


fran kelly abc radio national breakfast same-sex marriage
Image: ABC/Steven Siewert

Longtime ABC Radio National host Fran Kelly has described interviews with opponents of same-sex marriage as some of her most challenging, as she prepares to leave her Breakfast hosting job of 17 years.

Kelly announced last week she’ll finish up at the end of the year hosting ABC Radio National Breakfast, a job she’s had since 2005.

Asked by the Sydney Morning Herald what her “toughest ever” interview was, Kelly recalled interviews during the same-sex marriage campaign in 2017.

“That was very tough on a personal basis,” she said.

“Because I was interviewing people as respectfully as I could and as fairly as I could, who were basically criticising me, my lifestyle, my parenting values, the impact of my lifestyle on my children, on our children,” she said.

Kelly explained she “never did and never would” react angrily because the interviewees were “entitled to their opinions.”

“But I must say on a personal level, that was a challenge to keep my equilibrium,” she said.

“I will also say that since same-sex marriage was passed it has been wonderful for us all to feel we have the approval of the nation, that we have counted for more since that vote.”

Fran Kelly and partner Marion Frith have been together for 30 years

Fran Kelly and her partner, journalist Marion Frith, have been together for almost 30 years.

At the time the pair met, Kelly became step-mum to Frith’s three young children.

She recalled Frith “could not have been more supportive” when Kelly was offered the job 17 years ago.

Ever since, Kelly has woken up at 3:30am for work each morning. But she said a recent message from Frith sparked her decision to hang up the headphones on December 2.

“I was on air earlier this year and my partner sent me a link to a scientific article about the damage done on your brain by long-term lack of sleep,” Kelly told the Herald.

“Her text had two words. ‘Stop now.’

“I read the article, and it frightened me to be honest. That was the beginning of getting out.

“I want to have more time with my family and friends. I’ve got many grandchildren now. I want to spend time with them.

“A lot of my friends have texted to say, ‘Great, now you don’t have to leave dinner early every time!’

“And I want to be able to sit through both acts of a play, and not have to go home early. It is the small pleasures, which I’m looking forward to.”

Hosting RN Breakfast ‘a privilege and a joy’

On Thursday, Fran Kelly got emotional making the announcement on air this morning and thanked listeners.

“I just want to let you all know my days presenting RN Breakfast are coming to an end. After 17 years it’s time,” she said.

“I want to thank you for your support you’ve given me.

“I can’t believe I have actually got these words out, in fact I’ve been dreading saying it out loud and making it real.

“RN Breakfast has been such a huge part of my life, I will miss it and I will miss you.

“It’s been a privilege and an absolute joy.”

Fran Kelly will stay with the ABC, continuing in other projects.

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