Australia’s most popular newsreader, the highly respected Ian Ross, passed away in the early hours of this morning after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Anthony and I were privileged to have shared many fun and laughter-filled moments with the man many knew as Roscoe’ during the years we lived on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where we all became friends.
But why am I writing about an Aussie newsreader today, here on Golden Age of Gaia? Well, while many of you may never have heard of Ian Ross – and while the Australian media and public are mourning the loss of a man who was known for his warmth, professionalism, mentorship and veteran newsreading abilities – I want to recognise the incredible legacy he has left for humanity. It’s a possibly more important role that Ian Ross actually played; one that few media outlets are likely to acknowledge.
It’s a role Ian himself may never have been completely aware he was playing. While he had taken up yoga and meditation, he was not overtly spiritual and used to think Anthony and I were crazy when we’d talk about the lightships we would see. But his gift to the world is something that only hit home for me today. It’s a story of truth, love and acceptance.
First though, let me put his career into context for those of you outside Australia.
Roscoe is the Australian equivalent of America’s Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and the BBC’s first newsreader, Richard Baker. He’s known as the gentleman of Australian TV.
He began his journalistic life as a radio presenter in Sydney in 1957 before making the move across to television in 1965, when TV was still in black and white. He soon moved through the ranks of on-the road reporting at the then Number 1 network, Nine and into newsreading. He initially gained popularity for his 0 years (1991-2001) as the newsreader on Australia’s Today breakfast show, where his popularity – and his cheeky sense of humour – became legendary (see clip below). During his time at Nine he regularly filled-in for various newsreaders on National Nine News, before retiring after 38 years at Nine and moving from Sydney to the Gold Coast to be closer to family.
But, within months, Ian was lured out of retirement to front the rival Seven Network’s news. He was excited about making Seven News the new No 1 – which he did, winning the ratings week after week, and flying from his Gold Coast home to Sydney each week (an hour and 20 minutes flight each way) to read the week’s news before returning home at the end of each week, until he finally retired on 27 November 2009.
Then, in January this year, Roscoe quietly announced he had pancreatic cancer and that he was eschewing chemotherapy and traditional treatments. “But while I agree with the diagnosis, I do not necessarily agree with the prognosis … (that I have only months left to live)”, he said at the time. Along with no doubt many others, Anthony and I sent him a range of information and links to various alternative treatments we’ve gathered during cancer battles faced by several friends this year (including R, who was the much-loved patron of InLight Radio, until her passing barely a few weeks ago).
So, that’s Ian’s career and cancer stuff.
But, as I watched a news report today and saw how openly television shows – as well as radio and newspapers – around this country were reporting on Roscoe’s passing and every aspect of his life, the true legacy our friend has left suddenly dawned on me.
It may not make the news tonight or the headlines tomorrow – or ever. But it’s a role Ian grew in to, that he continues to work in, at and on the deeper psyche of our society. And it just’ happened’ because Ian was true to himself.
Let me explain what I’m referring to….
The true legacy of Ian’s passing is not necessarily just his newsreading prowess, his family and friendships or his mentorships. It’s not a role he actively set out to carve, nor sought, and it’s something he may not have ever even contemplated, comprehended or realised.
For the real and very big public role that Roscoe played was in quietly, gently, politely openly and lovingly – and always with a smile – breaking down the stereotypes of love.
How did he do this?
Ian was married for many years. He had children. His children had children of their own. Several. Nothing overly transformational about that.
Some years ago though, Ian came to terms with the fact he was gay.
Naturally, his marriage ended. It was at a time when being gay was not exactly something you talked about openly about. Certainly not when you were a father and a respected news reporter and newsreader on TV. It made things rather difficult. In fact, it was emotionally torturous: he loved his wife and kids.
Yet while the public, at that time, never knew Ian was gay, he was entirely open about his feelings with his family, close colleagues and close friends. Private but open.
Twenty-two years ago, he met Gray, who became his life partner. Coincidentally – or not – Gray had also been married and had his own kids and grandkids.
Yes, two men. Both of whom had been married. Both of whom had children and grandchildren. Both of whom were now in a loving, same-sex relationship together.
Now I’m not saying it was all cake and cuddles but, over time, they brought their two families together – with love.
They maintained close and caring relationships with their previous wives and their children and grandchildren. In fact, when they moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast in 2001, it was so they could be with their children and grand children and play an active, regular part in all their lives. And they did.
And so, here was Ian Ross, Australia’s most popular newsreader, in a loving, substantial relationship – as a gay man – retaining and enjoying every ounce of dignity and the respect of his previous partner, children and grandchildren. As did his new life partner, who just happened to be a man.
Many would see this as quite remarkable. And it was – and is.
Interestingly, during his many years in television as you would expect, Ian Ross did a lot of publicity and media interviews to promote the news services he so capably fronted.
Often, you would find that the birth of his latest grandchild was covered. Or the marriage of a daughter. In recent years. the media here has regularly referred to “Ian Ross and his life partner Gray” casually, without skipping a beat – and I’m talking mainstream media.
I should also add here that Roscoe was never one to ‘beat the drum’ about being gay – or not. He simply did what he did quietly and with dignity, humour and honesty, as if it was always the most natural thing to do. Which is how it always should be.
Seeing a photo of Ian and Gray together on most of the TV news services this morning made me teary. And yet, I was also SO soul-enriched by my own realisation of the huge role Ian (together with his partner Gray) has and is now still playing – albeit unwittingly – in breaking down what real, human love can be, and is. Just by being himself.
So, with Roscoe’s sad passing today, mainstream Australia is hearing about the love of two men, in a very natural way. Two men who were previously in straight marriages, had loving families and children and who were so open about everything that they simply ‘gathered’ their seemingly ‘unconventional’ family around them, with love.
Now that has to have an impact on changing images of stereotypes of all sorts within the wider society. Through truth comes love and acceptance.
Meanwhile, for younger gay men and women, (well, actually all people) they’re seeing two people of the same sex who not only enjoyed a loving, caring relationship with longevity and substance with each other, but also enjoyed wonderful relationships with their entire families – generations of them. They’re witnessing that there’s no need for sexuality to be the basis for separatism – from one’s family, or anyone for that matter.
Now that can only have a positive ‘role model’ effect on young gay men and women. And everyone in-between. Again, it’s about truth, love and acceptance.
What’s also coming through, loud and clear, via the thousands of tributes from Ian’s colleagues and friends, is that it’s also possible for everyone of us to have deep, meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life. Men and women of varying ages, backgrounds and so-called socio-economic ranges, no matter who YOU are.
That’s another positive effect Ian has had. Once more, it’s about truth, love and acceptance. In other words, unity consciousness.
And so today, via the public’s love and respect – and dare I say, our grief – for the on-screen Roscoe, it’s his dignified openness about his private life that has allowed Australians to love all that is.
Throughout Australia today, men, women and children have been posting messages of love and condolences on newspaper sites and other online forums – and almost all of them say the same thing: “Our thoughts and love go to Gray and both your families”.
Today’s reaction shows how life can be, and how the wider world can be accepting of love in all its forms.
In my opinion, that’s the true legacy of Ian “Roscoe” Ross.
So, as I say goodbye to a friend and someone Anthony and I have many fond, personal memories of, I know that Ian Ross has helped Australia’s humanity in many ways – more than many will ever realise.
And so that’s what I’ve realised, today, too. It’s very, very special. It is heartening. It’s unifying. It’s his gift to all humanity.
Thank you Roscoe. We love you. Always.
Plus, a glimpse into Ian’s respected career: